On Sunday evening I had a look at the calendar and realised that The Creative Identity is three months old this week. Three months, twenty-four posts, twelve writing exercises, fifty-six comments, one forthcoming workshop, one short story competition underway, three eCourses in development, daily page views between eighty and one hundred and fifty-five, forty-two RSS subscribers and two hundred and twenty-two Twitter followers who, in a rather bizarre turn of events, include Was Anderson and Maria Shriver. What can I say? I like a good rack of numbers. As a thank you for sticking around, or as a welcome if it's the first time you visit, it so just happens that I have one signed copy of the marvellous Hound Dog by Richard Blandford to give away.
I chanced upon it last week, when I read this via Twitter. I fired off an email and, soon after, got my copy which landed with a soft thud on the back of my startled dog. I promised myself I wouldn't peek into this book because I knew I wanted to use it for the giveaway and because I am a spine-cracker. Yes, it's confession time dear reader: I crack spines. You can always tell which books I've read and which I've never opened just by checking how disastrously grooved or perfectly flat their spines are.
This one in particular enjoys one heck of a tight binding and so I did what I always do, flicked to the back and read the last few lines. That's how I select books when I buy them; I first smell them and then I read the last few lines. You will agree that anyone can write a great opening but very few make you wonder what on earth happened during the previous two-hundred and forty-nine pages straight to the till point. If the smell and the ending flip the switch inside my head, I buy.
And so I ended up having to read this book, while struggling to keep it open as narrowly as humanly possible. If you love a certain type of profound British movies (and that will exclude the Hugh Grant-esque sort, much as I love him), say Brassed Off, then you must read Hound Dog.
'Hound Dog is distressingly, worryingly funny. With skill and sensitivity Blandford keeps the reader laughing, even through the depravity, even through the despair, even, indeed, through the moments of startling ferocity. Blandford does for fat, middle-aged, coke-addled, sex-deviant Elvis impersonators what Peter Guralnick has done for the man himself.' (Niall Griffiths)
What will grip you is a sense of deep malaise channelled through extremely subtle characterisation. I have absolutely no doubt that you will remember this Elvis long after you're done with the book. Try it now:
'Due to a lack of my own transport, it looks like I'll be riding home on the number 47 bus. It's quite a walk to the station, but I don't mind. It's a beautiful day, with the sun making the stones of old buildings glow so bright it almost hurts to look at them, and after giving Jenny such a good hammering, I'm able to walk through the centre of Cambridge without getting quite such a hard-on for a change. It's funny, the things I find myself thinking about when I don't need to fiddle. It's not stuff I really want to bother myself with, but it just comes to me, whether I want it or not. Like that psychopath thing, I haven't thought about that in ages, but there it was, in my head all of a sudden. And now, not half an hour later, I'm walking through Cambridge, and instead of fantasising about locations in which the various American tourists that I pass might possibly have sex, like I normally would be, I'm thinking about even more stuff that happened years back. I'm thinking about the first time I met Eddie. Christ that changed everything. It made me into Elvis for a start.'
This is your chance to be involved in a little photo essay that illustrates the ways of Twitter, the net and the postal service. To enter this give-away, please leave a comment below by Sunday 8 pm UK time. I'll then randomly select the winner. Once the book arrives at your place, take some snaps of it. Be creative: book on the doorstep and/or on the bedside table and/or on your bookshelf and/or whatever. Then send back to me and the journey of Hound Dog will be shared online here and on Richard's own blog. Did I say it is signed? I did, didn't I? Yes, it's signed and comes straight from the author's house. Please re-tweet, link and share far and wide!