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everything depends upon how near you stand to me...

Regular O/L contributor Kirk Lake has his first novel in 15 years published later this year. An "art noir" set in 1990s London. Here is an exclusive extract.

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by Hamilton High, for outsideleft.com
originally published: November, 2012
Something had gone on with her, she was wearing so much make-up she looked like she was peering through a muddy cliff.
by Hamilton High, for outsideleft.com
originally published: November, 2012
Something had gone on with her, she was wearing so much make-up she looked like she was peering through a muddy cliff.

Mickey The Mimic is the first new novel by Kirk Lake since the cult neo-noir Never Hit The Ground. It's published by Ink Monkey Books later this year. More information to follow, for now, and especially for Morrissey fans, here's an exclusive extract.

Mickey The Mimic - extract

We had arranged to meet the Spinks at the opening of a show in a new gallery in an old butchers shop just off Old Street. The place was crowded and Audrey and I struggled through the people that had spilled out on to the pavement and made our way to the makeshift bar in the corner of the room. There was a table made out of a door resting on a couple of saw horses, a procession of white plastic cups holding red and white wine snaked its way across it. Next to this was a plastic dustbin full of ice and bottles of Michelob beer. That was it. I knew from the little logos at the bottom of the invite that the show was sponsored by a bank, an estate agency, a sportswear firm and a beer company but the whole thing was disguised to look like it had been put together guerilla style. The gallerist had another place in the West End where he showed more traditional work. The Butcher's Shop was his first step east, a disguised slide into the new bohemia. Audrey took some wine and I took a couple of bottles of beer and we looked around.

We'd spent most of the afternoon speeding around the Tate highlight Peter Blake being trapped in the revolving doors by two eager German tourists who then posed for a photo with their arms around him liked they'd captured Santa Claus so by the time we got there we were suffering some serious art fatigue.

There was a whole buzz of art bull in the air. The clipped conversations and snatches of dialogue that you usually heard in artist run spaces about how such-and-such was an arsehole or some other guy was a cocksucker who knew nothing-about-nothing-at-all was mixed up with some serious waffle from better connected invitees who were more concerned with forthcoming biennales and swapping hints on spa hotels. Talking of cocksuckers I caught sight of Darid Juice deep in conversation with Penelope Elton and watched him nodding just a little too eagerly and then putting his hand on her shoulder. This was before Juice had really made it but when Elton was the new face of arts TV. Nobody remembers her now but back then she was important and just the kind of person that could get an aspiring artist noticed and just the kind of person the Juice would cling to.

I was just about to suggest to Audrey that we stay out of sight of him when she grabbed my arm and dragged me over to a tiled alcove at the side of the shop. Kelly was leaning against the wall sucking on a bottle of beer. We hadn't seen her for a few months. She hadn't bothered to stay on at college and the last I'd heard she was running a clothes stall on the Portobello Road. She smiled at us and lit a cigarette. Behind her on the wall was a line art diagram of a cow painted directly onto the old shop tiles. The animal was divided up into sections and the parts were labelled in bold serif letters — chuck, brisket, foreshank and some others that Kelly was obscuring. Kelly and Audrey were embracing. I looked the cow right in the eye and waited my turn. Kelly looked up at me. She didn't pretend to be happy to see me. Something had gone on with her, she was wearing so much make-up she looked like she was peering through a muddy cliff. I was going to ask how she was but she'd already turned her back on me and was chatting away with Audrey. I waited for a minute or two then told the cow I was going to have a look around for Eddie and Elizabeth and left them to it.

The actual installation and the reason why everybody was supposed to be at the opening was running in what had been the shop's cold storage unit. I followed the masking tape arrows through a curtained doorway in the back and stepped into a windowless room with a projector whirring away inside it. Of course this was the only part of the whole place where you could stand up without being jostled by anybody. There were no more than ten people in the room. A couple sat on the floor staring up at the projection on the end wall. There was a faint sniff of marijuana, the wink of a lit joint in the darkness and the projector caught little whorls of dope smoke in its beam and funnelled the grey light on to the wall. The piece was called “Everything depends upon how near you stand to me” and consisted of a looped clip of Morrissey live on stage in a gold lamé shirt with fans reaching up from the crowd to touch him like he was some kind of saint. The acolytes climbed on the stage and swallowed him up until he was just a quiff and a hand waving, drowned in a sea of desperate flesh. The artist had scratched a halo above Morrissey's head on every frame of the film so it flickered and wobbled like divine light and then, as the singer was consumed by the rapturous fans, it shattered into a dozen pieces which turned into flames and then reformed as a halo as the loop began again. Choral music played from speakers in the corner of the room. Something or other by Benjamin Britten. Of course I didn't recognise the music at the time. It was just some classical thing that added gravitas to the fumbling fans but it was detailed right there on a leaflet I was handed on my way into the room. I'd folded up the leaflet and put it in my jacket pocket without looking at it but then found it a day or so later and read it on the bus. I don't know why I remember the music was Britten. I remember the title of the exhibition and the fact that the invitation had had Morrissey with The Sacred Heart embossed on it but I forget who made the film now. I don't think they ever really got anywhere, or maybe they did. It's hard to keep up. We saw so much art back then. In any case I watched it spool through a few times and then went back out hunting for the Spinks.

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Hamilton High

Hamilton High was born on Doheny Ave in the gutter, is a poet, writer and observer of popular culture. Likes fashion and cares less for style. He's on the move, he's an alter ego and we hardly ever hear from him.

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