Apostles and Ponies : An Interview with Richard Godwin

With Jason Michel

For those of you who have been long time Pulp Metal & online crime/horror addicts, Richard Godwin will need absolutely no introduction. His short stories are filled with suspense, humour, grotesque violence &a superlative sense of eloquence. His series for PMM, Pony Trip & his Mustard Man one-offs, have drawn praise from all quarters.

& now he’s written a novel.

Suffice to say Apostle Rising is everything we could expect from such a master of the sinister little gems that we all enjoy to scare the willies out of us. It is part police procedure & part religious horror & the two seperate strands mesh perfectly together.

The story is one of the pain of the past intruding upon the future as one detective, Frank Castle is faced with the seeming resurgence of an unsolved hideous series of crimes. Crimes that almost destroyed him & threaten to do so now.

The level of desair & violence that this book conjures up is as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. Yet, it is the plot & the astounding level of research done that really makes this book a cut above the average.

Look, if you like your crime novels to actually physically thrill & repulse you at the same time then buy this book.

I was lucky enough to ask the man himself a couple of questions.

Q1: Richard, AP is a very dark read indeed, old boy.

Where did the initial idea for the story come from?

A1:‘Apostle Rising’ came from a convergence of things situations events and ideas. I was reading about offender profiling and I was also was looking at the press in the UK. The two things came together and the truth is I started writing. I write usually with no plan I let it unfold.

The characters started to come alive and I let them go where they wanted.

I was interested to explore the ambiguity of policing, the amorphous areas where the safe positions we use to comfort ourselves are eroded. We think we inhabit certain areas of legislation and justice but the truth is they don’t exist.

I was interested to explore the moral dilemmas of a cop, a cop who is flawed as indeed all humans are. And to make him retain his humanity.

I think stereotypical good guy bad guy images are overplayed and while they may appeal to a formula are ultimately propagating a lie that is viciously annexed to the worst political manipulations. I am interested to hear about a cop who crosses the line into criminality and still manages to do his job. I was also trying to show the effect evil has on the lives of those who come into contact with it.

Q2: The book is rich with detail. Procedural & historical.

How much research went into AP?

How did you go about gathering such diverse information?

A2:Most of the detail had already been gathered by my subconscious mind. I think all writers observe. I also read a lot. I did research forensics and police procedure but beyond that it came from what I had already incorporated from life the biggest library of all.

Q3: AP deals with the religious mind & you seem to have a fascination with belief systems, symbolism & all things numinous. You tap into the current bugbear of Western civilisation – that of religious fundamentalism, especially apocalypticism & its consequences & I see shades of Neo-noir works such as Se7en etc. in there.

Were you exposed to religion as a child?

Do you think, as many scientists now do, that these ideas are somehow evolutionarily “hard-wired” into us?

A3:Neither of my parents were religious. I became interested in belief systems when I studied the need to believe in a god be it money or some codified deity. I think reading authors like Joseph Conrad and Dostoyevsky had a profound influence on me and led me to study various forms of cults. Christianity we have to remember was a cult before it became a religion. Scientology is now a religion in certain parts of the world. The need for beliefs is a narcotic, it is the ultimate ideational hiding place when pain seems unbearable. Studies have been carried out on the brains of schizophrenics and paranoiacs. There is a deficit of dopamine levels that extreme beliefs compensate for. Apparently the repeated brainwashing with belief creates a surge in dopamine levels. It makes you wonder how much of what we do is caused by brain chemistry.

We see people everywhere numbing themselves with narcotics and delusions. TS Eliot said ‘human kind cannot bear very much reality.’ I would be interested to read a study of the similarities of brain chemistry between a smack addict and a religious fanatic.

Fundamentalism is allied to poverty and a lack of education.

It is created by the manipulation of the desparate by those who are convinced they are right.

I think ideas are hard wired through generations of conditioning.

Q4: In Q1 you mentioned the press.

Do you see the media as something that manipulates our modern consciousness?

& with the sheer amount of information thrown at us everyday, many people are beginning to get confused about just what to believe.

Do you see a cultural nervous breakdown coming up ahead?

