Tuesday, 18 August 2015

GUEST BLOG: Saira Viola on Jukebox

Saira Viola.
London noir - a contradiction?   Noir is LA, noir is New York.  London is raffish Moll Flanders or pathetic Little Nell.  London's horror is quaint: it's the city of Gothic.  De Quincey stumbling around in an opium stupor.  But Richard Widmark once walked the London streets, where Jules Dassin decided to film Night and the City.  And what was true in 1950 is even truer in today's gentrified London, which is nothing but a bit of glitter and Gucci obscuring the foul rag and bone shop of its heart.  This is the London I choose to write about in Jukebox, the city where Macheath might well ask, "What is the burgling of a bank to the founding of a bank?"  Bankers, lawyers, digital Grub Streeters, and criminal kingpins -- all one big dysfunctional 21st century family.
I am the answer to the question, what happens when the femme fatale decides to write the story?  Let Agatha Christie and her sisters rule the parlor; I prefer the mean streets where Chandler sent his common but unusual man.  Just as the femme fatale knew her victims better than they knew themselves, so too a female author can have unique insight into the rituals of men.  Fedoras and gumshoes are not the only keys to the kingdom; a plunging neckline and a pair of lizard stilettos will open more doors than any amount of dead presidents forked over by a private dick.  
For me, the writing is not just a means of exposing the nastiness that is contemporary London but also a way of contesting the past, exploding conventions and overturning expectations, in order to get at an elusive or ambiguous truth that is, if not redemptive, or even reassuring, as when punishment follows the crime, then at least aesthetically adequate to the reality that I describe -- the Siren song of consumer capitalism.
A pay-as-you-play juke joint where the bad, the beautiful, and the buzzed all vie for the top spot on the hit parade, Jukebox spins pop dreams of a city fractured by racism, sexual subterfuge, class conflict, tabloid values, and celeb idolatry, while crooks and mooches bump and grind to the beat of their own clueless vanity as Hot Chocolate coos ‘Everyone’s a Winner baby. . .’ 
In dreams begin responsibilities – and Faustian bargains.  Meet Nick, a legal flunkey who dreams of escaping into rock stardom, and his uncle Mel Greenberg, Clerkenwell’s answer to John Gotti – a sartorial charmer who wears manspanx, has a weekly spray tan, and an addiction to fox fur and caviar.  He parties with millionaire web nerds, has strippers and call girls on tap, and is besotted with a tri sexual Burlesque star.  A determined finagler, Mel is a walking riddle of greed and depravity, a Cheshire cat with fangs, who makes his nephew an offer he can’t refuse.  And the knowledge that Nick acquires is the sort of thing that made Oedipus poke out his own eyes.

:: Buy Jukebox by Saira Viola on Amazon UK