As a newly published writer, I’ve been surprised (and not a little flattered, obviously) that so many people want know ‘stuff’ about me and the things about which I choose to write. And not only do they want to know about me, they want to know about the people in the book.
You can only really ever glimpse a character in the context of a story and one of the people that readers seem to want to know much more about is Nick Sloane (that’s him on the left, deliberately shadowed).
So I’ve decided to invite some of the people you may have read about to write here, so you can get to know them a little better. In Nick’s case, he preferred to have me talk to him and write all this in a ‘question and answer’ format being, as he puts it ‘…a bit of numpty when it comes to writing, I prefer to act rather than explain.’ He’s already read and approved this, so, for your…what? entertainment? delight? information? here’s Nick Sloane in conversation with your truly.
Oh yes, he’s also asked that you don’t bother trying to get in contact with him, even via me, because he’s a bit busy right now.
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT NICK’S WORDS ARE HIS OWN AND, WHILST HE CAN BE QUITE ELOQUENT, SOME OF HIS LANGUAGE MIGHT NOT BE TO EVERYONE’S TASTE – JUST A GENTLE WARNING!
Nick Sloane – A Life Less Ordinary.
Welcome, Nick, to this first in what I hope will become a regular spot on my web-site and thanks for taking the time. I’m going to pitch in at the sharp if I may, with a comment/question from a reader that was asked of me and one that I, in turn, will ask of you: why do you find it necessary to glorify a recidivist thug? So my question to you would be, how do you view yourself? Thug? Professional? Guardian angel? What? (Nick shrugs at this point and smiles slightly)
Well, let me see. First point: I’m not a recidivist – that’s someone like me, granted, but someone who’s been caught, punished – allegedly – and still goes on doing what he was punished for. So your mate’s already off on a wrong ‘un from the get-go. As for me…well, I do what I do. Thug’s as good a word as any I s’pose, although Ferdy sees me as his one-man police force, so I’d have to say professional from that end of the bridge.
And what about the kids you’ve helped? How would they see you?
That’s for them to decide, not me. And to be honest, as I said when I agreed to do this, that’s not a road I want to walk down again, so let’s leave it there, shall we? The whole Cupid thing, and what followed, was a fuck off great mess that I sometimes wish had passed me by – despite everything.
That’s not problem. Let me ask then, how did you get involved with Ferdy Epstein in the first place?
After all the hoo-ha had died down (Chapter 14 in the book) I spent a lot of time hovering, skirting the fringes of…how shall I put it? The less salubrious side of Bay society. Petty, all of it. Petty crime, petty grievances, just…bloody petty. You know, in some ways, it was my time for education. I was sleeping rough for months, nicking shit to survive and keep body and soul together but I spent a lot of days in the library. Face it, it was warm and I, me being me, would never have got bored. I managed to blag my way into a cash-in-hand washing-up job in a kebab house just off the front. Weekends only, but it paid me a few quid and the bloke who owned the place wasn’t half bad. Always made sure I was fed, even when I wasn’t working – the kindness of strangers, eh? Stav obviously knew that there was something shonky about my…err…circumstances? (he laughs out loud here, shaking his head) but he never asked any awkward questions, yeah? The closest he ever came was ‘You OK Nicky? Everything good?’ He was a lovely bloke.
Weird, innit? How things…conspire? Must’ve been almost a year down the line; I’d got myself a bedsit, also with Stav’s help, and an almost full-time job, humping and lumping for a builder, but I still stayed on at the kebab house. They were the closest thing I’d known to family – ‘part from Tim – in forever. It was because of Stav that I met Ferdy. You ever been in the Bay on a Friday and Saturday night?
We have a brief conversation about the clubs and the general mayhem that usually happens at the weekends in Torquay…but that was several years ago. It is, they say, a great deal more civilised nowadays. Nick has a laugh at that too.