A4:I think most of the mainstream press is irresponsible and unprofessional. I agree with Frank Zappa’s statement that it is aimed at making you docile and ignorant. The Financial Times is probably the best newspaper in the world because it contains articles that if you read them properly expose what is really going on with the key economic players, the pharmaceuticals and the backers of the arms trade. Businessmen need that kind of information. That is where the money is. The economy we inhabit is built on a structure of dependency and control with the drug companies at the top.

There is no real transparency of information so it is down to the individual to decodify the lies.

Reading sensationalism and about who’s fucking who is not the way to figure out what is really going on but that is what we are fed.

It is the piece of dope in the breakfast cereal.

The cultural nervous breakdown has already occurred. We are in the stages of mass psychosis.

Q5: How important is the role of writer to challenge his audience & how should he approach taboos?

A5:I think there is no fixed role for a writer that is why art is beautiful. A writer can entertain and enlighten or he may expose his experience, he may terrify you or challenge. I think it depends on the subject matter but where complacency that threatens our lives is concerned that needs to be challenged, a writer needs to shake you loose. Taboos need to be approached with caution and there are many that are necessary to civilisation.

No great writing emerged from a self-conscious bourgeois image. If it is a piece of narcissism then it is replicating itself.

The truth about great writing is it doesn’t follow a rule book.

Q6: Pony Trip, your series for this very mag, has caused quite a stir.

What were the influences for that strange & perverse idea for a story?

Did you have it all planned out before you put fingertip to keyboard or did you just go with the flow & let the muses play buckeroo with your sanity?

A6:I wrote it in strange weather conditions. I start with a line and I let that line lead me if you go with it it will take you where it wants you to go. ‘Pony Trip’ has caused a stir and shown some interesting reactions. I think if you are interested in art really interested in what literature is saying you will go into the dark corners. There are lines I would not cross. If something is about a character and part of that character I am really just writing it down. You read horrifying things every day in the newspapers so why do we not baulk at journalism?  I think the worst thing a writer can do is say to themselves ‘I’m this sort of writer so I dress like this or act like this, there are some things I wouldn’t read’. That’s just narcissism.

I had nothing planned out until that day I wrote the beginning. I think Pulp Metal Magazine is its rightful home, a magazine which is about allowing creativity to be unfettered by the things that tie it down.

Q7: If your stories were collectively saying “something”, what would that “something” be?

A7:The world is wide and it’s wonderful and dark and strange and unkwowable. There are all sorts of people crazy, beautiful, brilliant, evil, good, nothing, great, stupid, corrupt. Dig deep. Dig down into the roots and look at literature as a way of exploring as well as entertaining if we don’t ask the right questions we’ll never get any answers.

Q8: Your stories tend to encompass many aspects of the human condition from the riotously violent to the sad & tender, which way do you see your writing going?

A8:Deeper and in different directions. Jason I don’t know and that is why writing is so wonderful it’s a process you can never reach the end of.

Q9: & now for some inside dope … AP, do I smell a sequel?

& for the future?

A9:Oh yes there’s a sequel. If it is popular I will write it.

Two foreign publishers are interested in acquiring foreign rights to ‘Apostle Rising’. Another novel of mine will be published as an e-book soon.

For all the dope on Richard’s shadowy world, go to:

http://www.richardgodwin.net/

20 thoughts on “Apostles and Ponies : An Interview with Richard Godwin”

  1. There’s either going to be a cultural nervous breakdown, or people are going to have to start withdrawing. The sheer amount of misinformation on the net is incredible.

    Thought provoking interview.

  2. Beautiful series of questions and gorgeous answers. AR is an impressive novel. The sequel will be even more so. I think that the modern info age is not overwhelming us , rather it is making our worlds smaller. When I was attending a local college last year, I noticed that there were no gatherings of students in front of the classroom door after class. When I had been there two or three years before, we used to leave class and still be standing around talking about writing or reading or any other things that came to mind for an hour or more. Now everyone leaves the classroom, clamps a cell phone to their ear and walks away in the dark . . . alone. It’s a sad thing for people to allow their worlds to grow so small — but maybe it’s just a symptom of the fear culture we all inhabit today.

