GO WEST is a novel about Charlie Bread, self-styled Antiques Whisperer and forgery hunter. When Charlie is sent on the trail of a mysterious document that may have been written by the inventor of Peter Pan, his life becomes a road movie full of pursuit and intrigue, soundtracked by old John Peel shows, the beautiful Penelope, and a game of high road hide-and-seek all across the West Country. In a world where nothing is what it seems, Bread has to find out the truth – before the truth finds him out.
Go West is the second novel by David Quantick, Emmy-winning writer (Veep, The Thick Of It) and author of The Mule (“A Da Vinci Code with laughs – The Independent, “ingenious, likable, funny and above all entertaining” –Spectator, “accomplished and witty highbrow farce” – Sunday Times).
“Well, tonight we return in the company of Viv Stanshall to Rawlinson End. This episode, number thirty-seven, is called Cabbage-Looking In Mufti, don’t ask me why. Before that, records from Lee Perry, David Bowie, The Waitresses, 999, Snatch, Bryan Ferry, Culture, The Ramones, Clash, Siouxsie And The Banshees - and The Stranglers.”
My name is Charlie Bread. I’m driving a red Mark 2 Jaguar, I’ve got John Peel on the car stereo, and I’m going to Devon. I work for a major auction house – well, not as major as the two you’ve definitely heard of, Sotheby’s and the other one, but Pring’s is a close third to them – and my job, my particular skill is sniffing out forgeries. Fakes, that sort of thing. And I’m really good at it. So good that I even have a nickname. They call me “the Antiques Whisperer.” Which is a bit silly because I don’t actually whisper to anything, and not all the things I don’t whisper to are antiques, some of them are very modern, but it does convey the essential oddness of what I do.
Other experts in fakes are what you might call very scientific in their approach. They use chemicals, and X-rays, and tiny paint scrapings. They analyse the items scientifically and they’re always sending things away to the laboratory (I don’t know which laboratory or if there’s a whole lot of different ones) for tests. That’s not what I do at all. Admittedly, I do do a bit of research, mostly reading because of the nature of the sort of items I’m called upon to investigate, but I haven’t been in a laboratory since school and what I know about science wouldn’t fill a shot glass. No, what I do is very different indeed.
What I do is I walk around the object. I look at it. I stare at it, quite hard. I might pick it up. I consult my notes, if I have any, and then I just think. All right, once I sniffed an object, and that did get mentioned by people. But it was a paperback book which was supposed to have belonged to Laurence of Arabia and which had been found in a hotel reading room in Jedda where he had apparently left it behind and seventy years later an apparently casual visitor had opened it and seen his name scrawled in it – and it smelled slightly damp. All that time, you see, in an arid climate in a dry room in the middle of a desert city and it was faintly damp. Even the sternest critic would have to agree that something was up with that. And indeed when the book was sent to the laboratory, for tests, they discovered that the tiny mould spores in the centre pages were native to Lincolnshire, a county that Laurence of Arabia had never visited. As my Dad used to say when he beat me at draughts, thus I win.
And that’s what I do. I get an object with a disputed provenance – and I’m always the last resort, like those stupid psychics Scotland Yard get in when they’re Baffled, not that I believe there’s anything psychic about what I do – and I study it – always doing some reading around it, so I’m not completely whistling in the dark – and I see if I can get a feel for it, if there’s some quality about it that’s off, or not right. Sometimes I can’t, and then I just have to throw in the towel and admit that I’m only human like the rest of them. But sometimes I get it right. And sometimes I don’t just get it right, I get it spectacularly right. All boasting apart.
I wrote about Go West, in passing (sort of) in Record Collector magazine. Which reminded me that I had used Record Collector to do some research. There's a label in Germany who specialise in blues and folk reissues. They do gorgeous boxed sets with photos and notes - and I learned in an RC piece that the man who does their artwork had a dilemma. He would get old photos of long dead bluesmen - faded…
I'm making a list of songs associated with John Peel for a CD and playlist for pledgers - if anyone has any suggestions, please put em up here.
I am after songs John Peel loved and songs associated with important moments in his career - and I think I'll put Teenage Kicks on twice...
John Peel turns up a lot in Go West, partly as a symbol of integrity but mostly because he's great.
And the fact that in his early career he changed his name from John Ravenscroft to John Peel allowed me to drag in the weirdest DJ Name-Change fact ever: that when British DJ Rick West took up his new job at a radio station in Seattle he was told that he would have to change his name as the previous…
I'm going to Waterstone's in Gower Street next Monday to talk up Go West, with a bunch of other Unbounders who will be talking up their books. It should be fun, especially as I don't have a speech and I'll probably forget what the book is about.
Come along - Unbound books are great and maybe we'll all end up pledging for each other in a kind of Rat King tangle of love:
When I started planning Go West, I was playing a lot of old John Peel shows - transferred to mp3, they sound great on my iPod in the car. There is a slightly strange sensation in listening to recordings of live radio shows, which were once very much of the moment, and I know my love of them is as much nostalgia (I loved John Peel, his show, and the music he played) as anything else. But they are great…
One of the things about Go West which made it entertaining to write is that every time I put someone or something real in the book, I googled that person or thing with the word "fake" next to it. This is how I discovered the truth about one major historical character's reputation, a myth about a famous Devon spinster, and a story about the painter Robert Lenkiewicz.
I love Lenkiewicz. He lived…
These people are helping to fund Go West.