Incredibly, I’ve been writing this stuff for six years now! Six years and forty issues! When I started I thought I’d be lucky if I lasted ten issues. Certainly, I only had enough material (mostly salvaged from The Sleaze‘s earlier, print, incarnation) for ten issues! But inspiration didn’t fail me, and I’ve managed to come up with enough sleaze to fill the additional issues! You wouldn’t believe the number of barrel bottoms I’ve had to scrape to do it! Actually, I still get asked where I get the ideas for these stories from. Whilst there’s no easy answer, each story has its own individual genesis, I thought it might perhaps be instructive to use this sixth anniversary editorial to give you, gentle readers, some insight into my life in sleaze, in the hope that this might help you better understand my creative processes. My fascination with sleaze didn’t spring fully formed into life in adulthood. Oh no! From an early age I’ve always liked to adopt a somewhat oblique angle when approaching popular culture. As I recall, my earliest attempt at literary sleaze was around the age of five or six. I don’t know if anybody else out there remembers the Janet and John books which were used in infant schools (as we called primary schools in those far off days) – they were used to teach basic reading skills to young children, each one featuring the eponymous pair doing something like going to the shops, catching a bus or posting a letter. Each book had illustrations of them on each page, accompanied by one or two lines of very simple text. Well, dissatisfied with the lack of realism (as I saw it) in these books, I decided to write and illustrate my own Janet and John story. Whilst the pictures were somewhat crude, the accompanying text had a certain neo-realist power. As I remember it, the story featured the hero and heroine trekking up a hill, where John proceeded to let rip a huge fart, shocking – and nearly suffocating – Jill. The whole thing was, naturally, rendered in simple, easy to follow prose. In pictorial terms, the fart was represented by a huge bubble blowing out of Jack’s arse and bursting. I can still vividly remember the subsequent picture, featuring the stick-woman Jill (I was only five or six, remember), with her arms outstretched, trying to ward off the evil fart. Needless to say, this literary opus was never seen by my teacher of the time (she probably would have suffered a stroke at the sight of it), having been intercepted by my older siblings.
My next remembered brush with sleaze came at around the age of eleven, when I wrote and illustrated my own porn magazine entitled (very imaginatively, I thought), Tit and Bum Weekly. Sadly, despite intense interest from classmates, it only lasted two issues and a companion magazine (to be entitled Bum Biter), never materialised. I remember very little about this particular enterprise, save that a story involving some kind of armed insurrection by naked women ran through the two issues. A few years later there followed a story called The Sexorcist, of which I remember absolutely nothing. However, this was soon followed by the two works which truly established me as a purveyor of sleaze: The Winds, an imitation Ancient Greek comedy; and Trumpton Behind Closed Doors, my take on the popular animated children’s TV series. Both were the result of a particularly enlightened English teacher’s attempts to teach my class about literary style, by setting us the challenge of producing first of all something in the style of Aristophanes, then to write an episode of any popular kids TV series in an ‘adult’ style. Although neither has survived, I well remember both of these literary classics! The Winds was my retelling of the Orpheus myth, with the intrepid hero descending into the underworld after his beloved, and being set the challenge of curing Hades chronic wind. In a rousing climax, he uses his lyre to produce soothing music to calm down the Lord of the Underworld’s turbulent bowels. The Trumpton story, however, was my masterpiece. Uncannily prescient, it involved PC McGarry fighting local terrorism, in the form of the Chigley Liberation Front, which, led by Farmer Bell, was plotting to blow up capitalist oppressor Lord Belborough as he drove his vintage steam locomotive. The assassination was to make use of ‘Windy’ Miller’s unique talents (can you detect a theme developing here?) and, along the way, McGarry’s investigations revealed that the local fire brigade were sex perverts, using their fire engine for peeping tom activities, whilst the local army fort was manned by closet homosexuals involved in bizarre initiation rites. The work of a mature talent, I think you’ll agree. From then until the original, print, version of The Sleaze (which is another story entirely), was relatively quiet. Save for Sherlock Holmes and the Whips of Fear, a version of which still exists, and whose basic idea was recycled as a ‘film’ review. Maybe I’ll run the original as a serial some time…
Of course, what you are now wondering is just why I’ve always been so attracted to the seamier side of things – was it childhood exposure to pornography, perhaps? Or maybe the result of being brought up in one of those free-thinking 1960s households where everyone walked around naked? Actually, neither of the aforementioned happened to me. I was brought up in a fairly progressive left of centre working class family background, where topics such as politics and sex were discussed openly and freely. I was also allowed to watch quite a few of those ‘Plays For Today’, and other intellectual-type TV programmes the BBC used to show in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of which focused on exposing the darker side of society. Undoubtedly all of these things have profoundly influenced my world view – I quickly realised that the ‘reality’ presented to me by ‘authority’ (teachers, et al) was a carefully constructed fabrication, designed to ‘protect’ children like me from the true ‘reality’. Consequently, I’ve always had the sense that just below the surface of what we accept as normality, run dark and fascinating undercurrents. It is what lies on the other side of the fabric of ‘reality’ which interests me! So, from early childhood onwards, I’ve always sought out the ‘alternative’ view of the worlds, usually through such ‘forbidden’ (for children) delights as horror and exploitation films, tabloid newspapers, dodgy counter-culture magazines, books and comics. As an adult, it has led to me exploring the dark and seamy recesses of Soho, poking around the murky world of intelligence analysis and chasing down debtors in sink estates. All of this, combined with a penchant for the surreal (the result, no doubt, of listening to my father’s collection of 78 rpm ‘Goon Show’ records), has led, inevitably it seems, to The Sleaze!
So there you are – my life in sleaze! Before I wrap this up, there are just a couple more things to bring to the attention of all you sleazehounds! Firstly, as The Sleaze turns (Issue) forty, you might have noticed that a little middle-aged spread is creeping in – most specifically in the advent of our new editorial blog: Sleaze Diary. For those of you who want more of my demented ramblings than just these bimonthly editorials, this is the place to visit. It is also where any announcements about the main site will be made and where, hopefully, readers can give some feedback. Finally, a while ago, whilst in a very drunken state, a very good friend of mine suggested I write about her, on the basis that she was probably the most interesting person I knew. Well, she is indeed a very interesting person (not to mention very beautiful as well) and also probably the closest friend I have right now. Over the past year or so, she has been both a great support and an inspiration to me, both in my life generally, and in writing The Sleaze. So, I’d like to publicly thank her for her friendship, and hope that it continues for many more years! ‘Til the next time – keep it sleazy!