Eddy Nugent and the Map of Africa is now available for purchase. Once more, our discerning clientele can access another 200 pages of military high jinks. As ever, we've had real fun writing it. Some of the earlier stuff was committed to paper way back in 2003, in those heady days of more hair and less beer belly. When we wrote the chapters about Belize, Ian and I were just at the start of our (uncivil) partnership and trying to find our way as writers.
We'd already submitted portions of an incomplete manuscript to several literary agents, who dealt with military authors. The response was less than overwhelming and could have killed lesser men. It seemed like we'd fallen between two stools. The usual military enthusiasts were only really interested in the memoirs of retired Special Forces soldiers or people who were fourteen or fifteen ranks above anything myself or Ian achieved during our service.
"But it's funny!" we implored.
"We don't want funny," they replied, "Give us steely eyed killers in the night and people who can disable you with the top from a pen, for that is what our public desire"
"But quite a lot of that is simply fabricated, squaddies being inveterate bullshitters and all that" we counselled.
"Bowl off, you filthy ex-signallers. The public lap that stuff up. Your tale of mundane hilarity has no appeal to the man in the pub who likes to know the in and outs of sniper rifles despite never having travelled outside his own post code"
Suitably admonished, we realised that the only way ahead was self publishing. It was a moderately tortuous route that we may never have travelled, had we realised it's pitfalls. However, the end result was very satisfying and we had that tangible thing known as a book, that people could finally lay their hands on. For anyone who's never gone into print but has dreamt of doing so, the feeling of having something you have written, turned into the thing you've spent your life borrowing from a library or buying from Waterstones, is a very satisfying one indeed. The cover was pretty basic but summed up our attitude towards the genre. No matter how hard you look you won't find ammo box writing, bullet holes in the letter cavities or a ghostly, subdued SAS capbadge hovering in the background.
We just got somebody (Ian's brother-in-law) to dress up in 80's Army PT kit and do an exercise familiar to anyone who's ever passed through basic training, a star jump.
After a year of the book selling well, a publisher noticed us and decided to take us under his wing. Dan Collins at Monday Books decided, rightfully, that if the book was reissued it would need a new cover, something that said 80s, humour and military. We were all really happy with the result.
It made us laugh, which was it's principal function. The spindly, pale body of the model, with calf muscles that looked incapable of generating forward propulsion was exactly what was required. He was the complete antithesis of the soldier as depicted in most literature and far closer to the truth.
Once again the book did well and has become a much loved tome within the British military community. The publisher hoped for more crossover (thus generating sales and lucre), but it seems that the lovers of Harry Potter and The Bourne Supremacy were less enamoured of stories that showed young British lads swearing as much as they possibly could, whilst being subjected to mildly medieval punishments for transgressions real and imagined.
The feedback we received about the book has been the cause of real pleasure to us both. Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting those horrendous wars with little time to breathe or think, dropped us notes and emails to say, "Cheers fellas, the only fuckin' time i've laughed in six months."
Worth writing a book just for that, really.
Anyway, sorry to have dragged you round our brief literary careers, but we're now at the point where Eddy Nugent and The Map Of Africa is about to be released. We love it. There are a couple of opinions floating around that it might be a little bit too graphic (or coarse) to generate the Holy Grail of commercial crossover, but we can live with that. After much to-ing and fro-ing we came up with another great cover, which definitely provides a flavour of what might be found within it's pages.
As with Picking Up the Brass, we're just hoping it gives people as many laughs as we had whilst writing it. Courtesy of Alison at Clear as a Bell PR, the radio, press and TV interviews will now start to happen and i'll keep people posted on here.
The first one is on Channel M on Friday (teatime). Channel M is Sky Channel 203. Get it SkyPlussed because you'll be heartbroken if you miss it. It'll be the equivalent of walking in from work just after Neil Armstrong's got back on his spaceship, saying "Wow, that was amazing."