Hairy Podcast Week, Day 1

by stephenpalmersf

To celebrate the podcast and audio book of Hairy London, this is Hairy Podcast Week on my blog. Today… the proto-Hairy shenanigans!


It’s not normally considered wise to write a novel without on-the-fly editing, but that’s what I did when I wrote Hairy London. A completely different form of novel to anything I’ve previously written, I realised as soon as I sat down that my unconscious should be allowed to express itself regardless of what came out. Hence chocolate steam trains, cow balloons, and much, much more…

Inspired by a story request for the Eibonvale Press anthology Where Are We Going? I wrote a short story called Xana-La, which satirised and celebrated Victorian derring-do penny dreadful tales, and also the classic format of Jules Verne, which he used with such marvellous success in Around The World In 80 Days. My plan was to write a tale in which amusingly named Victorian explorers would travel to somewhere in the Himalayas in a balloon, but within a few minutes of sitting down to write the opening scene I knew there was enormous scope for madcap invention (my favourite kind) and Pythonesque humour. So I was away… writing with great enjoyment, at speed, and without consciously editing the surreal adventures which played out before my mind’s eye. I also realised early on that baroque, if not rococo language was the way to go: Milliganesque, Rabellaisian. This too was enormous fun.

By the time I had finished this story (which iirc took two afternoons) I realised I had a good story and had discovered by accident a fantastic way of writing. But this was 2013, and I had other, more serious writing to do…

Yet Xana-La and that whole technique of unedited writing wouldn’t let me go, and I realised there was a potential novel on the way. Once I had finished the serious stuff I pondered that novel. I did almost no preparation. I decided on the theme, worked out the style, jotted down a few names and locations, found a map of central London, then did a little work on the format. And that was everything. The plan was to let my unconscious off the leash.

Did it work? Given how different the novel is to my previous work, I think the reviews speak for themselves: In the end I was left wanting more… I suppose the acid test questions are: did I feel I wasted my money buying this book? No. Would I read another Stephen Palmer novel? Indubitably, my dear chap, indubitably… I highly recommend this fun, engaging novel… Hairy London was a real page turner and I found it difficult to put down… I enjoyed every page of this book as the action stayed strong and the individual adventures, although over the top, were just so much fun… Stephen Palmer is a writer you should read. His work is unique, original, sometimes challenging, always fresh… Thought-provoking and a lot of fun, it has everything a solid, different novel should have.

Moonlightmakers Podcast, Episode 1

Xana-La cover