  3. It was lovely to peek inside the mind of one of the best, most diverse, and prolific writers of our time. Best wishes, Richard. I’m looking forward to the e-book and the sequel.

  4. Wonderful interview, I really liked the questions and the discussion prompted.
    I think there is a very basic need to detach from reality, from the difficulty of facing things that are horrible to consider, at least for many people. Being dead, or the death of a loved one are examples of things that we know to be “reality” but the mind simply cannot dwell.
    A psychologist years ago got into a fascinating discussion with me about their ideas about brain chemistry and turning reality off, that thoughts of things like death trigger a sort of shut off in people that allows them to get back to business. For some, this does not occur and this explains why some people seem to live tortured lives of angst while others seem better equipped to shrug things off. Perhaps there is something chemical at work, I don’t know, but it seems contradictory to have the mind both seek out patterns of danger to keep us safer (such as recognizing that dark alleys are potentially dangerous) and yet, we don’t seek out real information about the world. One would think that we would want the most truthful, accurate, fact based accounts that we could find to be better educated toward our own self preservation. And yet, we don’t. We pay more attention to escapist stories, like the royal wedding or the Kardashians.
    I like that Richard considers things, the psychology, the patterns of human behavior. I love when I see traces of his questions in his work.
    Richard stands out to me as not only a beloved friend but truly, an intelligent writer whose career I am glad to follow.

    1. Lynn my friend as always you bring in so much range to your response and insights into the various strands that the things we are interested in are connected to, thank you.

  5. Great questions, Jason. And Richard, having just visited The Slaughterhouse, I can testify to what a kind man and brilliant writer you are.

    Top stuff, my friend.

    Brilliant interview. But then with Jason and Richard in the same room, it was always going to be, wasn’t it . . .

  6. This is an incredible interview and I too look forward to the sequel to Apostle Rising. It is as your stories, Richard. You let your readers free-fall; in fact, you actually give that first push, and we are shown the full spectrum of human nature and behavior. The world is not always full of light, and people are not all basically decent. The world can be a terrifying place and people are capable of horrific acts, and as you said, we see examples of it every day in the newspapers. Why some object to that dose of reality in literature is beyond me. Your stories do thrill and repulse and frighten, as does life.

    Apostle Rising is not a sugar-coated view of good vs. bad. No one is all good, although some are all evil, but many times, we all cross from one side to the other as situations necessitate. One can put themselves inside the characters in Apostle Rising and understand, and as fearful as we become, we are unable to turn away since, but for the grace of whatever God we hold dear, go we all.

    1. Joyce thank you as always there is a depth of wisdom in what you say as there is in your stories. I like the way you describe the effect of my writing and it is testament to you as a person that you see it that way I am grateful to count you as a friend.

  7. What a feast was had here, and still plenty left for latecomers!

    Everything was delicious, especially Q&A3, the TS Eliot and brain chemistry similarities bits in relation to reality, and also the comment it elicited from Lynn. The reality of death is the ultimate bitch and the shut-off trigger theory rings true. I seem to do equal parts shut-off and self-torture, but it made me think of a third option not mentioned, the enlightenment factor: absorbing the reality of death until your ego pops. Heh. Easy to prove the first two states exist, but the third? As impossible as trying to prove it doesn’t exist!

    Enough of that. My absolute favorites were Richard’s answers to Jason’s Q’s 5, 7, & 8. Talk about things ringing true and enlightenment! ‘…no fixed role for a writer that is why art is beautiful…’ and all the depth of the rest, the world in all its wide wonderful dark strange unknowable-ness… Within these answers is the answer to what sets the grain apart from the chaff.

    Scrumptious interview, you two.

    Jason Michel, I shall miss you and PMM until Autumn : )

  8. Miss A thank you that is a great response and you pick up on the brain chemistry range, pain and enlightenment may be connected. It is arguable humanity is looking for an escape route.

  9. I’ve read several interviews with Richard Godwin about AR, but Jason seemed to glean several tidbits in here that I hadn’t read before. Fascinating to see the different angles of Godwin’s writing mind. Really enjoyed both the Q & A here, especially #5.

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