Eileen Wharton is one of the funniest writers I've read. She also has great hair. Two very good reasons to go buy her book 'Shit Happens' - a worm's eye view of life at the bottom of the social compost heap. A novel filled with psychotic, hate-filled, drug-dealing, benefit-scrounging, ultra-violent, sexual predators - and that's just the women. Woven through the grit and the gags there are seams of pure gold waiting to be discovered in the shape of prose that sings with the heart of a soul-searing diva, wearing Jimmy Choo shoes of course.
Eileen also has a collection of short stories 'Rainbows in Puddles' - and her new novel 'Blanket of Blood' is available later this summer.
Being an extremely busy woman it was proving next to impossible to tie Eileen down to a precise date for an interview - so we decided to catch her in the one place we were guaranteed to get a few hours of her time. Yup, I sent Strachan McQuade to the hairdressers.
|Strachan McQuade R.I.P.|
McQuade: Always one to break new ground, I am conducting this interview in a Ladies Hairdressing salon in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. My latest interviewee, Eileen Wharton, is under the dryer and unlikely to attempt an escape until her trademark red locks are cooked to perfection. I’ll just go sit next to her. Oh, a nice lady has handed me a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. How kind, thank you very much.
Good day to you, Wharton. (slurps loudly drinking from teacup) I hope you are well and don’t mind answering a few questions, both pertinent and impertinent.
McQuade: Um..., that's useful to know, and may well explain that nasty rash on your upper lip.
Wharton: No, that was a tale of hair removal cream, a dodgy electrician and a fire alarm. I won’t bore you with the details.
McQuade: I'll take your word for that. Many wouldn't. Your first novel, Shit Happens, was a rather bawdy affair, featuring prostitutes, strippers, dole-scroungers, and hardened criminals.
Wharton: Just a normal Friday night round here, mate.
|Make Up Your Own Caption|
Wharton: Oh of course, Strachan. May I call you Strachan?
McQuade: Certainly not, madam. I insist on the more formal title of Reverend.
Wharton: Yes, Rev. we ladies should be lying on a chaise longue, sipping Pimms and reciting the Nicene Creed or some other Christian prayer. There might be a middle-aged spinster and an elderly vicar in the sequel: ‘Doris Does Dogging With Blue Deacon.’ I think it could be a bestseller. Them there publishers are unscrupulous people. You won’t believe what they tried to get me to do to generate publicity at the launch. (Actually Byker Books are mint.)
McQuade: I'm sorry to point out that Maeve Binchey already used 'Doris Goes Dogging With Blue Deacon' as a title. Do try and be more original. Now, you aspired to be an actress when you were younger and once played Alice in a production of Alice in Wonderland.
Wharton: How the hell do you know this? You been stalking me? Security!
Wharton: Oh it’s a sad tale about June. The sherry did for her you know. There was some scandal involving Terry, a vicar and a Curly Wurly. It was covered up by the Beeb but the damage was done. I’ve heard she’s signed a contract with Tenna Lady so I’m pleased she’s still getting work as she’s always been a bit of a Ledge in my eyes.
McQuade: Whitfield endorsing pishy pensioners pants? How undignified. I recall dear old Moira Anderson's career ending on a sour note when she agreed to promote Catheters-R-Uz. She never worked again after that. But back to your own theatrical exploits. Are you still a bit of a drama queen and likely to throw a strop if you burn the potatoes or forget to defrost pre-frozen lasagne?
Wharton: Strops are common in my house but since I’ve become famous I’m trying to be less of a diva. I’d never buy pre-frozen lasagne because my Nana told me they make them from dead bodies. And while you’re pretty tasty, I’m not really into consuming dead people. I have sucked on a stiff once before but that was for research purposes. (Editor: Tread carefully, Wharton)
McQuade: By Jove! It seems we do have something in common after all. I love a big stiff one just before my dinner. Glenfiddich always does the trick for me, but I should point out that a good malt should be sipped, never sucked. Oh, just realised that's not what you meant at all...
INTERMISSION FOR AWKWARD SLENCE
McQuade: (no longer tongue-tied) By the way – why is this nice woman who made me a cup of tea now tilting back my chair and washing my hair? It does feel nice and relaxing. Is this the Durham version of the Japanese tea ceremony?
McQuade: You have sophisticated foreign food in Bishop Auckland? Who'd have thought? As for Care in the Community; in my old stamping ground in Invergallus we had Scare in the Community, an excellent scheme where we allowed all the criminally insane residents to roam around at will as cheap entertainment for the tourists. Oh the laughs we had when an elderly couple were hacked to pieces while browsing in the antiques shop.
Wharton: Not very P.C., Rev. Mental health issues are very close to my heart. (And my head) Methinks ‘tis you who should tread carefully. And please can I have my PVC pants back? I need them for the weekend. Leave my washing alone in future!
