More Lies is a highly referential comedy thriller about a writer being held hostage in their own apartment and forced to type to hide the manoeuvres of a femme fatale, holding a pearl handled gun, and her brother, a small-time thug with big time ambitions. This wild tale about assassination, lost gold, betrayal, passion and identity theft engages the reader in the many layers of the author’s witty but deceptive journey. Through a series of lies, backflips and alternative versions of the tale, the author moves from being a trapped hack, forced to prostitute themselves, to dazzling the world with the acrobatics of their imagination, to the heart of the matter: storytelling is all that is keeping them alive.
|ISBN 9781922332646 (PB, 66pp);
140mm x 216mm
|AUD $26||USD $18||NZD $28||GBP £12||EUR €14|
|ISBN 9781922332653 (eBook)||AUD $13||USD $9||NZD $15||GBP £6||EUR €7|
A wonderfully warped journey into one man’s unravelling psyche, and a joyous celebration of the necessity of story.
– James Bradley, author of Ghost Species
Richard James Allen takes the world of Raymond Chandler – the mysterious murder, the femme fatale, the world-weary observer – and turns it on its head. We end up with a funny, provocative novel that shakes up how we think about reality.
– Anton Enus, SBS
More Lies is a metafictional romp. It is also an engaging and funny tale, full of twists and narrational acrobatics. And, though its narrator is as slippery as a Lehman Brothers banker, there is something almost believable about it.
– Matthew Campora, Head of Screen Studies, Australian Film Television & Radio School
A phantasmagoric, avant-garde story set in a lost New York, Richard James Allen’s More Lies both entertains and provokes as it reveals a world where ‘truth is never enough/Or it’s unlikeable.’ Allen deploys a madcap couple, Stricklandson and Peters, to conduct us through a world of threat and potential which ends up being spooky in many senses of the word. A fluid narrative forward motion and a sense of the fundamental mystery of it all have never been so closely intertwined.
– Nicholas Birns, New York University
Enjoyed More Lies in one hit – like swallowing a tab spiked with speed – with Raymond Chandler’s spook dealing and watching from the corner.
– Rae Desmond Jones, author of The End of the Line
The unnamed fabulist at the heart of this literary crazy quilt says he ‘comes from a family of entertainers’, and I believe him. Even though he told me he was lying. But that is the magic trick of More Lies: every time you feel you’ve got a grasp on it, it springs free, breaks into song, tap dances circles around your expectations and teasingly mocks your longing for a plot by giving you half a dozen. More Lies is an anti-novel, and not for the faint hearted. Get on board if you like dismantling cliche, trouncing propriety, and taking a rollercoaster ride through the fairground funhouse of the implausible, unlikely, outrageous and ironic all dazzlingly stitched together to cover a confession that feels somehow true. Even though it can’t be. You wont be disappointed and you will be entertained, and who needs the truth when you can have More Lies?
– Karen Pearlman, NetGalley
More Lies is like being arrested and given your rights – anything you do or say or read could be used against you. The tension is high in this novel, it is not a relaxed afternoon read. Very much in the moment to the point where the “writer” is practically standing behind you, reaching over and turning the pages for you, giggling in your ear in a manic pitch. It is a continuous flow, the writer must write to stay alive, just keep typing.
The result is a performance piece of the mind. A novel played out in real time before you. It is dynamic, dramatic, and crazy. I loved it.
– Martin Thorne, NetGalley
Richard James Allen’s More Lies is [a] rollercoaster romp through the eyes of an eloquent unreliable narrator, who is a writer, using a noisy typewriter at gunpoint to cover for a criminal pair with their sights on assassination… what happens next is a tumble of ideas… a ride of rapid-fire gaps, tricks, illusions and references to hard-boiled 1930s’ private detectives, crime noir and cold war thrillers that’s really a book about…whether what matters is the factual truth or emotional truth and the nature of storytelling itself.
– Emma Lee
There is seemingly nothing that Richard James Allen cannot do. Actor, poet, yoga teacher, filmmaker, dancer, and now novelist, though it’s a bit of a stretch to call More Lies a novel. It’s a kind of novel pastiche.
There is always a degree of artifice in the process of creating a narrative. A story must be constructed, and the many and multiple perspectives of reality fixed into something linear and sensical, which is, in its way, antithetical to the reality of life. Allen plays with this notion, weaving together multiple narrative threads into a story that sets itself up as a noir thriller with an engaging tagline: a writer held hostage by a beautiful woman, forced to type on his typewriter as a decoy to an assassination. But there are many other plotlines that come into this entirely unreliable narration. These include a story about a dysfunctional (to say the least) family, about the shifting nature of identity, a story about deep-seated, endemic corruption, a tale of seduction which may or may not be a love story, and a number of other mini-tales that form part of our nameless narrator’s tale, including the self-referential one about the nature of story-making itself and the way in which it creates reality–is that good (will it save us?) or bad (will it undo us) – there is no moral here but there are plenty of questions that come out of the work.
