The following article originally appeared, in truncated form, in the final Pulp People fanclub newsletter, December 2002.
My name is Mark Sturdy. I am the author of the imminent absolutely enormous Pulp biography, ĎTruth and Beauty: The Pulp Storyí. When Alex agreed to print an article about my book in this newsletter, I said Iíd write something because itíd be easier from her point of view than doing an interview. However, on reflection, Iíve realised an interview would give me a better opportunity to indulge my enormous ego, and also allow me to say what I want to say more easily. Therefore, a compromise has been reached: Iím going to interview myself. Letís do it!
So. What we have here is a great big book about Pulp. How is it different from all the other variously sized books about Pulp that have appeared over the years?
Well, itís different in a number of ways. Firstly, itís far more substantial than anything else ever written about Pulp - itís probably going to be something like 350 pages long. [STOP PRESS: It'll actually be more like 500.] Secondly, itís (unsurprisingly given its length) far more accurate and in-depth. Whereas most of the other books were fairly perfunctory regurgitations of familiar press cuttings and fanclub material with a few errors thrown in for good measure, Iíve done lots of original research, conducting around 30 interviews with members, ex-members and associates of the band, most of whom have never spoken to anyone before. Iíve also spent several very sad afternoons in Sheffield Library going through ancient local papers and digging out long-forgotten Pulp references. So thereíll be a lot of things in the book that you didnít know before.
Also, my backgroundís quite different to most of the people whoíve written Pulp books in the past. You do get the impression that certain ones of those books were written in a weekend by hacks who probably knock out something similar whenever they want an extra few quid for their holidays. Hence both the detail and the fact-checking suffer. The difference is that Iíd been a fan for ages before starting the book, and Iíve tried to write the kind of book that Iíd want to read myself, rather than throwing something together quickly and collecting the cheque. Iím probably quite close to the average Pulp fan (23 years old, ex-student, got into them around ĎHis Ďní Hersí), so hopefully it will be the kind of Pulp book that other people want to read too.
How long has it taken you to write the book?
I had the idea in 1996, started working on it seriously in summer 1997, and itís evolved gradually from then. At the time of writing (November 2002), Iím just about to finish it.
Good God, thatís absolutely ridiculous. Why has it taken so long?
Well, various reasons. At first, the fact that I wasnít a professional writer (and that I was only about 17/18 years old) worked against me in that I found it difficult to get a publisher. By 1999, Iíd been working on it for two years, it wasnít finished, and without a publisher there wasnít much incentive for me to get it finished, so it got put on the back burner for a while. Other things intervened over the next couple of years (I was doing a degree, which took up a bit of time, and I was doing Veniniís website and stuff, which did too), and it was 2001 before I got round to looking at it again. I tried my luck with publishers once more and I was lucky enough to get signed up with Omnibus Press this summer. As a result, for the past six months Iíve been working to a deadline for the first time ever, and itís done the trick.
Fair doís. Give us a few examples of the kind of thing we can expect in the book then.
Right. Well, itís the first time thereís ever been a detailed history of the bandís pre-fame years. Virtually every ex-member of the band from 1978 to 1983 gets to stick their oar in, so itís basically a previously untold story from that period. The period after that, Iíve had help from people like Russell, Jonathan Kirk (soundman and producer of ĎFreaksí), and various others who worked/toured/hung out with Pulp to get a much clear picture of the mid-Ď80s era than weíve had before. And on the more recent stuff, Iíve got extensive input from Nick, Nigel Coxon (Island Records), Suzanne Catty...
Have the band themselves had much involvement in the book?
Other than Nick, no. I spent a long, long time pestering Rough Trade in an attempt to get interviews with the rest of the band, but it just wasnít happening - basically it seems that, for whatever reason, Jarvis doesnít want to do it, and therefore the management arenít willing to bother the others with it either. Disappointing, but there you go. However, at the last minute, I did manage to do a lengthy interview Nick, which was great, and the huge amount of Jarvis interviews that are already out there for me to borrow quotes from has meant that, on the whole, the book probably hasnít suffered too badly.
Is there anyone else you would have liked to speak to but didnít?
Pete Mansell and Magnus Doyle would have been nice, but not being able to make contact with Candida meant I couldnít get hold of them (although I did send Pete a letter sometime in 1997). Tim Allcard doesnít speak to journalists, and I never did manage to find Captain Sleep. Still, the huge amount of people I did get to speak to more than makes up for such things, and thereís always the second edition...
How do you expect the book to be received by the world at large when it appears next Spring?
Hopefully, none of the reviews will contain the phrase "fascinating yet chilling insight into the mind of the obsessed fan." I think people will like it. It tells you a lot of interesting things about Pulp in a fairly straightforward way, so if youíre interested in Pulp then itíll be just the ticket. I hope.
Any thoughts on Pulpís current winding-down of activities?
Very considerate of them to delay putting the DVD out till about a fortnight after my deadline so I canít write about it. Huh. Er, no, I do think itís a shame that weíre not going to have any more Pulp in the foreseeable future, and I hope there will be more one day. On the other hand, as fans, I guess weíve more than had our moneyís worth.
One thing I do wish we could have, which I realise probably wonít happen, is some sort of satellite release based around the various ĎWe Love Lifeí outtakes. Counting all the demo sessions that led up to the album, something like 15 songs were recorded that didnít get used, and if the ones weíve heard are anything to go by (Quiet Revolution, Cuckoo), some of them must be pretty good. An album, or at least a mini-album or EP, culled from those sessions would be just the thing to keep us amused. Itís a beautiful dream.
Mark - thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
The pleasure was all mine.