Mike . My dearest hamster chums, I’ve heard tell that you only got as far as page 6 in my new book ‘Notoriously Naked Flames’ when you picked up on that most naughty of bad words ‘nakedness’.
I realize that being cloaked in permanent fur coats ‘nakedness’ is a tad alien to you and can but only issue a grovelling apology for any offence caused. However, do be warned there’s quite a lot more ‘nakedness’ throughout my tale. I have a feeling this could be a difficult chat…still, as I always say, ‘onwards and upwards’.
Mike. As for what next ? Well, the story shifts backwards in time in order to move forward. To explain, my lovely heroine, a small yet perfectly formed beautiful albino gal, is what is best described as a freelance assassin selling her consummate skills to government intelligence agencies far and wide in her quest to rid the world of those evil ones who have committed war crimes and such like. History has taught us that there were many such evil beings to be suitably ‘dealt with’ both during WW2 and immediately following the end of hostilities – the time zone the tale is set in.
I must stress, that insofar as one can with a fictional character, that I did ask her permission to be in an almost constant state of undress, whereupon she replied that she was fine with the idea on the proviso that her man did likewise. For his part, as any red-blooded chap would, he readily agreed!
Mike. Notwithstanding your perfectly reasonable request that I write a book just for you guys and gals I simply don’t have it in me. You must realize that my 115th birthday approaches and I tire easily. However, to make part amends herewith a poem penned especially for you. It goes by the name of Shey’s Brood
I hear there’s a new breed of golden hamsters who’ve colonized The Moon
They lay claim to being far better than the rest
Yet when playing the game of ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall’
The Mirror answers, ‘I think you’ll find Shey’s brood are still the best’
Mike. Writing a book was the hardest thing this meagre brain of mine has ever undertaken. Worse even than being asked to spell ‘yacht’ on pain of death at infant school all those years gone!
Mike. From the outset, the lovely Shey warned me that this would be so, advising me that anything worth attempting would, by necessity, be hard work demanding patience, determination and commitment – all things that don’t come easy to me. It is not praise for the sake of praise when I truthfully say Ms S is an inspiring gal, a fact I imagine others can also verify. Also, her counselling, pointing out that writing the last word to the last chapter by no means meant the job was complete proved to be a truth if ever a truth existed. My eternal thanks, Shey. This was all new to me, the one who generally writes ‘almost poetry’.
Shey. Yes you do know her and she is going to ask the next question.
Shey. The period leading up to the Second World War seems to hold a special fascination for you. Why is that?
Mike. I have long since been obsessed with the period twixt the two World Wars. Especially so, The Crazy Years of a Paris that endured despite itself. The Montparnasse district of the city, a place of café culture, boozy tobacs and artists’ studios, a magnet for budding intellectuals, philosophers, painters, photographers, writers from not just France, but from all over the planet.
In short, The Crazy Years spawned an anarchic avant-garde; became a place where free-thinkers lived out the Bohemian ambition to the full as a matter of course. Within the currency of that twenty-year timespan the place was a nonconformist domicile for the likes of Hemingway, Man Ray, Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, even political exiles such as Leon Trotsky, and that is merely scratching at the surface.
Art movements, from Art Deco, Cubism, Surrealism, indeed more ‘ism’s than one could shake a stick at flourished. From my perspective, who in their right mind would not want to be part of that scene. I have said many times that even in the knowledge of the ever-growing cancer that was Nazism would all too soon herald the demise of such outlandish, often provocative self-indulgence, I would, be it in the gambit of Godly gift travel back in time and stay for as long as the place would have me. That, in essence is why I decided my book would be set in the period the wild days were ending and a new, dark order was to hold sway.
Mike. It is true my heroine does not, by necessity, have a name.
Mike. As is revealed in the book, in her early years she followed her artistic bent, becoming an exotic dancer in the decadent basement dives of a Weimar – pre the rise of Hitler – Berlin.
That fact, plus later, playing the game that is espionage posed her problems simply because her unusual beauty coupled with her albinism meant she could be easily recognized by her many enemies. One way of making her life a little safer was to never reveal her name, thus making it harder to track her down through official sources. Additionally, she has a secret relating to her pedigree, a secret she wishes to keep under wraps even beyond the grave; a secret that might just change the world views of the high and mighty should it become public knowledge.
The aspect of undisclosed lineage is dealt with toward the end of the book. Does her secret get out? I’m not saying!
