TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN (or ‘Don’t burn your raisins’)

Halton Pickles continues his chat with writer Ed Spencer about his debut novel ‘The People’s Republic of Absurdia’ (published tomorrow)…

HP: Is it fair to say Fred and Pontiff are two sides of the same coin?

ES: Yes.


ES: Yeah, I mean, both FRED (mid 20s, loyal only to mischief) and PONTIFF (early 40s, alcoholic academic) are dumbfounded the nation has become an environmentally fascist nanny state. Both are literary terrorists calling for revolution. But whereas Pontiff is on the receiving end of absurd regulation (banged up for crimes including posting a letter on the wrong day) Fred is the architect of the new existence, an elaborate prank sold as a rescue package for a Britain in meltdown. And the terrorism sideline is just another bit of fun for Fred – he’s not trying to overthrow himself.

Pontiff is based on a funny-as-fuck and at-times-abrasive-but-always-big-hearted Scotsman I met in India, mixed in with the physique of an Irishman who was a local at the old pub I worked at. Pontiff is a sort of everyman, though he also thinks the country has turned into a load of morons and are at least partly responsible for the absurd repression.

Mainly he was the vehicle to address/feel the absurdity – and feel like he was the only one not to swallow it all. The ‘it’ being Fred’s plan. Fred of course uses that same idiocy to get to the top.

HP: How did the Fred character come about?

ES: I was in the old Borders (bookstore) in Angel (north London) waiting for my then girlfriend when I had the idea that the whole premise of the book should be a practical joke. And as I’ve said – and have you – was the way to ensure this wasn’t some dry politics book, but a really fun and funny read. (I hope)

HP: What’s your target audience?

ES: Christ, is there a less romantic phrase than ‘target audience’? But ok. I dunno. Students, activists, squatters, those that see life as a black comedy – and are also worried by/annoyed with the nation’s idiocy, ex-festival goers/drug takers who now listen to Radio 4, the disenfranchised intelligentsia, anyone who has an interest in seeing politicians get some visceral comeuppance, anyone who has ever wondered if laws are being made up on a whim and at someone’s great personal pleasure, people that like Phillip K Dick, Herman Hesse, Vonnegut, Kafka – I’m not saying I’m as good as them, but that ballpark thematically.


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