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ALONG THE
RIVER RUN

Paul BUCK;

in conversation with Jess CHANDLER;
an INTERVIEW & an EXCERPT









A crime novel inspired by a real-life incident, and distinguished by its sensitivity to the subtleties of language and dialogue, Along the River Run (prototype) is a story of guilt and retribution played out amid the streets, sounds and sights of a bewitching city—Lisbon—that city at the mouth of the Tagus, that city that whispers, licks and seduces its visitors, that city that haunts those seeking refuge or its pleasures. Who would wish to escape? It is the start of the millennium and two ‘lads’ from South East London are trapped in Lisbon among people and experiences set to push them to the limits. Attempting to lie low after a fateful night back home, the friends find themselves navigating an unnerving new reality in this haunting story of psychological destruction.

Along the River Run can be bought direct from the publisher here.

To mark the publication of this work, see below for a conversation between Paul Buck and his publisher, Jess Chandler; and below that, for an excerpt from the novel.








Where were they
                likely to be?


Di Dempster had chosen the terrace of the Café Nicola in the Rossio as her initial observation point. Some time here and perhaps she would get lucky and see them pass by. As she understood it, this square was central, a magnet for tourists. She needed to acclimatise to the city and to get a sense of where they might be hiding. After a while she moved across to the McDonald’s on the other side. Just the type of place she imagined two lads like them would find suitable for their meals. Neither place produced any results. She was probably wasting her time.

And if she did spot them, what would she do about it? She was here alone. Could she ask anyone else to help her? Would she go to the police?

And even if she did would they understand her? Would they call for help? What she was doing was probably a very stupid thing. Why had she come?

She had no choice, she knew that. She recognised Lee’s face right off. She’d hardly believed it could be true. He’d been a nice lad once, when they were young. He’d fancied her at the time. He’d touched her breasts, made it seem an accident. But she knew it wasn’t. Nothing had come of it. Some- thing must’ve happened. She couldn’t remember now. But either he or she had stopped swimming. Perhaps they both stopped at about the same time.

And so she just didn’t see him around any longer. Except she had, out shopping, a few years back.

He was walking with some of his mates on the other side of the street.

Him. She still couldn’t believe it was him. Would he recognise her when she confronted him? No, she couldn’t confront him. She’d have to follow him, find out where he was staying and then find the police.

Sitting here wouldn’t get her anywhere. She needed to walk about, to scan the tourists and find them herself. It was hot here. She wasn’t used to this heat.

Her phone rang. They had to leave her be. ‘Yeah, I know Jess, I’m stupid. But I had to do it.

Now get off the phone, it’s right expensive phoning like this. I’ll get back to yer.’

She walked up and down the touristy streets and saw the river a few times, eventually working her way down to it, not that it seemed very appealing, what with all the construction works going on.

She went into a tourist office and picked up a few leaflets. One had a map of the city with attractions marked. There was a castle. She could see it from the square where she stood. She set off in that direction. It was a steep climb, but others were doing it. She passed on the cathedral, she couldn’t imagine that would attract them. A castle though, well that was a different matter.

It didn’t matter where she went, she didn’t see Lee. But she knew he was there. Somewhere. The police suggested he was there. They were contacting the authorities to see if they could help. That’s what they told her. They said they were going to send someone. She had suggested she would go. They told her not to. These lads are dangerous, they’ve killed someone. They might kill again. Not someone, my sister. Mel. They apologised. Yes, your sister.

She knew they couldn’t stop her from coming. She had just done it. Hadn’t even told her friends properly. The women she worked with at Primark were understanding. The men too. They were all understanding. They’d had a whip round and presented her with money to pay for some of her expenses. They’d been very generous. She was surprised, and she wasn’t. They had hearts of gold. People stuck together in her community when it came to the crunch. She loved them all dearly. Nail the bastards, they had said. Nail the bastards. Those words echoed everywhere she looked. And kept returning to her head.

She had to cool down again before she went out. She had booked to go to Spain anyway, end of season, in a few weeks’ time. Marbella. That was pissed away then. This was no substitute. But the heat, it was going to be so hot in Spain too. Almost Spain here. No, there was no Spain. This was it.

This was all she had. She had to nail the bastards. She was doing it for Mel. And for her. That bastard Lee and his friend, she didn’t know him. No-one she knew knew him. Or Lee. It was the past, her past. She lived in the opposite direction from them she gathered.

