I was asked recently whether I write to music. The answer is: "Yes - sometimes."
For the new novel, Version Thirteen, with its depictions of gritty Moscow nightclubs, street violence, prostitution, drug abuse, gangsterism and general fun of a type definitely not for all the family, I found the music of my friend David Berry’s band, Calling All Astronauts, very atmospheric. They describe themselves as Urban Techno Goth, which sort of says it all. I recommend Winter of Discontent and Someone Like You, especially. These tracks were blaring out a lot as the following passage, from early on in the book, was written and revised:
"They were hemmed in on all sides by the usual crowd: beautiful women with an x-ray vision for fat wallets, the male, menopausal Eurotrash business set, self-consciously trendy Muscovites, and a liberal sprinkling of very thickset men in mirror shades.
Shatush, an ultra-slick restaurant and bar on Gogolevsky Boulevard, was pretty impressive even to Blandford’s jaded eye. The bottom half of the main bar was illuminated by a gorgeous neon blue light. The area above was cloaked in red. To look at the two blocks of colour from a distance one had the impression of a lightly electrified London bus sinking into a phosphorescent nocturnal sea. That was the kind of ambience modern drinkers wanted. Everything was meticulously designed and the overall effect was dazzling, hypnotic.
Not that Blandford cared. Moscow felt like one big whorehouse to him – one that he and others like him were propping up with their money and false jollity. He was beginning to feel that he was the biggest whore of them all.
Just centimetres away, three women were on the bar top, gyrating to the music. Blandford had never heard of techno-funk, but he quite liked it. There was a Chinese girl wearing a tiny black bikini, her long dark hair flew in a whirlpool around her as she bumped and ground along with the music. Next to her was a black woman in a silver thong and acid-swirl patterns of gold body paint that emphasised the curves of her naked breasts; a white girl with long blonde hair was dancing nearest to the two men. The white girl at first seemed to be wearing a tight-fitting pinstripe suit. But Blandford soon realised that in fact she was naked, apart from a pair of stilettos, a large Homburg hat and body paint, artfully applied to give the impression of suit, shirt and tie. She was dancing just above Blandford. Her vagina had been shaved. But perhaps not that recently, judging from the just-discernible golden stubble. Nice touch.
“It’s smoky in here,” Blandford shouted against the hubub. He dabbed at his eyes again with his handkerchief. They’d been quietly streaming all night, well before they came into the hot, heavy atmosphere of Shatush. “Shall we find a booth?”
They moved out of the bar through the main dining room. The lighting, while a little brighter, still caressed the eyes. The room was divided by intricately carved Chinese black-lacquer screens, but all the more discreet compartments were taken. They moved on through the hookah hall, where tobaccos flavoured with apple, strawberry and other, stranger fruits and scents were being smoked. Eventually, they found a booth that was invitingly empty and plumped themselves down on fat, burgundy-coloured satin cushions.
A waitress came and took their order. Medulev asked her for a bottle of Absolut Citron and a bucket of ice. He had decided that this was Blandford’s drink.
“Well, my friend, what shall we do? Anna is still working on her mystery deal. Ksenia is waiting for Spendlove to finish at Tortoise Shell. It seems advanced mechanical mathematics is more challenging than menus and wine lists.”
“I don’t know, Marat. What do you want to do?” Blandford felt the liquor hot and viscous at the back of his throat. The elation of the kill was long gone. He had his revenge. The image of the boy’s shattered cranium came back to him time and again. There was no more pleasure, but neither was there revulsion or guilt. It was just a thing he recalled, a pointless image, a picture in a stranger’s photograph album.
“Come on, let’s get laid,” said Medulev. “When was the last time you had a good fuck?..."
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