When I got back to Wellington to my small room in Bryan Staff’s warehouse, I was at a loss. I had been reading heaps and one day was coming home with a big pile of books from the library. I walked past an op shop with a little portable typewriter in the window. I had just sold a painting and was flush, so I bought it.
I got it home set it up and started typing for the first time ever…
And that was it. I found the voice. I found Herman. Herman Manslaughter. The other characters walked up and the plot just sort of kept coming and twisting. First person – present tense – internal dialogue – external dialogue. More or less real-time – a day in the life.
I came home every night and wrote at least three pages. There was a flat I used to visit on The Terrace and in the afternoons I would go around there and read them what I had written from the previous night. It became a regular thing.
I started playing solo supports for other bands at this time as well and had to deal with some big crowds who weren’t there to see me and my songs that they didn’t know.
It took just under a month to type that first draft. I borrowed a friend’s flash typewriter and did a final self-edited manuscript which I copied and sent to my three favourite publishers. I got a nice letter back saying “Not at this time.”
Ross and Wendy came back to the band and I met Michelle and had Angus and then Jessica came along and the Spines made a couple of albums…
Thirty years later, Linzy Forbes and Alison Wong have set up Inkweed Press, publishing books of poetry. Linzy had been at the flat on the Terrace and asked me to rewrite Manslaughter for the present. It took several weeks. The technology that had developed really suited parts of the story.
The book was launched at the Wellington Working Man’s Club above Cuba Mall, where some of it is set. The Spines of the time – Andy Craig on bass and Tim Robinson drums– played songs from the book. It was a great night.
David Eggleton gave it a good review in the Listener and I used to stalk it at the Wellington Public Library to see if anyone had taken it out.
Right at the end of the book the first person commentary shifts to Angelee and we see a wee bit of Herman from her deaf perspective and then he is gone.
There are two more books planned for this trilogy – Monsterpiece and Hermanworld.