As surely as night follows day and regret follows tequila, a comedian’s successful stand up career will almost always be followed by an attempt to write a novel.
Acclaimed stand up comedian Rhona Cameron is no exception, although she sensibly eased herself into the book-writing process with her 2004 memoir, 1979 A Big Year in a Small Town, in which she recounted growing up gay and adopted in the small fishing town of Musselburgh, an outsider desperately trying to fit in.
Some of those themes are picked up and fictionalised in her debut novel, appealingly entitled The Naked Drinking Club (Ebury Press), in which the protagonist is 24 year old Kerry, a hard-drinking, promiscuous drifter who has got hammered, shagged someone, left them and landed a job selling dodgy art door-to-door within the first fifteen pages. And life pretty much continues at this hasty, drunken rate as the chapters unfold.
Cameron’s use of the art-scam adds an unusual element and also allows her to develop the character of Kerry via her reactions to the customers she meets, by turns arsey, gullible, generous and perverse
Many times, I’ve fallen for the same wrong-headed belief as comedians and publishers before me: i.e. that because a comic can pen a good joke they can write a great novel. But, Cameron’s novel is a pleasant surprise, perhaps because – like fellow comedian-cum-writer Alexei Sayle - she eschews that try-hard, gag-a-minute approach in favour of a darker, more astute narrative.
While the prose certainly isn’t word-perfect, the story is compelling and well-observed and although the plot of a backpacker partying abroad isn’t exactly groundbreaking, Cameron’s use of the art-scam adds an unusual element and also allows her to develop the character of Kerry via her reactions to the customers she meets, by turns arsey, gullible, generous and perverse. And even while Kerry’s carefree, shameless behaviour intensifies, underneath this emerges a deeper purpose – to find out who she is and where she belongs.
Cameron appears on Tue 22 as part of queerupnorth, and will be reading from both her novel and her memoir, discussing her fiction and her reality. Happily, it seems she’s one comedian who can handle both.
Rhona Cameron, Tue 22, Mint Lounge (Oldham Street, City. 0870 428 0785 www.quaytickets.com) 8pm, £8.
Manchester organisation Commonword are trying out a new service for North West based writers, offering a one-to-one surgery/coaching session in which writers can discuss their work and ambitions. The sessions will take place in Commonword's new dedicated 'writer’s pod' and they plan to make the slot a regular occurrence if the idea takes off.
Slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, so contact firstname.lastname@example.org: and be prepared to provide five poems or two pages of prose if you are interested. If group-sessions are more your style, Commonword also provide regular workshops for writers of all abilities.
VisitCommonword (Mount Street, City. 0161 832 3777 www.commonword.org.uk) to find out more.
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