------ Stephen Clarke
I grew up in Bournemouth (the Bondi Beach of England), where I played bass in some of the worst rock bands in musical history before leaving town to study French and German at Oxford.
After university, I got a series of high-powered jobs in the wine industry (grape picking), tertiary sector (washing up in a German hotel), and in international diplomacy (teaching English to bored French businessmen).
Meanwhile I started writing novels, all of which remained unpublished due to a vast – and never before revealed – conspiracy in the global publishing industry.
I then moved to Glasgow, where I was hired to put rude words into French dictionaries - check out my work on "motherf*cker" in the Collins Robert dictionary. As soon as I heard about the possibility of a French 35-hour week, I moved to Paris and got a job as a journalist on an English-language magazine.
I kept writing fiction, and, despite fierce opposition from my bank manager, finally decided to self-publish Beam Me Up, Who Killed Beano? and A Year in the Merde via my own (fictional) company, redgaragebooks.com.
I began trying to sell A Year ... first, as I was living in Paris, and after three months of humping copies around the streets in a shopping trolley, I sold the book. Not only to bookshops, but also to a major publisher who promised me that they had their own delivery service so I would not have to do any more heavy lifting. Well, in fact it was my newly-found agent, Susanna Lea, who landed the major publisher. And since she was looking to the future while I was still focussing on my lower back, she also secured a deal to write more Paul West adventures.
I have since written the sequel, Merde Actually, the sequel to the sequel, Merde Happens, the sequel to the etc etc, a spoof thriller called Dial M for Merde, as well as Talk to the Snail, my little book that tries to describe French society according to ten “commandments” like “thou shalt not love thy neighbour”, “thou shalt be wrong” and “thou shalt not get served” . My latest offering, a non-fiction tome called 1000 Years of Annoying the French, will be out in March 2010. Oh, and I still play bass if there are any really bad rock bands out there.
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For the ﬁrst time, our printed version uses videos to bring life to our content and advertising. A new concept, Augmented Reality, brings the paper to life at the click of a button. All you need to do is download the free LAYAR application on your phone or tablet and off you go. Then just follow the instructions over the next pages.
The sun is out, bank holidays are in, we all want to go and explore, although this can sometimes be ruined by the dreaded mistral (p14). But let’s not spoil things. How about a visit to St Jean du Fos (p20) or if you’re feeling more urban, a nice shopping day in Avignon with a healthy tea break (p23) or a visit to an art gallery in Nîmes? (p17) If you’re feeling extra energetic like me, how about entering the Pont du Gard race on 30 June to raise money for a fantastic local charity? Also in this issue, the remarkable story of a simulated space mission by Claire (p18) and a very funny article by Bernice on her pathological inability (or so she says) to learn languages (p22).