The best place to find them would be in the bars at night. She had been directed to the Bairro Alto district, to walk through its narrow roads peering in the bars. They were very noisy, music pumping hard from every doorway. Some were so small she didn’t need to enter, she could peer through the open doors. Others she had to step in to look. She was accosted at almost every bar, it was wearisome. Most guys she could just push away, though occasionally she had to raise her voice and throw a strop.

She was having no luck. They were nowhere. She felt sure they had moved on. She knew about the Algarve. Perhaps they had checked into a hotel there now. But she still thought she needed to explore this city first, to check it out. What she needed was to find where the Brits gathered, there must be bars. She stopped a few couples she saw speaking English and asked them. They didn’t really know because they were either families with children, or elderly couples who didn’t go near such places. She could ask the lads she saw, but she couldn’t get up the nerve to do so. Then she found a woman sitting at the foot of a statue looking through her guide.

It was in English, she could see the Time Ou label. She started a conversation with her and they browsed through the guide together until they found mention of bars down near Cais do Sodré.

They were quite noisy bars. In each the men had been drinking awhile and were fairly forward with her. She didn’t want to say she was not in the mood for their high spirits. She just wanted to see if Lee and his friend were there, and, if not, whether anyone knew anything about them.

It wasn’t long before she got lucky, and found a couple of blokes who were obliging and speaking well of the lads. She didn’t want to tell them anything bad. She listened. She didn’t want to tell them they were rapists and murderers, they had assaulted and killed her sister, Mel. Her little sister. She just wanted to be pointed in the direction where she could find them.

On that score there was no joy. No-one had any clue where they were staying. Or indeed if they were still in Lisbon. They hadn’t been seen for a few days. And last time they were there they had come from the seaside, along the coast. The general consensus was that they had gone along there again. That sounded reasonable. Or gone home, another suggested. Yes, most agreed, changing their minds and reckoning they’d been there a week or more and had probably gone back home. Or along the coast. Estoril. Yes, they could be there too. Yes, they all thought that too. Or Cascais. Cascais was probably the best bet.

She headed for the nearest beach once she was off the train. She scanned all the bodies basking in the sun, but saw nothing. She took to walking along the sand. And then she saw them. She knew it was them, even if she didn’t. There was something about them that indicated that not only were they Brits, but they were her two lads. There was Lee, and there was his friend Jake. It was them. She was completely certain. There were her killers. She ploughed on, going directly towards them, kicking the sand before her. Ploughing directly at them. No, she must turn and go for help. Stop. Go and get help. But it had been too long, she had waited too long for this moment. She had no choice. She had to go right up to Lee, stand in front of him, confront him. Confront him. Her feet sent sprays of sand ahead of her as she quickened her steps.

Lee jumped as the sand struck him in the side. He cried out in surprise. More than surprise, he was jumping with fright.

Eyes nearby all turned at the volume of his outburst.

‘Jeez, Lee. What’s up?’ Jake asked, looking down at his mate. ‘You look as if...’

‘I thought you was her.’
‘Who?’
‘Her.’ He sank back into the towel. ‘Never mind.’

He was relieved. It wasn’t real. And yet... he could have sworn it was for real. He needed to adjust. Again. How’d he done it? His muscles were so tense. His back hurt right across from one shoulder to the other. He needed a good night’s sleep. He needed a massage. He couldn’t take many more days of this. Ever since he’d seen her photo in that paper, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his head. And now he was dreaming of her. It was so real. She was there. Here. Cascais. She was coming for them. Suppose she was really coming for them?

He didn’t believe it. Not really. It was all in his head.





Paul BUCK has been writing and publishing since the late Sixties. His work is characterised by its sabotaging of the various forms in order to explore their overlaps and differences. Through the Seventies he also edited the seminal magazine Curtains, with its focus on threading French writing from Bataille, Blanchot, Jabès, Faye, Noël, Ronat, Collobert and a score of others into a weave with English and American writers and artists. While editing and translating are still a daily activity—in partnership with Catherine Petit, the Vauxhall&Company series of books at Cabinet Gallery is their responsibility—he also continues to cover new ground: Spread Wide, a fiction generated from his letters with Kathy Acker; Performance, a biography of the Cammell/Roeg film; Lisbon, a cultural view of a city; A Public Intimacy, strip-searching scrapbooks to expose autobiography; Library: A Suitable Case for Treatment, a collection of essays. In recent times he helped Laure Prouvost to write her film Deep See Blue Surrounding You, around which her Venice Biennale pavilion, representing France, was based.





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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.



     

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