Gary Raymond introduces his new novel, Angels of Cairo, and explains why he’s created a playlist for it, or, as he puts it, an unofficial official soundtrack for an unmade film adaptation of a book about a film.
It’s not out yet, but the jury is in. My new novel, Angels of Cairo, according to many who have very kindly got in touch having read proofs and review copies, is a book about film. I’m not going to argue against that and echo the novel’s protagonist, an indie filmmaker named Robert Clifford, who spends much of the book trying to convince people his new film is most definitely not a film about his mother. So, my new novel is about the art and influence and industry of cinema, and the characters discuss it and live it and fall back into it, and the narrative uses cinema to tell its story, and the scenes are built that way too.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a playlist to accompany the reading of the film; if you like, an unofficial official playlist for an unmade film adaptation of a book about a film. It’s a loose cut with unrefined edges, the type of edited soundreel that would no doubt put Cliff’s teeth on edge. But the soundtrack tells a story too. And so Szun Waves’s astounding “Constellations” brings the lights up on the screen, John Cale’s “Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend” introduces us to Cliff terrified and prostrate in his hotel room after the flight from hell has spat him out into the city of Cairo. He’s there because he has been invited to the International Film Festival where his new film (definitely not about his mother) has been selected for a jury prize. The ensuing action, all played out as a dark comedy spanning Cliff’s hectic stressful one day at the festival, is evoked in the playlist through acerbic takes by the likes of Joe Meek, LCD Soundsystem, Kevin Ayers, DEVO, and The Fall.
When I was a kid, I used to make mix tapes to go with stories I would never write, stories that could have been books or films or plays. I once recut the entire of David Carradine’s reading of Kerouac’s On the Road to musical interventions from Big Bill Broonzy, Skip Spence, and Kate Bush, and it all climaxed with Dean Moriarty screaming “We can’t go no further ‘cuz there aint no more land” fading into “A Rush and Push and the Land is Ours” by The Smiths. I believe in silly creativity, and I believe that it’s driven out of many people by the rigours and demands of society, and so I made a commitment, when I was six or seven, to resist calls to the rank and file. But one concession was that if I was going to continue into adulthood making silly mixtapes and playlists, I would have to start writing the stories for them to accompany.
So, here’s the playlist.
If you’d like to know more about the novel, you can read this interview I did with Holly Porter on the Parthian website.