Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In The Days Of The Soho Typescripts, Part Two

I used to think that the tale of a Soho porn merchant who kept a writer in a cellar was apocryphal, but it has been attested to so I suppose that I must accept it as the truth. The story is told that a drunken old hack was give free lodgings in a cellar. At some point in the morning he was woken up, given breakfast and enough booze to keep his hands from trembling, and then he was put to work writing until lunch. After he had been fed he wrote some more until finally he was given a bottle and could seek oblivion with that until the next day.

The reason why I got involved with characters such as this was fairly straightforward: I needed the money. I had a job, but needed to earn an extra couple of quid a week. Given that my wages were about £15.00 a week in those dim and distant mid-1970s days, a fiver a month on top was a nice thing to have.

I thought about it and decided that the only things that I was any good at were shagging and writing, and since nobody was offering me any money for the former, I sat down with a typewriter that I had borrowed off my uncle and wrote a 5,000 word pornographic short story - all throbbing cocks and gaping vulvas - I am sure that you are familiar with the genre.

Having completed my epic I went to a particular pub where the local Maltese porn merchant who I knew slightly was usually to be found and offered him the manuscript. He looked it over and stuck it in his pocket. I left the pub with about £3.00 or so in my pocket and my career as a professional writer had begun. I would knock out a couple of these manuscripts a month and as a source of easy income it really couldn't be beaten.

The only problem was that it was in the merchants' interests to cut out as much of the manuscript as possible, because payment was by the thousand words. If a merchant could cut out the descriptive passages that we writers added to pad out the manuscripts, then he could save himself some money. There was nothing funnier than the sight of some wheezy, chain-smoking, semi-literate, with pencil in hand, trying to edit down a manuscript. Others were more laid back, such as the one who told me in all seriousness: "If I haven't got a hard-on by the end of the first page, I am not buying this fucking thing!"

What I needed was a niche; something that I could write about effortlessly, and without the need to pad out the pages with superfluous text. Spanking just seemed like the obvious choice, since it was a theme that I was interested in, anyway, and could wax lyrical about. I wrote a story and asked a tame merchant to buy it. His honesty was a joy to behold:

"I don't know shit about the fladge, son, but my punters can't get enough of it. Give me another couple like this and I'll run 'em - what name shall we use?

"Call me Nick Urzdown," I replied after ruminating for a moment.

"Is that supposed to be fucking funny, son?"

"Yeah."

"OK, Nick Urzdown it is. I should give a stuff."

Sadly within about a year my career as a writer of typescripts was over. London had already moved away from them and the provinces were following the capital's lead. The country had liberalised, and fears of prosecution had eased. Thus it was possible to produce a magazine on an offset-litho machine because a print run of 1,000 copies or so made it economically viable. The legitimate wholesalers were still not willing to carry those titles, but several shops in each provincial city would order up a few dozen copies every month to sell. The second-hand shops, of which there were dozens in every city, would then take the magazines from the customers on a half back deal and sell them on. Those shops also dealt with the local typescript vendors, but as more and more printed works became available the market for the typescripts dried up.

One such professionally printed job was a small magazine called Monitor. In the very early 1970s they produced a spanking special and as we shall discover next week, the world of CP fiction was never going to be the same again.

1 comment:

North Of The M1 said...

"The only things that I was any good at were shagging and writing." I sometimes think the exact same thing. At least i hope i'm above average at both! x

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