The story is told in short vignettes of one or two pages long, that repeatedly break the fourth wall:
I am the story. Don’t ask me if I am true. (54)
The book engages directly with the complexity of the narrative, playing with the form in a way that is quirky and fun but also unsettling. There is always a different perspective, another story, another socially constructed identity, a different community that we might belong to. Allen creates a dynamic story that continually undermines the reader’s perspective while simultaneously drawing us in as participants:
For all of this long and winding road you have allowed me to exist. Otherwise, I would have been only potential. Without your gaze, I am nothing. (53)
It’s hard to fix the story, as the narrative journey continues to morph in a way that is increasingly multi-genred, with poems, theatrical dialogue, a blank confession form, and regular shifts in time, space, and setting. Throughout the book we are continually reminded of the image of an author at his typewriter—the one constant–even as, quite humorously, the protagonist does a range of things that generally are not possible to do while typing at a typewriter, such as having sex, running for his life, telling his story to the police, and even changing gender and identity. Binaries like guilt and innocence, desire and compulsion, knowledge and ignorance to name a few, are all messed with. There is a meta-fictional aspect to the story which continues to break the fourth wall, bringing us back to process:
Fear wakes you up. It makes you think clearly. At least for a time. Then it wears you out. It’s the adrenaline rush. Suddenly I’m exhausted. I don’t even know why I’m typing any more. I guess it has become a form of thinking. (27)
So what is More Lies? It is really not a classic thriller, a coherent narrative, or a story that goes through the standard hero’s journey towards closure. Above all, it is a thought-provoking, humourous, entertaining, and occasionally disturbing story that will unhinge the reader, leaving more questions than answers. You’ll be all the richer for it.
– Magdalen Ball, Compulsive Reader
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.
Allen has 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, Rochford Street Review
For me, there is always an exciting air of anticipation whenever I learn that Richard James Allen has committed his vivid and articulate imagination to ‘paper’ (or I guess it could be some smart device as well). More Lies is Allen’s latest venture in literary writing, having written several anthologies of poetry prior to this work. He has an exquisite talent for throwing us right into the heart of the action but without necessarily explaining the context at the outset. Rather, Allen respects the intelligence and sensitivity of the reader to work at discerning where they are, what is at stake and whose voice is framing each scene. And that would be highly appropriate for a novel that apparently positions itself playfully walking a tightrope between comic thriller and literary wit.
More Lies employs various conceits in its particular manifestation of the central character-narrated story. However, the delight of this novel is that it doesn’t become constrained by convention. Allen constantly surprises and delights us with his stream of consciousness explosions that compel us to savour almost every sentence for its unique combination of flavours. Each concise chapter offers itself as a distinct course within a degustation menu of desire, intrigue, absurdity, philosophical musings, memory and melancholy.
Like an orchestral concerto, as one moves through each chapter, various recurring ‘voices’ and ‘motifs’ emerge that may trigger meaning-making to attempt to contain the experience of reading (and imagining). There are significant stylistic breaks from chapter to chapter as the narrative shifts between being ‘in the story’ and various commentaries or musings about life beyond and outside of the narrative.
I especially enjoyed the occasional typographical play with italics and the page layout of texts (a visual device Allen has used across several of his poetry anthologies) in different chapters – for example, in Chapter 21, entitled The Homeless, until I turned to the next page, I felt the very layout of the words worked in parallel with the theme of the chapter, as a symbolic representation of the inevitable powerlessness of so-called ‘pawns’ of society who have no home, no secure place of power – but maybe that’s just in my imagination too, and not verifiable, as this is the overarching challenge of More Lies.
More Lies is a playful, engaging and potentially confronting exploration of our desire for truth, our familiarity with lying and selective memory, and our need for the apparent continuity of trust. At the heart of this book, there is a kind of self-righteousness about needing to know everyone else’s ‘truth’ while maintaining the legitimacy of one’s own right to lie that is put under interrogation by Allen. He deliciously wins us over and then flips all that we might assume in our place of privileged knowledge as we sit outside the narrative. Is he lying to us, or is it we who lie to ourselves by selectively choosing what to make sense of and forgetting what doesn’t ‘fit’ our assumptions of how things ‘just are’? More Lives is a very special and singular meal – but take your time to savour and digest it.
– Mark Seton, FemAsia
Richard James Allen
Richard James Allen’s writing has appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and online, and he has been a popular reader at multiple performing arts venues, over many years. In 2019, a collection of poetry, The short story of you and I, was published by UWA Publishing, and a suite of poems, Minimum Correct Dosage, was commissioned by Red Room Poetry. Previous critically acclaimed books of poetry, fiction and performance texts include Fixing the Broken Nightingale (Flying Island Books), The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and Thursday’s Fictions (Five Islands Press), which was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. More Lies is his first novel.
