Incidental Acts of Spontaneous Cerebral Violence

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

In honour of tonight’s program

LONDON FIELDS, an excerpt:

Chapter I: The Murderer

Keith Talent was a bad guy. Keith Talent was a very bad guy. You might even say that he was the worst guy. But not the worst, not the very worst ever. There were worse guys. Where? There in the hot light of CostCheck for example, with car keys, beige singlet, and a six-pack of Peculiar Brews, the scuffle at the door, the foul threat and the elbow in the black neck of the wailing lady, then the car with its rust and its waiting blonde, and off to do the next thing, whatever, whatever necessary. The mouths on these worst guys – the eyes on them. Within those eyes a tiny unsmiling universe. No. Keith wasn’t that bad. He had saving graces. He didn’t hate people for ready-made reasons. He was at least multiracial in outlook – thoughtlessly, helplessly so. Intimate encounters with strange-hued women had sweetened him somewhat. His saving graces all had names. What with the Fetnabs and Fatimas he had known, the Nketchis and Iqbalas, the Michiko and Boguslawas, the Ramsarwatees and Rajashwaris – Keith ws, in this sense, a man of the world. These were the chinks in his coal-black armour: God bless them all.

. . .

Keith didn’t look like a murderer. He looked like a murder’s dog. (No disrespect to Keith’s dog Clive, who had signed on well before the fact, and whom Keith didn’t in the least resemble anyway.) Keith looked like a murderer’s dog, eager familiar of ripper or bodysnatcher or gravestalker. His eyes held a strange radiance – for a moment it reminded you of health, health hidden or sleeping or otherwise mysteriously absent. Though frequently bloodshot, the eyes seemed to pierce. In fact the light sprang off them. And it wasn’t at all pleasant or encouraging, this one-way splendour. His eyes were television. The face itself was leonine, puffy with hungers, and as dry as soft fur. Keith’s crowning glory, his hair, was thick and full-bodied; but it always had the look of being recently washed, imperfectly rinsed, and then, still slick with cheap shampoo, slow-dried in a huddled pub – the thermals of the booze, the sallowing fagsmoke. Those eyes, and their urban severity . . . Like the desolating gaiety of a fundless paediatric hospital (Welcome to the Peter Pan Ward), or like a criminal’s cream Rolls-Royce, parked at dusk between a tube station and a flower stall, the eyes of Keith Talent shone with tremendous accommodations made to money. And murder? The eyes – was there enough blood in them for that? Not now, not yet. He had the talent, somewhere, but he would need the murderee to bring it out. Soon, he would find the lady.

Or she would find him.

UCLAlive Presents Martin Amis & Christopher Hitchens

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