When Richard James Allen contacted me and asked me to launch his new book “More Lies” I felt very honoured. I have always viewed Richard as a kindred spirit in poetry, so, of course, I said I was delighted to launch the book.
After agreeing to launch “More Lies”, I started to have second thoughts.
Was it really Richard James Allen asking me to launch this book, or was it an impersonator? Was I becoming an unwitting accomplice to some fiendish ruse? Did Richard James Allen write this book, or is his name on the front cover just a decoy for the real author? I wondered if there would really be an audience for this launch, or if it would be some elaborate zoom set-up with Richard, or whoever it is, having a huge laugh at my expense. So, I am here not without misgivings…
The author of this book, whoever it is, signals his intent with the title: “More Lies”. The reader is warned: expect lies. And is told that lies have already preceded the lies in the book. But here is our first glimpse of what is in store. It is the age-old conundrum: if the title of the book is “More Lies”, can we assume that the title is itself a lie and is in fact pointing to a deeper truth? Is it a clue or a red herring? The uncertainty that permeates the book starts here.
There are other clues before we start reading the book. The photograph that looks very much like Richard James Allen shows him laughing. It looks like a belly laugh. It looks like that deep laughter you have when the joke is on someone else. Is the joke on the reader? Then the author is described as “a poet, dancer, film director, actor, screen producer, novelist, choreographer, yogi, archivist and chess master – and only one of these isn’t true.” Dear reader, the author is already playing with you. This is clearly another lie. Anyone who knows Richard James Allen, and I am just going to have to assume that he is the author, knows that there is nothing he can’t do. You’re not catching me out with this one, Richard. You can show me your chess trophies later.
And then the book is dedicated “For Money”. This is clearly another lie. Everyone knows that authors don’t make any money from their books. If the dedication was “For a Pittance” that would be believable.
So, before a word of the book itself, the reader is led by a series of lies to the entry to a maze or a rabbit hole. And a mere 58 pages later, the reader arrives at the exit. What happens in between, in 33 very short chapters and a postscript, is a highly original, zany, fizzing concoction of digressions, diversions and tangents. It’s a ‘whodunnit’ that is, among many other things part mystery, part romance, part lust, part stream of consciousness and part confession.
“More Lies” has a nameless attention-seeking narrator who is a writer grappling with the fact that he doesn’t exist unless he has readers. He blatantly deploys every device he can think of to inveigle his imagined readers into his vortex, and he is upfront about it. He says at one point:
“Sex! Is that what you want? Or perhaps something else?
How about Romance?”
Beware this narrator. He is spinning a web to try and catch you, dear reader. He wants your complicity. He wants your gaze so that he can
see his reflection in your eyes. He is a fabulist, a snake-oil salesman, a card shark adept at sleight-of-hand. He is a chameleon: one
moment a charmer, the next a charlatan, one moment a conman, the next a confidante. The narrator claims to be a lover, a linguist, a
writer, and a poet among other things. There are traces in his narrative of the narrator as a dancer, a film director, an actor, a
screen producer, a novelist, a choreographer, a yogi, an archivist, and a chess master. Sound familiar?
This book is like a Matryoshka Nesting Doll, which has another doll inside it and then another. The chapters are all parts of something bigger, but they don’t form a whole. They suggest more than they reveal. The narrator alludes to this on the first page when he says, “But that was another story”, a comment that repeats with variations throughout the book. Later, he will try to tell you that “there is no story” and later again he will try to tell you that it is "a cock and bull story” and later again, ah, but you can take all that, like everything else, with a pinch of salt.
The book can be read on multiple levels. A reader can focus on tone or voice, shifting from whimsical to fantastical to absurd to confessional. Or a reader can focus on the comic aspects of the book, its playfulness and irreverence. Or a reader can look for influences, the borrowings from film noir, or mystery writers like Raymond Chandler, or magic realism with its direct conversation with readers. Or a reader can skip along with the narrator through genres: from screenplay to movie freeze frames, to narrative, to diatribe, to poem, to image, to questionnaire, to interrogation, to name a few!
“More Lies” is a fiction, and the truth is that every fiction is necessarily a lie. But it is often a lie in search of a truth.
“More Lies” is published at a time when there has never been greater distrust: not just in the usual suspects – politicians. Governments, big corporations - but in journalists, media organisations, doctors, scientists, and others. Beneath all the fun, the book is asking serious questions that seem particularly apposite: What is truth? Where is truth to be found? What if the truth is that truth is not stranger than fiction because it is itself fiction? How much control do we have over the narratives of our lives? How much of those narratives are constructs? What stories do we tell ourselves and each other in our search for truth or meaning or validation? How reliable are those stories? What can we trust?
This is a book that takes you down rabbit holes of thought that keep bouncing around in your head and leading to more thought.
Everything I have said about this book is a lie. And that’s the truth.
Everything I have said about this book is true, and that’s no lie.
Trust me when I say that you can’t trust a word I have said about “More Lies”. You will just have to read it for yourself!
And with that, I am delighted to launch “More Lies” into the world and hand you over to its author, Richard James Allen.
"More Lies" is available in both print and eBk formats from Interactive Press.
David Adès is a poet and short story writer. He is the author of Mapping the World, Afloat in Light and the chapbook Only the
Questions Are Eternal.
David has won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and shortlisted for several other prizes in Australia, the U.S. and Israel. He is Convenor of the Poets’ Corner monthly poetry reading and now podcast series produced by WestWords. In association with Mascara Literary Review David is one of four writers sharing the Don Bank Writers in Residence this year (when not in lockdown!).