Soho Honey by A.W. Rock takes place over three weeks in November and unfolds against the multi-cultural backdrop of Soho, London.
Branen had to leave the UK six years before to escape his complex clandestine history and the consequences of a crime that achieved worldwide notoriety. When his daughter is brutally murdered in Soho he believes that he could be the reason. He returns to his old hunting grounds to find the killer. His search brings him into conflict with the British Secret Service and Soho's underworld. He is forced to flee Soho again after a tragic meeting with his ex-wife. His past has caught up with him and the hunter becomes the hunted. Now forty years old Branen wants to stop running and to remove forever the continuing threat to his life. In an effort to get rid of his pursuers he is faced with the prospect that his only chance of survival could lead to his death.In my youth, I spent too much time around Soho—its streets, bars, and clubs—basically hanging out, with no particular intent and with no-one in particular.
I grew up in London, and in my mid-teens, I started visiting the jazz club 100 Oxford Street, and after the performances finished, I would gravitate down into Soho. If Ronnie Scott’s was still open, I would drop in there, or I would visit the Marquee club. Then, in the early hours, I would go down into Chinatown, to one of the all night restaurants, and have some wind-dried duck and dumplings. These early influences, combined with working and socializing in Soho, drove me to tell a story that is, in part, drawn from real events.
I have always loved crime thrillers and films and the sense they give that anything is possible as long as you can deal with the consequences; pushing the boundaries in an almost destructive fashion, and the feeling that nothing is inevitable. There is a fine line between thinking and imagining something and then doing it; and this is where fact and fiction can merge.
I enjoyed the solitary way of life—probably due to childhood experience; solitary, but never lonely. I loved the atmosphere and the feeling of freedom it embodied; freedom to do and be who I wanted, without conventional restrictions or social, class, or racial implications. I questioned everything from a very young age—and still do.
I felt Soho was a fertile and exciting place to develop the story of Soho Honey, as I have known it for so many years, through all its changes and guises. I have met a great variety of uniquely engaging and eccentric people during my time in Soho, and although the characters in Soho Honey are not these individuals, each one has contributed—even in a small way—to helping me to bring my story to life.
Many authors prefer to work out their characters, first and foremost, and then let the plot develop later. I work differently. I have to have a story—although not necessarily fully worked out—so that my characters are forced to face the many challenges that they will encounter in the story, and a plot structure that they will inhabit. As in real life, sometimes their actions are restricted by others, and sometimes they are liberated to do what they want. They will then develop as people and deal with these challenges in their own way—as Branen does in Soho Honey, as he matures and realizes the consequences of his actions. Sometimes, characters will dominate parts of the story, but without compromising the plot itself. The process is actually not that cut and dried, but story is very important to me.
Returning to the subject of Soho, I am inspired by the sounds and smells—especially of Chinatown, which has such a strong sense of itself that, like the rest of Soho, is a character in its own right. It has it’s own visual identity, which we attempted to capture in our short film clips and a film style trailer for the book. These are all available on www.sohohoney.com. It is a visually rich environment, filled with the rich colors and garish graphics of the strip clubs, sex shops, graffiti, and neon.
Having been involved in writing, photography, and film—much of which was based in Soho for its film production, editing, and sound recording facilities—I can see how complex and contradictory the place is. On the surface, it is a busy, buzzy, fun place to work and socialize in—and for many it remains like this. But, if you go deeper, it can be a very different place. Walking around Soho in the early hours, after all the office and film workers have gone home, the feeling that something is about to happen is very strong. The dark alleyways have an ominous presence and can be intimidating to the stranger.
Most of the major characters in Soho Honey are in Soho for a reason and not by chance. They could not do what they do or be who they are anywhere else. For example, Branen, Costas, Harry, and Snowman:
Branen pretty much grew up in Soho. It suited him because he could live without having to deal with authority and without hurting anyone. He is a loner with charisma. He tries to keep his feelings hidden. He has lost everything he loved, and it has taken him years to numb the pain—with limited success. He has tried to stay away from emotional involvement—again, with limited success. His military past helped fuel his sense of adventure and need for the adrenaline rush, and also gave him the ability to survive in the most harsh conditions and life-threatening situations. Branen is drawn back to Soho, despite the traumatic events he has suffered and that have left deep scars on his soul.
Costas left a small rural village in Cyprus in his teens, under a cloud, and was drawn to Soho partly because of its diversity—but also because he felt at home in the village environment of Soho, a link to his troubled past. Owning Costas Lounge allows him to be sociable and affable, in his own gruff way, and more importantly, his own boss.
Harry lives in a fantasy world of his own making. He cannot deal with people, and does not want to be fucked up by them, keeping himself to himself. After leaving the army, he managed to slip under the radar. Soho is perfect for him—all his needs can be met within its claustrophobic confines. He feels he can be anonymous and invisible on his streets, and he can be left alone to his own obsessive behavior. He doesn’t like people and interacts with them on a superficial and minimal level—for his work and for his compulsive drug abuse and gross sexual fantasies.
Snowman enjoys the feeling of power and celebrity that dealing in drugs gives him, even though the people he deals to irritate him. They want to hang out with him, they anticipate his arrival, and they look up to him. He has no time for the smart-asses who like to be seen with him, even though they are crucial to his financial security. Like other characters, he is a contradiction.
Then, there is the “what if” scenario. This opens up so many possibilities for story and character—even minor ones, like the bag lady, the tramp, and the stroppy waiter in Soho Honey.
Many things have inspired me to write Soho Honey; the sounds, the smells, the look of this special part of London. It was years of overhearing and being involved in conversations in bars in Soho that provoked me. I imagined and re-imagined endless possible scenarios and outcomes of overheard conversations between what looked like dodgy individuals.
Soho, to me, is a very evocative and cinematic place, and I can see Soho Honey as if I’m watching a film. For example, when it rains at dusk, as the streetlights and neon signs come on, Soho is magically transformed, and the oddball people become characters in a story.
These are some of the things that I have tried to convey in Soho Honey.
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Soho Honey by AW. Rock (published by Clink Street Publishing 5th May 2016) is available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores. For more information please visit sohohoney.com and follow on Twitter @SohoHoney, Facebook and Instagram.