Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mike Slope, Author, Friend, Dead

Mike Slope died yesterday.

I phoned him this morning, hoping to meet him for carrot cake, but his sister said he had died. It didn’t come as too great a surprise seeing his condition had been deteriorating rapidly since August.

When I first met him, at Launceston’s Happy Chef Restaurant in 2000, Mike was a smooth waiter, magnanimous in the face of my dramatic rejection of (count ‘em) three bottles of Gew├╝rztraminer for their disputed corked-ness. We fast became friends, bonding over Judy Blume and blueberry blue brie.

Mike was a teen fiction writer who had lost his acne-blunted mojo. When 'The Adventures of Bucky Todd' came out in 1967 it was one of the five best debuts in the Christmas edition of Chap and a Half ; it was an unusually rich, blue-chip crop of teen fiction authors that year, new voices that today are so engrained in the contemporary consciousness that is impossible to imagine the genre without them. They are the giants: Tick Bugler (nominated that year for 'Becky Can’t Dance'), Amanda Railsback (for 'Spent'), Nancy Pendleton ('Capsicum, Lasagna and Peas') and Fiscus Chamberlain for 'The Atomic Chewing Gum'. These authors have together sold more than 14 million copies between them. The only name left off the list is that of the long-forgotten author of 'Bucky Todd', Mike Slope. The number of books Mr. Slope sold pales in comparison to his luminous counterparts. Intended for a long and fruitful series, ‘The Adventures of Bucky Todd’ didn’t make it. A popular read with young people in 1967 it was out of print by decade’s end.

Loosely based on a deprivation experiment that took place at Casanova High School in the 1950s, this odd, little detective story concerns itself with the culprit of several misdeeds involving soap. “It’s almost inconceivable to comprehend the interest kids had in this story and honestly it’s the last thing anyone’s ever thought about for a very long time,” said book critic Casper Gently in 1983. As the story goes, Bucky (‘the droll quoll”) takes to campus like a mouse does cheese and begins asking questions. Off the clock, he moonlights as a disc jockey, spinning reggae exclusively during Casanova’s variety hour, earning something of a reputation as a maverick and developing more than a friendship with a shy Jamaican exchange student named Theresa. The mystery unravels when Bucky discovers a stash of soap in the faculty broom closet. A finale involving a heap of suds takes place during a peace summit in the auditorium.

After the book failed, Slope got a job as a busboy, distributing quail eggs to work stations. He was promoted to waiter and held positions at upscale restaurants throughout the Tamar Valley. He moved to Victoria last year to be near his sister. In the last 12 months, Mike developed a perverse sense of time and it progressively made him insane. At first he would forget what hour it was. Then he lost track of the day and soon after that he was a month behind. He died anticipating autumn in the springtime.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fellinesque

For reasons peculiar, I can remember the exact song my parents were listening to when I was conceived inside a musty Best Western hotel room with dusty drapes on the outskirts of San Francisco in early ‘72. The author of the song was George Harrison and the name of the song was ‘Something’ and it was by a group of Liverpudlians known as The Beetles. I’m Casey Kasem...

There are no songs accounted for between the ages of 2-5. I’m something of a blank, perhaps some Wings in the women’s department at the JC Penney in my hometown, me confusing another woman for my mother due to the similarity of terrycloth blouse, as the horrific Live and Let Die crescendos over the company loud speaker. Anyway, without further adieu, the songs in my life, the songs I have loved hard, the songs that have loved me back even harder, starting at age 6.

Age 6, Wooly Bully, Sam the Sham
Age 7, Calling Dr. Love, Kiss
Age 8, Eruption, Van Halen
Age, 9, Blackout, The Scorpions
Age 10, Living after Midnight, Judas Priest
Age 11, We’re not Gonna Take it, Twisted Sister
Age 12, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears
Age 13, Rocky Raccoon, The Beatles
Age 14, Legalise It, Peter Tosh
Age 15, Cold Gettin’ Dumb, Just-Ice tied with Super-Hoe, Boogie Down Productions
Age 16, Just Watch by the Untouchable Force Organisation (U.T.F.O.)
Age 17, Listen to the Bass, Mantronix
Age 18, Soul in the Hole, 3rd Bass, Goodbye Stranger, Supertramp
Age 19, Miracle Man, Elvis Costello
Age 20, Dreams, Fleetwood Mac
Age 21, Any Major Dude, Steely Dan
Age 22, Freedom of ’76, Ween
Age 23, 6’ 1”, Liz Phair
Age 24, Sister Ray, Velvet Underground
Age 25, Misunderstood, Wilco
Age 26, Grave Architecture, Pavement
Age 27, Point that Thing Somewhere Else, The Clean
Age 28, Wrong, Archers of Loaf
Age 29, Modern Age, The Strokes
Age 30, Grounded, Huon
Age 31, Dream Planner, New Estate
Age 32, Jelly Bones, Unicorns
Age 33, Twin Killers, Deerhoof
Age 34, European Oils, Destroyer