King Henry

2 June 08 words: James Walker
"People can view the book as a vile pornographic kill-fest, or a satirical comedy, joyously fisting contemporary English culture. I really don't care."

King Henry is the self-published author of England, my England, a violently sexual yet elegantly witty novel that has drawn comparisons to both American Psycho and P. G. Woodhouse (had he lived on a council estate), and is certainly not the kind of thing you’d like the woman behind you on the bus to read over your shoulder...

Your book is, how shall we say this, evocative to the extreme. We can’t help but wonder: did you have a happy childhood?


I can't really remember my childhood, other than selected books and TV programmes. Both my parents are from Cotgrave and I grew up in West Bridgford; I’m a true Notts lad. I used to have a book about Robin Hood that I would read every day, but unfortunately it was stolen from my school bag. Interestingly, a couple of years ago I submitted a script about Robin Hood to the BBC, but they said it was too dark and unsuitable for kids. The man was a murdering robber! I had to laugh when I saw the series they made instead. For the past decade I've been trying to make it as a singer, although every band I've ever been in has dissolved into bloated, substance-addled egos. That's fine if you're a millionaire rock star, but not when you're signing on. I honestly thought I was going to be the next Robert Plant, which possibly goes some way in explaining the rage that helped fuel England, my England.

 

The book is relentless in its sexual and violent descriptions. Is there a boundary or taboo you wouldn’t cross?

 

Graphic scenes of a sexual or violent nature only work if they're in a higher context, and relevant within the plot. Any idiot could write a book full of 'shocking' scenes, but weaving them into a coherent and interesting story takes a modicum of skill. Being extreme just for the sake of it is boring - the film equivalent would be Hostel.

 

Given the controversial subject matter, is this why you decided to use a pseudonym?

 

Not at all. I used to sign my work at school 'King Henry' to annoy the teachers, and it became something of an occasionally ironic nickname.

 

Was there anything in particular which influenced and inspired your writing?

 

I suppose your formative years inevitably shape who you are; if I'm honest, maybe I'd be writing romantic comedies had my circumstances been different. From a literary perspective I chanced upon Gormanghast when I was very young and it made me realise there was more to fiction than the Hardy Boys.   

 

You decided to self-publish. Why?

 

When I initially began contacting agents and publishers I was met by an almost unanimously positive response. They loved my theatrical style and the crusty black humour dribbling throughout, yet had severe reservations about the commercial viability. All demanded major 'artistic revisions' - which in English means dumb down, tone down, look down and take the money. Obviously I was tempted, but at the moment I'm still young enough to believe in artistic integrity. Apart from anything, the book satirises our culture’s incessant pandering to the gormless, snot-clotted masses, so I would have been a hypocrite if I'd played along.   

 

Admirable as this is, who on earth is going to stock it?

 

Getting a self-published book into a major store is virtually impossible, as most self-published books are shit. Therefore of necessity I'm relying on independent publications and the internet to prove my literary worth. If I can demonstrate my work is commercially viable, then I've no doubt one day England, my England will be for sale in Tescos next to Jordan's latest bestseller. Until then it can be bought from http://kinghenry.info

 

So what kind of reader would like the book?

Anyone that appreciates flamboyant storytelling and is interested in provocative art.   

 

The England in your title is one of chaos and self-intoxication - a bit like Jerry Springer meets Shameless, but with a more violent undercurrent. Is this how you perceive our nation?

We’re all privileged to be living in a country where the standard of living is high, there's free healthcare, and hard work is usually rewarded. But something's changed - something in the psyche of the nation. Just walk around the streets and you can almost feel the mask of civility slipping. There's a real anger in the air, a sense of injustice and barely-suppressed hatred. Why, I don't know, but it’s there, gleefully festering with every imagined slight. Whenever I have to queue anywhere I always wonder if the person behind me is going to snap and start blasting.   

 

The tone of the book is exquisite, with the unnamed 'hero' reading like a psychotic Jeeves. Was retaining this high level of poetic English difficult or are you really a well-educated toff at heart?


English is both a beautiful and brutal language, and I wanted to juxtapose the swashbuckling extremes. As for being a toff at heart, well; read what happens to them in book…

 

What kind of reactions did you get from friends when they read passages?


My girlfriend threatened to leave me.  

 

Do you think readers will be able to extract the moral beneath the vulgarity?


I can't blame someone for being stupid, but I can blame them for being wilfully ignorant.

People can view the book as a vile pornographic kill-fest, or a satirical comedy, joyously fisting contemporary English culture. I really don't care. 

 

The protagonist’s victims are both innocent and deserving. This makes it hard for us to sympathise with him. Was this deliberate?


Pick up the average million-selling thriller or horror, and there are good guys versus bad guys. Actually, you could probably extend that to most books currently on the market. I like a character to have different layers, and for a book to gradually grease through those layers until the true essence is sobbingly exposed. Only then can you build a genuine relationship and hopefully understand the motives and machinations - no matter how monstrous they initially appear.       

 

Will you be doing readings anywhere?


I contacted a few coffee shops and asked if I could do some readings, but they insisted on previewing the material. All were thoroughly horrified, and basically told me fuck off. In the coming months when word of my book has spread, I'll probably organise a reading in a more artistically welcoming environment. I'll put any updates on my website.

 

You can invite four authors or characters from books to dinner. Who would they be and why?


Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, as she's a brilliantly-written metaphor particularly relevant in today's political climate. Enid Blyton, as she's the forgotten genius of English literature. HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu – well, who wouldn't want to have dinner with the ultimate evil? And Stephen King. I'd poison the overrated fucker.

    

What are you working on at the moment?


I've almost finished a pilot for a TV series set in a girl's boarding school. Malory Towers it ain't!    

 

Last words?


If you're the kind of person that sometimes fantasises about marching through the streets with a sub-machine gun, then England, my England is for you.

     

King Henry website

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