Anyway, you know what I mean. Now I had money in my pocket, I was starting to get myself fit. Running at weekends, working out, made a couple of mates at a local gym and they introduced me Tai Kwon Do. I was heading down the path signposted ‘normality’…well, normal-ish. We were cleaning down, ’bout half two on a Sunday morning, when Ferdy poked his head round the door, asking if we’d got anything left over that he could take back to his office. He had the club next door but one in those days, before he took over the old cinema. Stav knew him pretty well, I recognised him cos he was pretty much a regular, although I didn’t know what he did, as it were. So we cobbled together a very large Donner for him, smothered it in chilli sauce and half an hour later, back he came. I went out to the street with a broom, to shove wrapping paper and polystyrene up the alley. I heard Stav shout something in Greek and Ferdy yelling the odds as, I have come to discover, only he can. I stuck my head round the corner, just to have a quick shufty…I think that was the first time, pretty much – other than the old man, maybe – that I felt that disconnection thing happen. Like the ‘I’ that I knew, sort of separated, stood back if you like, and let this other bloke take charge. It’s the only way I can describe it: he took charge. After, when it was over and I remembered that, well, it fair fucking spun me out, I can tell you.
Some people would say that it was fairly obvious you were schizophrenic…
Yeah. And a fucking psycho. And a sociopath…and fucking garden path if you believe everything you hear. Look. Your matey, the one asked the question, yeah? He knows, doesn’t he, that I’m a nutter? Yeah? He knows. And nothing I say is going to convince him otherwise, is it? So I don’t bother; don’t bother with any of ’em. All of us, my friend, have two or three or more sides to us. We’re like those things you see on your computer, isn’t it? The pictures with the captions? What My Friends Think I Do; What My Boss Thinks I Do; What I Think I Do; What I Actually Do…and we choose which one of those we want to be at any given time, don’t we? Go on, tell me I’m wrong.
So what happened when you did the disconnection thing?
(Nick lets out a long breath and stares into the middle distance for quite some time. I didn’t disturb him; it was obvious he was gathering his thoughts, the better to be able to describe as accurately as possible what happened. This is another aspect of the man that surprises: he is fastidious about being accurate. He has a fear of misrepresentation – and who can blame him?)
Stav was a sweet bloke. There was one fella holding Ferdy up against the wall, holding a knife to his throat and his mate had Stav bent over the chip fryer, pushing his face towards the fat. We’d turned them all off a good half hour before, but it was still hot enough to do a deal of damage. The guy holding Stav had a knife too. There was a lot of screaming and shouting and it was clear as a bell that these two shitheads knew they’d been in the place too long. It’s always about money, isn’t it? And that’s what these two morons wanted.
Ferdy was already pulling his wallet out of his jacket when I walked in. Everything was so clear, so…precise. I swung the broom at the bloke holding Ferdy – the bloody thing snapped – and even before he’d hit the floor, I’d picked up one of those hefty glass salt sellars on the counter and launched it at the bloke that was holding Stav over the fat. I got him. I got the bastard…but not before he’d managed to jam his knife into Stav’s neck. I knew, I don’t know how, I just knew, that the bloke who’d stabbed Stav was pretty much out for the count. Ferdy had slipped down the wall and his new mate was starting to get up and he wasn’t too happy.
I remember looking at Ferdy and mouthing ‘OK?’ at him. I remember him nodding and waving me away. I remember giving the fella who was coming round a bloody good kicking. And after that? All I know is that Ferdy was pulling me off Stav’s killer…yeah, Stav was dead almost before he hit floor…and I’m not sure whether that one died because I’d stabbed him or because I was holding his head under the fat with the busted end of the broom. Anyway…
( There’s another considerable pause, which I thought it best not to interrupt)
And that’s how I met Ferdy. Hell of an introduction, eh? He took me to his place, eventually, and I met Melcha, his missus, for the first time, and the rest, as they say, is history.
And nothing ever came of what happened? No consequences, per se, for you?
Consequences? Course there were fucking consequences, but not in the context that you mean. I’m roped into Epstein now, aren’t I? Listen, I was still pretty much a kid, wasn’t I? I’d just killed a man and seen my best mate slaughtered like a pig; I’d been lifted out of all that by a bloke who, it turns out, was probably the biggest villain anywhere in the southwest and you say there weren’t consequences? Here I am, Max, a garden-path, wanted pretty much everywhere now, a past that still threatens to sweep me away, no family as such and looked at with fear, mistrust and, quite frankly, loathing by pretty much everyone I meet. You think all that’s not a consequence? I’d love to be walking down that path signposted normality, let me tell you, but how likely do you think that’s going to be, eh? Going to get a beer, back in a moment. I think I might have fag too, so call me when you’re ready to carry on.
Call you Ishmael?
He laughed again. He is, perhaps, the most normal garden-path I’ve ever met.
The second part of my interview with Nick Sloane will appear here next week, once I’ve managed to finish transcribing the tape.