Brighton rock (or how I reformed the Stranglers and nearly shot the PM)

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The Independent Online

My spoof autobiography, Look at me, Look at me! is soon to be unleashed on an eager nation and I have already heard rumours that the Booker Prize jury is talking about it. Admittedly, they are holding it up as the antithesis of what the prize is all about but all publicity is good publicity, as Max Clifford might say.

My spoof autobiography, Look at me, Look at me! is soon to be unleashed on an eager nation and I have already heard rumours that the Booker Prize jury is talking about it. Admittedly, they are holding it up as the antithesis of what the prize is all about but all publicity is good publicity, as Max Clifford might say.

As part of the curious machinery of building up momentum for my opus, I found myself in Brighton on Monday night attending the Borders/Books Etc annual company bash. The basic idea is that you press flesh with various store managers who then, hopefully, think about you when deciding where to place your book in their store.

After an unfortunate incident in Corsica some years back where I was one of six hostages held in a train siege for nine days by separatists, I have not been overly keen on train travel. I was, therefore, in quite a state when I boarded the 16.36 from Victoria.

I suppose I should have taken some medication but I hadn't really planned ahead and I can only hope that my assault on the ticket inspector in carriage three will be seen in its proper context by the jury when it comes to court. I am claiming post-traumatic stress disorder and have a picture of a Corsican separatist to persuade them of the uncanny similarity between him and the inspector. Anyway I digress.

I got to Brighton without any further problems and hopped into a taxi eager to make my way to the (third) world-renowned Thistle Hotel. Unfortunately, a policeman stopped my cab just as we were leaving the station. He held us back while Tony Blair whizzed past us fresh from his scintillating speech to the TUC conference. I have to admit that he also had a passing resemblance to a Corsican separatist. If I had happened to have brought my machine-gun with me, he would have been Gorgonzola (full of holes). Fortunately I was not armed and so he and I proceeded on without incident.

The evening's festivities were to be held on Brighton Pier. It was nearly cancelled as a distant relative of Hurricane Ivan, Gale Gary, was about to batter Brighton into submission. The original idea had been to make use of the fairground rides but we were now confined to the pier's weird Victorian pub where, after a gourmet dinner of fish and chips, we were invited to participate in a karaoke evening. I peered out of the storm battered windows and could just make out the ruined hulk of the derelict West Pier. It didn't bode well.

I watched in awe as two of the country's leading conspiracy theorists, Jon Ronson and Danny Wallace, put together quite an accomplished version of "Mack the Knife" and began to have a little conspiracy theory of my own. Essentially that some people had been doing a bit of secret rehearsing together. I began to panic, unsure of what I could sing without banishing my book to the very depths of the bargain bins. And then fate intervened. I noticed Hugh Cornwell, the ex lead singer of the Stranglers, leaning against a wall next to me. He was doing the same thing as me, promoting his up-coming autobiography. I flicked through the ludicrous selection of songs available and, to my great relief, found that they included "Golden Brown". Although not really a romper-stomper, more a cool ode to heroin abuse, I knew that this was my salvation. I cornered Hugh and begged him to duet with me. We took to the stage to a smattering of applause from Stranglers fans who looked very unhappy with my presence. I managed to come in on time, alternating lines with the punk maestro. I was now technically a Strangler performing live on Brighton Pier. Weirder things have happened, but not many.

The whole thing stalled slightly when, after the second verse, the screen announced that there was a one-minute, forty-five second instrumental bit. Not that great for karaoke and the DJ cut it short after a minute or so, but we left the stage with heads held high, confident that our respective books might even make it to the coveted cover, not spine, display status so coveted by authors. We can only pray.

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