The irrational, all-pervading violence of the modern world is the subject of this powerful novel. The central character’s dreams are haunted by images of decomposed teen-icons, discredited philosophers and defunct beat-groups as he traverses the screaming wastes of Brighton, Hove and far beyond. Seeking hedonistic excess, he casts himself in a number of roles: necro-pornographer, drugs baron and so on. Finally, though the black, perverse magic of violence he transcends this psychic turmoil to find the key to a bizarre new sexuality…
It’s almost twenty years since my debut novel came out and took the cogniscenti by storm. It was so fantastically impactful that the forces of reaction suppressed it almost immediately and now it goes for big bucks on Abe Books.
Palmer (who still resides in Brighton) told me that he was sick of hearing from people who told him they’d moved there after reading it (like the geezer from 7+7is in his story “The Creeping Past”). The droves that left the town coz of it obviously couldn’t convey the complimentary reaction in person. Soon after it came out, I went to give a copy to Donna and Michael but they had it already. Some guy I never heard of had gone to visit them a couple of days previous and been reading it on the bus. He was so fucked off with it that he said they could have it. Heh heh heh. I know how you feel, dude, it makes me fucking spew just to think about it. What can you do, eh? It’s not like you can tell it like it is.
Nobody was more surprised than me when a Russian translation of AMBO appeared in 2006. It was produced by T-ough Press in Moscow, facilitated by my friend Stewart Home (one of their top-selling authors). Bonus! It appears to include some of the notes I made to help their translator.
I was slightly disappointed that my only pre-condition (that the cover feature a Zeppelin and/or scantily-clad ladies) was not respected – but slight disappointment is but one step from delight.
Sometime before 2010, Russian psychedelic art-punk noise band Asian Women On The Telephone recorded a tune, Good Night Brighton Witch, based on the book which they said “takes place partly in Brighton and Hove. in the beginning of the nineties. Crazy stuff in the vein of Burroughs, Drummond and Manning… featuring Jim Morrison travelling in time, tons of musical references. Very funny.“
You’re not going to come back from staring in the abyss and say it was a load of rubbish
– Simon Strong
We are living in strange but distinctly worrying times, but I think you must have sussed that out by now. The question is, how do you respond? Well, Simon Strong did so by writing A259 Multiplex Bomb Outrage.
The blurb intimated conspiratorial links between Jim Carrol blagging a Quaalude off Brigid Polk and the author being hit on the head by a bottle of Pils at the start of the decade: ‘The truth will shock and amaze you… but this book will make you shit.’ I was seduced. Outrage is a dark, disturbing, confusing and bizarrely funny text, utilising extreme pulp pastiche, sociological/cultural discourse, obsessive relation of cult-rock minutiae and the dire misfortunes of a time- travelling Jim Morrison.
Simon Strong, you may be surprised to hear, does not have a conventional literary background. Originally from Sheffield, Simon has lived in Brighton since the early 80s where he spent time working in the field of artificial intelligence, or as the book biog puts it, ‘trying to find out interesting things.’
During the 80s Simon was also a member of ‘dumbcore’ punk band, the Hot Bed of Sex, (the name is a mutated version of an imaginary jazz band’s title in a George Perec novel). This combo folded when Simon realised that there was no point in following a path which the semi-legendary Snivelling Shits had taken to the logical extreme years earlier. Instead, he decided to become an avant-garde novelist.
He wrote one book prior to Outrage, a non-fiction publication called 32,768 Interesting Things To Do With Your Dragon Computer, published in 1980. Simon used the analogy of computer programming with the way he began to write the book, in that an agenda is set, which can be worked on and developed in a variety of ways. One basic intention behind the book was, ‘to see what would happen’, and there is a degree of apparent randomness in the structure of the book. Simon introduced a tiny section in it, linking all the plots more or less as an afterthought: ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. Plot linearity is simply not on the agenda and this reflects Simon’s interest in a period of formed experiment which he sees as lasting through the post-war years up to the mid-70s, a discontinued phase of literary experimentation which he sees as a blown opportunity.
Another important factor was that he used to try and write, as he put it, ‘Picador novels’, until Stewart Home’s pulp experiment Pure Mania inspired the use of less respectable genres. Literary erotica and 70s horror fiction and pulp of all kinds became of parallel importance.
There is an excessiveness and gratuity about Outrage which put me in mind of the extreme and mechanical intentions of surrealist and pornographic writing respectively. It’s not just the sex and violence that go into comic escalation, but the art of writing and quotation themselves. Simon was keen to point out that he had no intention to shock for its own sake: ‘I have no desire to deliberately upset anyone… You can do that by saying ‘Fuck’ before 9pm.’
Some editions of Outrage have an advisory sticker to determine the tired old mechanisms of controversy: ‘Achtung… This is not a children’s book’. Simon believes that the boundaries of writing or creating books are simply not being stretched far enough in the current cultural climate. Although a sceptic as regards many aspects of the ‘unknown’, he has an interest in areas of precognition as talked of by the semi-forgotten scientist/philosopher J. W. Dunne and has affinities with the Burroughesque notion of prophetic glimpses emerging through unorthodox writing processes such as the cut-up method. The titles of his writing projects are often provisional as he has seen them crop up as part of other people’s work before he has even finished his own. Ideas just seem to slip through time. On a more personal level, Outrage is seen as an appropriate response to the dire state of this culture on so many levels, an intense manifestation of utter disillusionment.
Simon is anticipating for himself a ‘total emigration into culture-space’ as well as a literal emigration. There may be a sequel to Outrage, but in the meantime an erotic novel entitled Arse on Wheels is due for publication, and factual works on Kurt Cobain’s death and the recording career of William Burroughs are in the pipeline.
As Stewart Home has commented, ‘Simon Strong is not going to win the Booker Prize.’
Thank God for that.
1 June 1996.