More Lies by Richard James Allen, Interactive Press, 2021
Richard James Allen is a widely published and prize winning author, as well as being a multi-talented artist excelling in many art-forms. Allen describes himself as a poet, dancer, film director, actor, novelist and choreographer. His latest novel More Lies contains 33 chapters, each chapter no longer than one and a half pages, it is a small book but what it contains is a treasure of laughs and lies.
More Lies is a thriller where the main character is a writer, a prisoner at the hands of well … at different times different people, or are they the same person with different roles? The reader will discover that between laughs and intrigues. The novel has all the elements of any famous crime novel: the hero, the villains, the sexy blonde and the right story.
I would describe More Lies as ‘absurdist fiction’ because it focuses on the experiences of a character whose actions are called into question because they lack certainty, there is also satire and incongruity plus brilliant humour. In this small gem there is tension, drama, sex and suspense as well as crazy characters and a quick developing plot.
The reader is in the main character’s mind, reading his thoughts, what he writes and how he questions himself, like in the following excerpt:
“Let’s see … am I a famous man, am I a wealthy man? Have I done great acts, have I altered the state of things? Am I kind, compassionate with others, am I at peace and in health with myself? And, since I am not an entirely selfish person, I cannot help but wonder who you are, dear reader, my only companion along this road of wonders, memories and – what are they called? Oh Yes – old chestnuts.”
The colloquial style of the writing makes the character very real and very believable until the reader is confronted with the a possible truth, but which one is the real truth? No wonder Allen titled the book More Lies.
Allenhas included some poems in the book which add another dimension to the development of the story, this is one of the poems titled “Blackout”, it really gets the reader into the character’s mind (In italics in the book):
Don’t ask me to believe
all that vampire,
werewolf, slime monster stuff!
Since when were
Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff
experts in electrical de-circuiting?
They always work the late show,
they’d never make it to night school.
I bet some local punk
just kicked in our fuse box.
Whichever, it’s too dark
To stumble about,
just to make sure my pot plants
haven’t strangled the cat,
& my budgie hasn’t turned into a crow,
& the steak and kidney hasn’t reconstituted itself
as Frankenstein in the fridge.
The TV’s starting to blink & sigh & gargle
like a goddam baby. Don’t
dribble on my new carpet.
& don’t start again
with that used car business
or I’ll kick your face in.
I’m feeling so edgy tonight.
Maybe I’ll go & wake up my buddy
Uptown a couple of blocks
& chew over with him.
&, that’s right, his sister’s
staying over for the weekend.
She’d look so cute in her pajamas,
half-asleep & standing in the hallway.
Course his old lady’d
Probably bite my head off.
3 o’clock in the morning.
I’d better switch off this doggerel,
before one of us turns into Mr Hyde.
In More Lies expect the unexpected at one point the writer gives options for the reader to select how one of the characters feels, as follows:
“At which point, the police officer:
A. ‘unhousel’d , disappointed, unanel’d’
B. tired and bamboozled,
C. jilted and repudiated,
D. all of the above.
will break into another kind of rap, an irrelevant, tangential spoken word poetry all his own (which I wish you could hear, but you will just have to imagine), as he sashays through my ajar door.”
At one point the story about the writer being held hostage in his own apartment and forced to write by a sexy blonde, makes detours and leaves the reader hanging: what will happen next? Yes, more suspense and laughs many laughs. And can you believe it: the reader becomes part of the narrative, like in the following excerpt:
“Who’s to say I haven’t been monitoring you ever since you picked up this God damn book? Now you didn’t think that, did you? Eavesdropping in on you, watching your every move this whole time, through some tiny apparatus implanted in this book? Yeah, a microchip receiver, a video camera. Who’s to say this whole text hasn’t been a trick to keep you in the one place, or, more precisely, to allow you freedom of movement, but for us to know exactly where are at all times?”
Furthermore, later the reader is given a few lined pages titled ‘Confession’ so you can write about your “peccadillos” and indiscretions and given absolute confidentiality.
Richard James Allen has brought to life a small gem, where the reader will go through a series of lies, alternative versions, deceptions and fantasy all told in a fluid narrative which will grasp you from the first page. In these difficult times of lockdown and mask wearing there is nothing better than getting involved in a book that will transport you to New York by the hands of a prisoner not only keeping your interest but also making you laugh from the first page.
– Beatriz Copello
Dr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Her poetry books include: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), her other books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria.
Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.
More Lies by Richard James Allen is available from https://ipoz.biz/portfolio-single/more-lies/