Tag Archives: prison fiction

Guest Blog: Thank You For the Days – David Mathew

O My Days by David MathewHello there. Welcome. Pull up a cyberpew.

I’m going to squat in Keith’s house for a while… I promise not to make too much mess.

Over the course of a euphemistic ‘few’ drinks recently – a euphemism used rather too frequently on these shores – Keith invited me to write a Guest Blog. As we were both at that moment a full five or six millimetres away from authentic liver collapse, and as I had written a Guest Blog a matter of weeks earlier, I was happy to agree to do so. Why not? Now that I had published my first Guest Blog, I felt like something of an old-timer in the field. I was a veteran. Of course I could do another one!

Um…

What do bloggers write about again?

You see, I have never blogged – I have never really fancied it. This does not mean that I have ever been against the idea – not at all – but that it has never really seemed right for me. More than anything, I have never really felt that I had much worth blogging about. With the exception of chapter notes and memoranda to myself, everything I write already has a destination (or a prospective home to squat in, if you will). Who would be interested in reading what I squeezed out?

The fact that you are reading these words suggests that you disagree with my initial thoughts about blogging (you’re reading the words, after all), but surely no blogger would be foolish enough to assume that any old rubbish will do. No: it has been a pleasure to learn that bloggers take their role seriously, and treat their audiences with respect. While some blogging remains synonymous with ‘what-I-did-at-the-weekend’-type mini-essays, I no longer roll my eyes so much, or question what it is about this that I so dislike. Each to their own, right? If some people would rather write their diaries online, who am I to say that this will be something they’ll eventually regret?

Almost in spite of myself, I’ve come to like the fact that bloggers are abroad, keeping their ears and eyes to the ground. It doesn’t mean that I have to read them (perhaps the sheer weight of work that this would entail was what had left me so cool towards their existence in the first place); but it’s good to know that if I need an opinion – as opposed to a certified fact – on a subject, there is someone to offer me that opinion, and he or she is no further away than a couple of clicks.

Paranoid Landscapes by David MathewOr to put it another way…

One of my interests is psychoanalysis, and it was via a blog (her own, oddly enough) that I learned recently that Elizabeth Young-Bruehl had died. Now, this might not be a name that you know, but I use the example as a way of illustrating my newfound respect for blogs and blogging.

But where does this leave me now?

Well, if I’m honest, I hope to draw a few readers’ attention to my novel, O My Days. Keith Brooke himself has honoured me with a fine review, for which I’ll be grateful. But while I’m crashing in his house, I hope he won’t mind my mentioning it once more… or describing a bit about how it came to be. To do this I’ll whisk you back in time, to 2006.

2006 was one of the strangest years of my life. It took me quite a while to understand that I was suffering from a delayed depression following the unexpected death of my father in 2005. I had taken on a job in the Education Department of a maximum security prison for young offenders (aged 18-21) in the south-east of England.

Well, right from the start I became aware of a peculiar prison language that some of these offenders had adopted: not jargon, not slang – an actual new language, with roots in English (obviously), but almost as distinct from it as Spanish is from Portugese. As might be expected, this language was used to exclude people from the group (myself included); but if the offenders did not know that I was recording words, phrases, and learning meanings by either sly or not-so-subtle means, then what harm was there in my game and in my research?

The idea of a book written wholly in this language did not take long to germinate. And although it was not an easy book to read, I have worked on more difficult projects! Every day I had a fresh stream (some might say fetid sewer) of neologisms, phrases – examples of language wrung out and distorted, made mangled and beautiful and new by strict rules of its language’s boundaries.

The plot is of course my own. While discretion and tact might not be bywords of a young offender’s lifestyle, very few of their gleefully-shared gobbets made it close to my final draft. (The one about the chicken theft, however, is reasonably close to what I was told.) Had I wanted to, I could have simply written up my diary every day… but that would not have made a novel. That would have made a blog: and it would have been bad practice to do this anyway, even if all of the names and dates and places had been changed. The conscience would have balked.

A novel is a work of fiction, a different beast; and I offer it to you, with something of a pun and piece of good music to end my time here – now – in Keith’s bathroom. (You wouldn’t believe the place.) If anyone is interested, a few links follow – or get in touch, by all means.

So if you’d be so good to jump up from your cyberpew and shift a little of the cyberfurniture around. Grab a partner, and dance, sway or sing along (or all three) to the following.

Are you ready with your air instruments?

I hope the Kinks fans and Elvis Costello fans will forgive me, but I have always preferred this version by Kirsty MacColl. So… thank you for the days.

David Mathew

Up-to-date information here.
New novel, O My Days, out now from Triskaideka Books. Click here for information.
Hardcover, paperback or e-book versions available.
Great review here!
New interview here! And a newer interview here!
Paranoid Landscapes orders here or here or the e-book is here. Review here.
Interview with me here, and another interview.
Selected interviews I’ve done at Infinity Plus (scroll down a bit).
Selected bibliography here.


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