All Fur Coat free first chapter

Greil used to be
in a band. Now he's
just in dire straits

Fun Researching All Fur Coat

This piece was orginally commissioned by Scotland on Sunday


The first time I ever visited Spearmint Rhino was to attend the press launch of a videogame called Jimmy White’s Cueball World. “Do you know that girl?” I said in all innocence to a fellow journalist, having watched this gorgeous woman approach him, pinch his bum and mischievously nick one of his sausages-on-sticks. “No,” he said, a bit scared-looking, “Never met her before in my life.”

It’s fairly common practice for games companies to plug their products using barely clothed women. Kelly Brook may well be the toast of Hollywood now, but misty-eyed games journalists fondly remember her wielding a broadsword to promote Deathtrap Dungeon. Even new-Jordan-on-the-block Jodie Marsh was recently called upon to be the face (i.e chest) of Formula One 2004. You don’t get that so much in, say, music or film journalism. Probably because games journalists don’t get out too often. The PR people go that extra mile to drag them along.

At the time of my Spearmint Rhino visit I’d put Sleb, my previous novel, to bed and I was mulling over an idea for the follow-up. In pitch form it was: two men become obsessed with the same woman, but for wildly different reasons. So I had three characters. The female lead I wanted to be a model, but watching the girls at Spearmint Rhino at work; in fact, the whole atmosphere of Spearmint Rhino, convinced me she should start off as a lap-dancer. Moreover, I wanted my lap-dancing club, which I re-named All Fur Coat, to be a character in its own right. Like the bum-pinching girl, it made me strangely nervous, but I also found it endlessly fascinating and not a little titillating.

It’s now a fairly standard part of my repertoire that I (ha ha) ‘enjoyed’ the research for All Fur Coat, but I didn’t. I just got all sweaty and hot and spent a lot of money. The first time I went back to Spearmint Rhino in anger, I trotted out the old ‘actually I’m writing a book’ line to a very nice young lady called Katia, who clearly didn’t believe me and probably thought I was angling for a bit of Jamie Theakston after-hours action. Speaking to Katia wasn’t cheap. I saw no evidence of an actual stopwatch, but periodically she’d remind me that if she wasn’t speaking to me she could be earning serious cash elsewhere, and I’d hand over a tenner. Lap-dancers are experts at getting men to part with their money. They do it with such charm.

Still, though, she was worth it. I did research in other clubs, but it was Katia who really gave me the best material. Her and the occasional documentary on Channel Five.

My second part of the All Fur Coat triangle is a weird artist-type bloke for whom I needed to do some even more bizarre research. In the book, Simon patrols the London Underground removing chewing gum from adverts on escalators. He’s an obsessive compulsive and logs the exact number of posters at each tube station in a notebook. I I could just have made these figures up, but, as Morrissey once sang, ‘there’s always someone with a big nose who knows’, so I had little choice but to count them myself. And I did. Every figure in the book is absolutely genuine. Not only did I dedicate whole days to counting posters in tube stations, but for months wherever I went in London I counted the posters on the escalators of whatever tube station I used. It’s fine when you’re by yourself, but needless to say when you’re ascending with a friend, dutifully counting away, they inevitably bark out random numbers to try and put you off. This wouldn’t, I thought the umpteenth time, happen to Salman Rushdie.

The third lead character in All Fur Coat I barely needed to research at all. He’s a drunken freelance journalist who was once in a failed indie band and has pretty much continued to fail ever since. Thanks to my own forays into music journalism and men’s magazines, Greil came fairly easily, but he did give me the opportunity to namecheck not only The Fall, but some late, lamented bands into the bargain. Within Greil’s bitter reminiscences he mentions Kingmaker (saw Radiohead supporting them at Leicester Poly), Top (who were, I thought, fairly ‘top’ at the time), Flowered Up and The Family Cat. Where are they now? Well, they live on in mine and Greil’s memory, and now, at least, they also have a place in All Fur Coat.



Two blokes in a white van tried to sell me speakers and I ended up writing a book about it