McQuade: Now, you have several books in the pipeline aimed at the young reader’s market entitled ‘THE SHMOOGLY BOO’ and ‘DOMELAND’. I myself once wrote a children’s book aimed specifically at my church’s juvenile bible class. It had the snappy title of ‘Repent Ye Young Sinners, Or Burn In Hell For All Eternity!’ It was a delightful pop-up book full of grotesque devils and imps brandishing red-hot pitchforks at the buttocks of frightened children. My book was sadly withdrawn after several children required psychiatric counselling. A sure sign of the moral decline in our nation’s youth. So tell me, what are your children’s books about?
Wharton: I think perhaps we should collaborate on something. (Editor: Perish the thought) The devils and pitchforks sounds right up my street. Chuck in a pair of killer heels and handcuffs and I’m in. THE SHMOOGLY BOO is a children’s picture book aimed at (not aimed as in like a crossbow) children from birth to five years of age. Harry meets the big, bad Shmoogly Boo but he isn’t afraid. The Shmoogly Boo tries everything: he grows long teeth, buzzes like a bee and changes shape. Brave Harry isn’t fazed until … It’s published by Hogsback Books and illustrated by the very talented David Walker.
DOMELAND is still to find a publisher. Dunno what they’re thinking. It’s a dystopian young adult novel, set in the future in Greater Britain. The British union of Separatists have risen to power and are ridding our country of ‘undesirables.’ People are being carted off to ASBUs (Anti Social Behaviour Units) for crimes such as being fat or having ginger hair.
McQuade: If that were true, most of Scotland would be locked up.
Wharton: I’m half Scottish and you’re heading for a Glasgae kiss!
McQuade: Sorry, hang on. This Sandra woman is now asking me what I want done with my hair. Why would I want anything done to my hair? Especially if it means being served up in a frozen spam fritter. Very well. if it keeps her happy, she can give me a nice trim and apply some Macassar hair oil. Sorry, Wharton, do carry on.
Wharton: Slap on a bit of John Freida Formaldehyde and the job’s a good ‘un as we say Oop North. Have no idea what I was waffling on about. (Editor: Me neither) Lidl have a BOGOF offer on beans and I’ve heard that we’re getting a new pound shop. Don’t quote me. I don’t want to be responsible for a stampede.
You don’t know any good agents do you? I keep being approached by them online. They want to represent me but it all goes wrong once we meet. Not sure why! Unless you can suggest anything … Maybe I’ll leave the hand cuffs at home next time.
McQuade: I no longer use an agent after the last one persuaded me to pose as the centrefold for Cadaver Monthly. Those staples hurt like blazes and for the rest of the week every time I urinated I resembled a garden sprinkler.
This summer sees the publication of your new thriller, ‘Blanket of Blood’. I imagine it to be a tale of unrequited romance in a launderette. Am I wrong? You’ll have speak up as I probably won’t be able to hear a word because of this bloody Sandra woman blow-drying my hair.
Wharton: I know exactly what you mean, when I’m being blown I’m deaf to the world. (Editor: Gosh, even I'm blushing)
Ooh I could tell you a few tales of requited romance in a Laundrette, a pub car park and round the back of McDonalds near the dog waste bins but I’m worried about being arrested.
BLANKET OF BLOOD is the first novel in my Gary Blood thriller series. Here’s the blurb:
When a baby’s body is found on a rubbish dump in Banktop Woods, Easingham, a hunt is on for the mother who left it there. But all is not as it seems ...
Is someone preying on pregnant teenage girls? Where is seven year old, Lisa-Marie Lowther? Detective Inspector Gary Blood must bring to justice the most sadistic murderer his force has ever seen.
Sounds bloody mint doesn’t it?
McQuade: It sounds tawdry and distasteful and I certainly won't be recommending it to the ladies of my parish Eastern Star Baking Guild.
|Satan the Hamster|
Wharton: Actually the hamster’s called Santa (and not because he has a big sack) and it died last Christmas. Thanks for reminding me of that. (Weeps uncontrollably) Incidentally I do like a man who can speak in tongues so …
McQuade: Good heavens, woman. Why are you waggling your tongue in such an obscene and depraved manner. Does it have cramp? Perhaps if you refrained from talking so much it might alleviate the problem. Well, thank you kindly for your time and trouble. Your hair looks almost good enough to pass muster for a night out in the Stanley Jefferson pub here in Bishop Auckland. But what the hell has happened to my crowning glory? It looks like I’ve spent the night in haunted house! Ah, well, I suppose I’ll get used to it. Anyway, your pride and joy might benefit from another minute or two under the drier. Please allow me to twiddle with the settings to save you a little time. I wonder what this roast chicken icon does. (Crackle of electricity) Oh dear. Never mind, Wharton, I'm sure your hair will grow back after you get those third degree burns attended to. And erm... perhaps attach a pair of plastic ears.
Wharton: Told you I was hot stuff!
McQuade: Splendid! A good sport to the end. Righto, I'm off. Ah, just realised I'm now handcuffed to this chair and your mate Sandra is wielding those scissors again. No! Please! I don't want to end up in a spam fritter. Oh the indignity of it all. Aaaaaargh!
Buy Eileen's books on Amazon
Buy Eileen's books on Amazon