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by Steve Beard (Raw Dog Screaming Press 2006)

Steve Beard's new novel "Meat Pupper Cabaret" is genre listed as science fiction on the back but it is so much more than that. What Beard's done is take a lot of conspiracy theory and London mythology and put it through the blender of imaginative fiction. The result is the best new novel I've read in ages. Beard uses the ground work laid down by other writers as a spring board to bounce completely out of orbit. "Meat Puppet Cabaret" is in certain ways a remix; but through all its appropriations a unique and distinct voice booms out. The genesis of this material goes back a long way, but its been coming together in the form Steve takes it up in since the nineteen-nineties. A key reference point here is the London Psychogeographical Association (LPA) and its work on the use of ancient ley lines by the occult establishment (including the British royal family amongst others) to secure the ongoing hegemony of the ruling class. But this is the LPA rewritten through the prism of William Burroughs and Michael Moorcock, with a dash of J. G. Ballard and H. P. Lovecraft thrown in for good measure. However, Beard is also hip to dance culture and the graphic stories of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, particulary "From Hell" and "The Invisibles". Some of my own novels are also reference points here, particularly "Come Before Christ & Murder Love", "69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess" and "Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton". My favourite riff in "Meat Puppet Cabaret" is an ingenious reworking of something that I did (having copped the idea from de Sade) in "Down & Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton". I stitched together a sequence of paragraphs of exactly 100 words each describing different prostitutes (in pretty much identical fashion) who are bonking a john to death. Beard reverses my perspectives with consecutive passages in which Jack the Mac kills eleven prostitutes in a row, using a generic formula to do so, and his parody becomes funnier with every repetition (while deftly avoiding sexism and woman hating). Beard knows the material he is invoking and reworking intimately, so one of the prostitutes who is murdered by Jack the Mac wears a "Will Self Is Stupid" badge (this is something I produced in the nineties as an Imprint 93 'art' project). The prostitute with my badge is, inevitably, Mary J. Kelly. In "Down & Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton" I deliberately confused Mary Jane Kelly (the last Jack the Ripper victim) with the seventies feminist artist Mary Kelly. I was, of course, very happy to clock Beard's sly acknowlegement of my work. I like to see people running with what I've done, extending and improving it. But there is, of course, much more to "Meat Puppet Cabaret" than some references to my writing! Beard brilliantly jettisons notions of literary depth for more stimulating forms of intellectual complexity. His book puts all the conpiracy theories about Princess Diana's death through the most psychedelic blender this side of a Merry Prankster Acid Test. Super phat and groovy!

Lynne Tillman (book review)

Claude Cahun (book review)

Boris Vian and Serge Gainsbourg (book reviews)

Alex Trocchi's State of Revolt


Books & Writing

cover of Meat Puppet Cabaret by Steve Beard

Will Self Is Stupid badge by Stewart Home
This badge by Stewart Home - originally issued as an Imprint 93 art edition - is worn by a murdered prostitute in Steve Beard's "Meat Puppet Cabaret".