5 Questions with…Joseph Ridgwell

It’s Friday night. You’re walking down a busy street. People bump into you. No apology. The bars are all awful cocktails and terrible music. A hand reaches out and grabs you. You’re led down an alley you’ve never seen before. Then another. Then another. Then another. The streets are getting darker, the floor more and more uneven. You come to a stop. You look up and see a pub, as old as it is grand. You read the sign. THE LITERARY UNDERGROUND. The door opens. A shadowy figure emerges from a cloud of smoke…his name is Joseph Ridgwell.

 


I’ve had to pick up my Ridgwell publications as and when I’ve been able to track them down. Do you think there’s a perfect order to read them in? Is there an overall Ridgwell legend being told across the work?

Its funny you should mention this as not many people have picked up on it. Or if they have they havent let on. US poet Hosho McCreesh was the first to realise that many of my books are interlinked. Hosh identified – Burrito Deluxe – as the start of the Ridgwell Legend, which was correct at the time, but is no longer so as I recently completed the prequel. Actually what I set out many years ago to do was fictionalise my entire life, inspired by Keroucs Legend of Duluoz and John Fantes Bandini Quartet. Im a great fan of autobiographical writing, such as Bukowski, Burroughs, Henry Miller, Knut Hamsun, Cookie Muller, Jack London etc. I dont limit myself to just this kind of writing, but if I think most of the events portrayed in the books actually happened in real life then it adds another dimension. If I start reading a book and immediately sense that the author is making it all up then the book is dead for me. And this is not my failure as a reader it is the writers failure as an author. The truly great writers make the reader believe in their work, that its actually happening even if the reader knows this is impossible. Once a reader invests a certain amount of emotion into the work of a writer then the writer has them for life. This is my theory behind – Cosmic Realism – the literally genre that I invented on a desolate Mexican beach in the last years of the 20th Century. CR is the ability to tell a story that is so far-fetched and obviously not based in any sort of reality, but which the reader accepts as the TRUTH.

Anyway, there is no perfect order to read my books, but there is a chronological order – especially with the novels, which are examples of True Story novels. The events in the narratives actually happened in real life. The fictional parts are less then 10% of the MS, but it is those parts that make the novels interesting and readable, or so I’ve been told.

  1. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Working Man – Unpublished.
  2. Burrito Deluxe – published by Leamington books in 2015
  3. Indonesia – Kilmog Books 2010
  4. The Cross – Paper & Ink 2016
  5. Last Days of the Cross – Grievous Jones Press 2009
  6. The Buddha Bar – Blackheath Books 2011
  7. Civil Service – Unpublished.

Civil Service takes things right up until 2014. All six of my poetry collections mirror events in the novels, but there’s not enough space here to state what order they should be read in. Any intrepid reader will be able to make up their own minds. There is a trilogy of short stories published by Pig Ear Press – Cuba – Jamaica & Mexico, which fit in just after Burrito Deluxe.

Also there are a couple of published short stories flying around that really should be chapters of the Buddha Bar. The Famous Ice-Cream Run and Tsunami.

The only examples of 100% fiction in my work are to be found in my two short story collections. Ridgwell Stories (Bottle of Smoke Press 2015) and Oswald’s Apartment. (Blackheath Books 2010)

At this point you’ve got a huge number of publications behind you. How disciplined are you as a writer? Do you go through spells with it or is it something you’re always doing?

I was completely undisciplined as writer and would often do anything other than write like stare at a table leg or something. And I started late – not taking the craft seriously until I was 30 or so. This poss explains why I was or am a relatively late developer. A crucial factor to my development was landing a cushy office job where I was more or less paid to write each and every day for years and years. It was like being in prison. I was trapped inside the buildings for eight to nine hours a day with nothing to do. So instead of pissing my life away surfing the web or staring at one sentence emails or a paperclip, I started writing. Ironically the job forced me to be disciplined and the bulk of my work was done during this period. Then, like a miracle, I quit that life. I’d worked my entire life so this was like a revelation. With all the free time I made several breakthroughs as a writer, most centring on the craft of writing. I don’t think I would’ve achieved these breakthroughs whilst continuing to work full time. Not that I’m recommending aspiring writers quit their day jobs or anything. Allayed to the time needed to refine your craft you also need talent. Without talent the writer can have all the free time in the world and come up with nothing.

As for all the publications – I mean why would anyone be interested? One of my publishers was once asked why he continued to publish my stuff as they didn’t think much of it. The publisher – a very wise man –  replied that it was because there was nothing else like it out there. There are all these writers who can’t get published bemoaning the state of the publishing industry or their lack of a success as a writer. And yet they are writing the same shit that the mainstream produces. The fact they can’t get published is down to bad luck or bad timing or both.

London or Edinburgh?

If I were in my twenties then it would be London all day long. As I’m in my forties, Edinburgh has a nice laid back vibe that I appreciate. Less people, less traffic, less ambitious fruits with too much energy and ambition, but no real talent to speak of, running around. And If I get to missing Old Smokey, then I can always jump on a big bird and be there in under an hour.

What can you tell me about Cosmic Gigantic Flywheel? The showbiz murmurings have it potentially appearing some time this year?

CGF is my sixth and latest collection of poetry. In terms of Chronology, it mirrors the events in Civil Service and as such should be seen as a companion piece, a little like Bukowski’s Women and Love is a Dog from Hell. CGF is my most ambitious book of posey and it’s big with nearly a 100 pomes. People who know me from this recent period might just recognise themselves, which I hope is a good thing. Either that or they will curse my name. Both books are complete and ready to hit the streets. I just need to find a publisher or publishers crazy and brave enough to publish them.

Finally, what was the last thing (book, place, record etc) that you totally fell in love with?

My son.

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