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Clifton Lives Ray Wilson


THE AUTHOR OF NEW POLITICAL THRILLER EXCULPATION TALKS BALLOONS, BOOKS AND BILTONG


Q. You were born in the East End; so what brought a cockney to Clifton? A. Originally, to play guitar. The music scene was vibrant, original, and very welcoming; Bristol was stacked out with live music venues and the talent to fill them. It was an exciting place to be and it worked well for a while, but in my case never well enough to pay the rent or (fully) quit the day job. Q. Tell us about your time as a pioneering balloonist


. . .


A. Flying solo, hanging motionless in still air a few miles above the Clifton Suspension Bridge, you’re enveloped by the loudest silence imaginable. Ballooning in Bristol isn’t any longer the calm and pioneering experience it was in the beginning. In fact, the present Balloon Fiesta environment is more akin to a scene from A Clockwork Orange. Q. What have your other career high (and low) lights been? A. The best was running my advertising agency, shuttling between Paris and Bristol. The worst period was working in a pet food factory, the whole of one summer, thigh-high in waders, knee-deep in rivers of . . . Q. Tell us about your run-in with Special Branch [Ray once accidentally found himself working for the IRA] A. It was frightening, right up to the moment they left, after which I stopped producing merchandise


122 Clifton Life www.mediaclash.co.uk


for the IRA. It had been in ignorance – such a pretty emerald-green logo . Q. What prompted you to write a political thriller, and why did you set it in Africa? A. I like the genre, and I have a degree in politics. Also, I wanted to expose some of the lesser-known and yet equally dark facts that attach to African states meddling with their neighbours. Ironically though, I see this novel as a piece of light entertainment, it’s riddled with humour as well as intrigue, love and mayhem. Q. Who would play the book’s hero, Nate McFadden, in a movie? A. Nicolas Cage. Q. Who has been your main inspiration? A. Mandela, for his gift of exculpation to the white supremacies who stole his life. Also, the friends and colleagues who shaped the new South Africa have been an inspiration for this novel. Q. What is your method of working? A. I talk to my computer using voice recognition software. It has a good ear, even for words like ‘Sarajevo’! Q. Books, or Kindles? A. Both. Forever. Q. Bookshelves – random, or alphabetically organised? A. Pre-children, alphabetical, but now, with ever increasing entropy,


Top: Ray’s new novel is “a


fascinating account of skulduggery at high levels,” say critics


Middle: Nic Cage to play Nate McFadden?


Bottom: Ballooning ain’t what ballooning used to be


the shelves are transmogrifying into chaotic randomness. Q. What are the pros and cons of living in Bristol? A. Right at the minute, few cons. Obviously, we’d all be better on bikes, trams, boats (I was once part of the Bristol Ferry Boat Company) or maybe in balloons. I think Bristol may still have the highest per capita use of cars in the UK. On the plus side, there’s a shedload of culture, from St George’s to the Watershed and from The Children of the Can to Banksy. Q. Where do you enjoy eating out and/or drinking in the city? A. I’ll eat anything, anywhere, but I do have a passion for Wanton Noodle Soup at Teohs. And drinking? The Nova Scotia has the best pint of cider in the universe. Q. How do you like to relax? A. Exercising my right arm at the Nova, mixed with a good conversation and a handful of biltong. Q. What’s your most regrettable habit? A. My obsessive compulsive behaviour with rollmops, which I attribute (notice, not blame) to Joseph Mersh, my Polish great- grandfather. I’m obsessive about buying them and have a 24-hour compulsion to eat them. Q. What books are currently on your bedside table? A. Sense Of An Ending, Julian Barnes; Treasure Islands, Nicholas Shaxon; Bandits, Elmore Leonard Q. And what’s on your iPod? A. 700 tracks plucked from the space between Elvis (Presley and Costello) and Springsteen, with the odd deviation towards Chopin, whose last concert was played as a benefit for Joseph Mersh and his mates. Q. Any ambitions for the future? A. Many, all of which involve a computer with a good ear or a fishing rod. Q. Surprise us . . . A. The air inside the envelope of a small hot air balloon, the most common size you see flying around Bristol, weighs 1.5 tons! CL


Exculpation by Ray Wilson is published by OutRight Fiction at £7.99


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