In Suspect Device, Stewart Home has gathered together a collection of fiction from a new generation of British writers who are blurring the boundaries between high-brow literature and pulp fiction. Hard-edged writers who are not afraid to cross the line violate every middle-brow notion of good taste and use sexual violence and violent sex to hack their way to a world without any social norms. A celebration of the physical – something usually rejected as non-literary, as a ‘suspect device’ – runs through this writing; lust, murder, magic and chaos are the predominant themes. Toxic, blunt, shocking and highly readable, Suspect Device includes writing by John King, Stewart Home, Berthold Bluel, Tommy Udo, Steven Wells, amongst others.
Simon Strong writes:
In the late nineties Stewart Home rode out the “transition” from Thatcherism to Blairism in the final throes of a deal with Serpent’s Tail that had given us the non-fiction collection Mind Invaders and the classic novels Slow Death, Come before Christ and Murder Love and Blow Job. When the time came for his commissioned fiction anthology Stewart characteristically shunned big names in favour of authors who were would have been denied an audience elsewhere in the conventional publishing world. Neil Palmer provided Vegan Reich, a novella composed in a pastiche of Home’s own style perhaps to facilitate accusations of plagiarism on his part or impersonation on Stewart’s part. At that time I was preoccupied with computer simulations of precognitive phenomena and provided a piece cobbled together from various experiments and an essay that had been rejected by Rapid Eye journal many years before. Stewart cut the least filthy two-thirds of my submission and retitled the piece ‘Boredom’ after the Buzzcocks song. LT connections extended to other contributors like Steve Beard, whose fantastic novel Digital Leatherette would be published by CodeX (after my departure therefrom) and Tommy Udo, who had at one time wanted to publish my novel A259 Multiplex Bomb “Outrage”.
The following year Stewart (and Steve Beard for that matter) cropped up in Tony White’s Britpulp! anthology (London: Sceptre, 1999). Tony’s collection appeared to be aimed at creating a literary analogue to the then-popular Britpop “movement” and included contributions from some names that were quite big or getting big (such as Billy Childish) alongside the likes of the great Steve “Jeff Lint” Aylett, who would likewise soon be published by CodeX, as would Tony himself with his own Charlieunclenorfolktango. Although Tony’s anthology became quite popular, any hopes (and/or fears) of a literary renaissance were misplaced: the Britpop “phenomena” had been an industry-sponsored marketing initiative for ordained and focus-grouped artists that was primarily intended to cross-market the reissued back catalogues of classic UK sixties groups in overseas territories (ie the US). The idea of a literary analogue only had currency in the domestic arena and lacked access to the broader media that would be necessary to enforce the meme onto a wider public. In this sense, both these anthologies were victories and victims of substance over style. Thank goodness.