Well-known for his multi-award-winning career as a filmmaker and choreographer with The Physical TV Company, and critically acclaimed as a performer in a range of media and contexts, Richard has a track record for innovative adaptations and interactions of poetry and other media, including collaborations with artists in dance, film, theatre, music and a range of digital platforms.
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Chapter 1: We Got Company, Ma
“Peters, Peters, Peters!” The voice was shrill and hard and had I known Peters I would not have recommended it to him. But Peters was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he preferred it that way, desired but unseen. Unfortunately, I am compelled to remember that Peters, dear soul…
Ah, but that was another story, in another time. Plenty of time for that. It is the woman calling out to him who intrigues me at present. Tall, willowy, immaculately dressed, well, I’ll spare you the obvious metaphors though Lauren Bacall comes to mind, why the divine creature has a delightful little golden handgun nestled behind my right ear, and is twittering sweet nothing encouragements for me, such as, “Keep writing, oh do keep writing, dear.”
I would have hoped that making love to her earlier would have been enough, would have won her to my side, but immediately as we had finished, or shall I say, as soon as we were both quiet again and calm, she picked up the little trinket and positioned it in the closest proximity to my right eye, and, shall we say, bade me to continue, take up where I had left off, take up the pen again, young man, resume the keyboard.
Needless to say, I had to start the whole business again, as I had thrown the previous pages out the window at the moment when she had started to undress, as I conceived it would be far better to leave no reminders of the past once we had journeyed together through the doorway of love.
Excuse me! Hold on a minute! What the when, why and – let’s face it – the hell am I talking about?
Well, what would you write about if you’d been made love to by a beautiful woman whom you had met less than an hour before and then been tied to a chair and told to write, while she held a magical little murder weapon to your head and screamed down the hallway to her accomplice, Peters, who had apparently been listening to and probably taping the whole proceedings from the apartment across the hall?
Well, be that as it may, I won’t antagonize you too much, I do need at least one friend in this damn ghastly business. Perhaps Peters and the woman, the girl, the lady – her name, by the way, is Stricklandson – think I know something about something, which of course I do. Everybody knows something about something, but the trick is to know something about the right something.
And, by faith in such coincidental thinking, I fear I am tied up here writing my epitaph.
Chapter 2: Miraculously
What’s this? Peters is on the phone. He is calling his mother collect. It appears that there was some plot to assassinate a visiting president, which has been temporarily foiled. Five bullets went astray and the poison turned out to be an obscure form of guava fruit. Miraculously, however, no one in the security forces seems to have found out that there was any threat and so they are going back tonight for another try. Their plan appears to be to use my apartment as a decoy base of operations. They feel that, with someone sitting, typing all day and night, no one will suspect them of hiding out here. It seems that they tried the same trick with Mrs O’Flattery next door, but she didn’t know how to type so they left her in the fridge.
But what do the lovely Stricklandson and the hideous Peters, who has now entered the room, have to do with this story? And I myself, the great bystander, how did I come to be seated in the middle of this mess?
Perhaps they will enlighten me before pickling, I mean embalming, so at least I’ll have a good story to tell in the afterworld? Without a good story, I hear, no one is going to give you directions or tell you what’s going down up there. So that, by such bad luck, gentle reader, your faithful narrator would be left in no better situation than he finds himself in here.
Ah, yes, things are becoming clearer to me now. Peters and Stricklandson appear to be freelance operators working in the employ of a secret bureau of some foreign government. Their target, a rival tinpot dictator, is currently on a speaking tour of the United States. Tonight, he is addressing a special session of the United Nations on how he has solved the problem of illegal drugs in his country. Of course, nobody believes him, but it is all very proper and appropriate because whenever a visiting head of state comes to his country, he always pretends to believe everything he has to say also. In this way, everybody gets along very well, which is, after all, the whole point of diplomacy, is it not?
So, apparently, from what I can make out from this telephone conversation, in which Peters has spent most of the time being berated by his mother, who seems to be the head of this gang, the plan is for Peters and Stricklandson to place a small canister of poison gas amongst the flowers to be given to the president by members of his loving expatriate community as he greets them on the steps of the UN after his speech. The president will smell the flowers, the canister will explode, and poof, sweet revenge for whatever long-running soap opera of a grudge they think they have been carrying the water for.
They are planning to give the canister to a drug dealer who lives on the third floor of my building. He seems to have been a childhood friend of the president, but was kicked out of the country during one of the periodic official purges of drug dealers that allow the president to get so many billions of dollars of American aid. This guy, who is also a stand-up comic, tried out his material in some off-Broadway city for a while, then moved to the Big Apple and the Great White Way, where he couldn’t catch a break and so took over his neighbourhood crack operation, running a steady flow of pimps, whores and Caucasian businessmen – white punters he likes to call them – up and down the stairs, in and out of, his apartment.