Robert Wilson gives us some sneaky details about his next title….
I’m developing new ideas for my latest book at the moment. It’s going to be set in London and I’m looking forward to speaking English in my books, i.e. writing with no Spanish language/cultural filter as I’ve done these last seven years. I’ve been renting flats in places that I either haven’t seen for ages or have never been to before. Although I used to live in Clapham back in the 1980s I realise that most Londoners tread very well-worn paths. So I lived and drank south of the river, my sister was in Wandsworth, I worked in the West End and had friends and girlfriends who worked in Soho. My knowledge centred around the West, centre and South.
When The Ignorance of Blood was launched earlier this year I stayed in Hampstead, where I hadn’t been since I’d had a girlfriend at the Royal Free Hospital in 1982. It’s changed, but not as much as I’d expected. The dominant language in the street was French. My wife heard kids at school-chucking-out time speaking Franglais and the mothers were all French. I had my hair cut by a French woman and asked her what it was all about. She hadn’t noticed the phenomenon and was mystified by my question. She could only think, after a while, that it was because Hampstead ‘was very beautiful and felt cheap to Parisians’, which earned a single raised eyebrow from me. The Hampstead estate agencies looked more like ad agencies with highly designed, colourful interiors, replete with fainting couches for English people who couldn’t quite believe the asking prices. It was amazing to see the Heath again: that vast piece of real countryside, rather than park, in the middle of the city. We went up Parliament Hill for a view of the metropolis as the sun was setting on a cold day. One side of No.1, Canada Square out east in the Docklands, was glistening like a gold ingot. It was good to have a pint of Benskins at the Holly Bush tavern, which maintains its panelled interior and those Victorian wood and glass dividers that so many pubs have torn out in favour of open plan and more custom.
I’d never been to Highgate Cemetery and we did the tour through the ivy strewn grave stones and mausoleums, imagining black-plumed horses pulling up with coffins and a funeral procession for Thomas Sayers, a famous prizefighter, whose cortege stretched all the way back into the City. The finest aspect of his grave is that very English thing: the man’s dog. I signed books in the new St Pancras Station and was blown away, as the Victorians must have been, by that vast, arched, glass and steel roof. The new Westfield shopping centre was on my itinerary and, having had my spirit broken by many a lightless concentration of retail therapy, I was surprised. There was sunlight, space and calm, which I suppose meant that people didn’t have any money to spend.