You were born in Essex?
Yes, Basildon. I never knew Depache Mode but understand how they felt growing up in a (so-called) New Town. The theme of being an outsider that runs through all my writing may stem from that experience. My earliest memory is being locked in a dark coal cellar with my two sisters, we were babies almost, listiening to my parents beat the crap out of each other. All the men had thick necks and beer bellies back then and it was expected that once they'd had a belly full the wife would get knocked about. It happened every weekend in our house for 30 odd years.
Where did Dagenham come into the story?
The family moved there when I was about six. My mother's parent's ran a public house and so my dad moved us there for the subsidised booze.
Is that when you started to write?
I started to get interested in music when I was 13. I used to go to an all night music venue (the Lycium Theater, in the Strand) on friday evenings at midnight. No one seemed to mind that me and my mate were just out of short pants. I guess it was because everyone was bombed out of their minds on acid and speed but I saw Vinigar Joe (Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer's first band) and Cockney Rebel there as well as the first electronic band 'Can'. The scene got me very creative and I started to write poetry to get my feelings down on paper. Hawkwind was collaberating with Micheal Moorcock and 'Sonic Attack' made me want to write poetry. My friend, Phillip, and I, went to Stonehenge Free Festival in1974, when we were 14 and I took a big book. It was while there that I wrote the first draft of 'Before Now and After' It was all the flags and tents that impressed me the most. A sort of post war world where all the rules were broken. It took ten years to do the final draft and the complete novel was only finished when I was in my 40s. I wrote continually during that period and every now and then revisited the draft. The final story has the section written at Stonehenge as the final book in the trilogy.
How did you get to South Africa?
In 1975 my parents heard booze was cheap in Africa and that working class people could have servants. My dad had been to Cape Town when he was a seaman and saw it as an opportunity to better himself, and us in the process. It didn't quite work out like that. I had never heard of aparthide until we arrived and once settled I started looking for places to hang out and smoke dope. That's when I discovered that the black and bantu (and cape coloured) people were far more interesting than other white boys of my age. If you read 'A Boy out in Africa' which I wrote after I came back it's not just about having sex with a stranger everyday of the week. It's also about the struggle of the black population and their perspective on things, I spoke to many people and saw lots of things which went into the narrative. Seeing a young boy shot dead by S.A police affected me greatly and I wanted to express that sense of shock in the story.
Why did you leave S.A?
I was involved in the anti-aparthide movement and the police arrested me twice. In the end I didn't feel safe there. My parents chaotically separated leaving me and my younger sister to fend for ourselves.
How did you get back to the UK?
My younger sister and I hiked the thousand miles from Cape Town to Johannesburg, caught a cheap flight to Luxumburg and hiked to Amsterdam. After staying there for a week we managed to get the magic bus to London, we ended up squatting in a derilict house for a couple of months until we got on our feet. I was 16 and she was 14. I worked for a while in Selfridges and a couple of House of Frasor shops. It was then that I wrote 'On the floor' my first comedy screen play. I was still interested in music and used to seewhenever he was in London, it was at one of his gigs that I met an American woman called Lorry Driver. We ended up up living together for a few years. I guess you could say I was experimenting with my sexuality. I didn't know if I was gay or straight and so living with her helped me work that one out. I started to work for Harliquin Records in their Tottenham Court Road branch and going to a small wine bar called Blitz. It was full of bitchy drag queens and straight girls but I liked the music (mostly Bowie and Roxy). I got involved with a band called Wasted Youth around that time and eventually, but not through them, began taking heroin. I was smoking hash and the dealer asked me if I wanted to try something stronger. That's how it is for most people, I would never have taken it if I'd known it was heroin, you know, I'd read William Burroughs, knew about Lou Reed's problem's and seen Christiana X, but I was told it was 'gear', not heroin. Eventually I found out my younger sister was using it too and I ended up back in Dagenham strung out on it. Methadone was not available back then so if you didn't have the money to score you had to go out thieveing. I ended up in prison, like you do, it was there that I wrote 'A sense of freedom'. It's really the story of my sister's decent into crime and how she came to get three years. It was the first thing I ever sent to a publisher and got a very nice letter back saying how moving the story was but that it was too heavy to publish.
Is that when you wrote The Prison Diary?
I wrote a vast amount of stuff when I was inside for the (almost) four years. The Diary was collated a long time after when I was trying to put all my writing into some sort of order. I collated 'Look into a crooked eye' as a collection of poetry, wrote 'What's my name' and the diary was what was left. When I came out I lived in a house with a group of militant lesbians and it was there that I wrote 'Goathead'. All the characters in that story are based on real women and it was all abit of a laugh. I got a professional qualification and ended up working for mental health charities. I had really turned my life around, didn't use, had a career but then the Labour Government introduced criminal record checks. Even though my record was spent (I have not offended for 30 years) it was still declared on any retrospective CRB and so I have been unemployable since 2004. It's been since then that I have really concentrated putting all my collected novels and short stories on line. Considering I have a rejection file as big as my forearm it gives me great pleasure to see thousands of people have now read my books and short stories. I am in my 50s and I don't suppose I will ever work again which is a shame. It's true that once people see your age on your CV they don't want to know. If I ever get offered an interview once the question about C.R.B's comes up I may as well go home.
Are you still writing?
I am still uploading various bits and pieces that have been 'works in progress'. 'Lady Mandrax' was written after I came out of prison and that took ages to upload as I use the opportunity to do a final draft rather then just scan the text. I was always interested in prostitution and why women end up in that career. The novel combines my interest in the 1960s counter culture with the subject with a good measure of S&M thrown in, I am please with the way it turned out. I worked as a mini cab driver in the West End of London for a year driving the ladies of the night home and looking at the clipper scene around Berwick Street. That all ended up in 'The Driver' which may be a slasher story but the characters are all real.
Which of your characters most closely resemble yourself?
I would say the guy in 'The Gift' was me a few years ago, not very strong, vulnerable, you know; an outsider. Not that I had a apartment full of dead bodies of course but his sense of isolation is mine. I guess The Driver is based upon me to an extent. If you read Lady Mandrax there's a character called Carter who is a person I would have liked to have been but was never brave enough. I think the people who inhabit my stories resemble the people I grew up with. The men who are slaughtered in 'Goathead' are the thick-necked, beer-bellied working class men of my childhood. I guess killing them put that uglyness out of my head. They say writing is therapeutic and certainly it has been cathartic for me over the years. I still have ideas that I put down on paper and a whole shelf of drafts are waiting for my attention. If you are a writer, that's what you do.Write. I write poetry and short stories a lot and publish them online almost daily, when there are enough I put them all in one title and start again
What's with 'The Dogbreaths'?
It's a joke, if GOD is DOG spelt backwards; well you can work it out for yourself. A lot of my poetry, the funny bits, set out to ridicule religion, as well as Judges and Policemen, you can see that 'Blasphemy and Buggery' exposed my dislike of modern western organised religion. The name is a take on that. I must add here that a certain church has made a concerted effort recently to change my mind and I almost removed B&B from my published material because of their efforts. I have resisted this till now but would conceed that while the doctrine and dogma remain abhorrent the people who strive to do good in this world as a result of their 'faith' do not deserve condemnation or ridicule. Anyone who strives to make the world a better place, whatever their motivation, deserve only good tidings and my best wishes. That does not mean that I have to believe in what they believe, neither should it. If they do not want to kill me then I will give them a break. The church I referred to is S.D.A, so far I have liked what they do even if I do not share their faith. I sometimes wonder if they would be so nice to me if they read 'Praise the Lord'?
DWK (David W. Kirby) The Dogbreaths
can be found at