As to the subject of sweet Svetlana…I will never understand just what she sees in this crippled geriatric billionaire that is me…who has taken pride of place in many a short story I have penned, a girl who has selflessly tended to my every need, all I can say is that within the pages of Notoriously Naked Flames there is a gal who heralds from the self-same pastures as dear Svet, namely Romania. Indeed, this gal may even be Svet’s younger sister for all I know! Her name is Zada, a compassionate creature who may never have caressed my Havana, fondled my ear trumpet, rubbed my monocle clean or fetched me my evening glass of fine port, yet she is a diamond gal and a true friend of my two wild protagonists. I’ll not have a bad word said of her.
Mike. Do you know, I haven’t bumped into Jonny since the old King died. The last I heard of him he was in South America, Brazil I think, adjusting the water pressure – he is a plumber after all – of a gal by the name of Carolee Croft. She writes some jolly fine risqué books I’ve heard tell. One thing is for sure though, Jonny (who’s adoration of fairer sex is the stuff of legend) would have his own salivating take on my heroine, more so than usual as she’s mostly got her kit off.
Mike. Listen to Shey, not me.
Mike. I’m not sure.
I have a character in my head,
inevitably a lovely girl. This one has gone quite bonkers yet sees her madness as a positive thing; an escape from the mundane rituals of everyday life. I’ve penned a few thousand words yet worry what I have is presently a tad too surreal. That it works inside this head of mine does not mean it would make any sense to the world at large. It would be presumptuous of me to think otherwise. Time will tell. Certainly, I’d relish the challenges of writing another book.
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EXTRACT …EARLY SUMMER 1952 – SUSSEX, ENGLAND (page 6)
She examines her defenceless giant searchingly as he bathes. He, the one who is a portrayal of rare full-fledged innocence, and wonders if the macrocosm inside his head replicates the one outside of hers. She hopes against hope that locked within exists a rainbow’s multi-coloured arc, or is all this lost upon the extraordinary self, empty of speech, hearing and sight, unaware that gesture is the only language he bestows. Touch and smell his native inside-out lone connection.
She communicates as best she can. Upon his awakening, she is always there. Her ‘hello of sorts’ a lover’s tangled tongue kiss. No passion though, they are no longer the passing lovers they once were. More that the sharing of her unique taste serves to let him perceive her, recognize her. Always has him gift a beaming smile just for her. She wears the self-same perfume each new day also, it helps him identify her proximity.
With no great difficulty she aids him out of the bath, warm towels, warm heart care. Time for drying and dressing, though the palaver of dressing irks him, induces a frown. Regardless he is immune to nakedness within his ambushed consciousness, his curious dominion. Not for him the embarrassment of the earthly collective.
The sun shone the day before. Albeit keeping a caring eye open, she chose to let him wander the lawn, uncovered. From nowhere a summer storm brewed, small hailstones. She watched as he held out his palms, threw his head back, greeted the spheres of water ice, an air of amazement, no suffering.
The eternal ‘what next’ frustrates her day; muddles her mood. She undresses, calculates he may have no recollection that human beings come in two packages. Her hands upon his chest, fingers spread wide, sensation of touch inviting. Invitation accepted, he mirrors her actions, stroke for stroke, his look curious, questioning, captivated. No folly in innocent exploration.
A telephone outside of his realm rings. Might be important, she pulls away. Notices he sheds a single loaded tear, from which continent of emotion it heralds, likely she will never unearth.
He has been this way ever since she rescued him.
Part espionage thriller, part romance, part fantasy, part adventure, ‘Notoriously Naked Flames’ is Mike Steeden’s first novel. Spanning the lead up to World War II, the war itself, and into the early 1950s, the unnamed heroine of the piece, a bewitching albino of Bohemian bent, masquerades in all manner of risqué guises dishing out her own version of clandestine justice to those evil souls spawned of conflict’s disregard for compassion, law, and order. She also finds herself nursing her lover, a giant of an Englishman once in the employ of MI5, back to a semblance of his former self following his torture at the hands of Cold War Soviets that had left him deaf, mute, and blind. Her task is made a little easier with the help an Eastern European girl she befriends in bizarre circumstance.
Together, the trio of ‘Notoriously Naked Flames’ takes on life in all its demonstrative disguises while the racy heroine keeps under wraps her tale of otherworldly evolution, for were it to become known to the public at large, it might just invalidate religion as we know it and bring forth a new Dark Age. Can she keep safe her secret?