24 January 2006
These three e-mail 'letters' sent to Michael Schlieman, and his replies, were intercepted by the Echelon Network spy satellite and forwarded to the anti-terrorist department at MI5 HQ in London. Michael's accomplice "Sister T" sent them to X in Cumbria hoping they would help him to find the missing author; presumed murdered by his ex-bosses at MI5, to silence him before he published his Memoirs on the internet: @nozhone.com.
to: Doctor Michael Schlieman
Peterhouse College: Cambridge University.
Dear Doctor Schlieman,
I have received an Abstract of your paper "Terrorism Considered as One of the Fine Arts" which you will present in September at the Conference in Yuzawa Japan (in alliance with The International Pen Club). Such an ardent inflammatory and very necessary updating of: "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts".
Far less ambitious than the convention in Japan commemorating the Japanese Shishosetsu - their "Autobiographical Novel" - I have arranged a modest conference in Cumbria: "To Confess or not Confess: De Quincey and the Fine Art of Lying", in the Church Hall Grasmere, for foreign students going soon to university in the UK.
Doctor Matthew Sutherland was intending to present his paper: "De Quincey: The Dark Ladies of Redemption" - but has fallen ill. A wild shot, any chance of you taking his place to deliver your Japan paper? There are sub-liminal (occult?) parallelisms in your two texts: Memoirs as self murder - L'Amour fou as Redemption and Catharsis - Fantasies of Murder of women as vicarious surrogate Suicide of the male Self. The Swedenborgian and De Quincey theory of the recurring dream as a spiritual visitation. Hearing Voices!
May I tempt you to a trip to our much-beloved Lake District before you fly to Kawabata's bleak "Snow Country" of North Japan?
Dr. John Gordon,
Department of Literature. Leeds University.
Author of: "Gothik Terror; Sexual Arousal by Fear" and "Opium: Beyond the Limin?"
to: Milton Crookshank, Author,
Alexander Moring Ltd
139 Borough Street, London SE1 6LB
Dear Milton Crookshank,
We are great admirers of your pulp novels! We know damned well that your droll pen-name is not your real one (name not pen) but we hope nonetheless that this begging letter finds you. You will see from the enclosed technicolor flyer (who else but Hedy LeMarr in "Extase") we've formed a secret Drinking Club: "The Hell-Fire Club" (such an establishment as created in those gloriously perverse Victorian days we miss, drowned as we are by bland and Brand realism). We meet in the dead and dead of night to watch Noir Movies and read extracts (the more lurid the better) from sleaze spy and detective novels. We are quite (sic) serious in our research, preparing PhDs on "Pulp Culture" (its insidious influences!) at Lancaster University. Drugs, sex, graphic novels, Media's Multiple Murder paradigms, the despoiling commodification of the erotic body.
Alas we cannot vouch for the seriousness of our luscious Distaff accomplices; our flighty members in the "Pin-Up" section, who never write essays but scribble filthy texts on saffron-hued Post-it Memos as they secretly crave to fly off to Cairo to offer their services as a troupe of all-dancing gun-molls to the Mafia, or, avid followers of fashion, become Terrorists hell-bent on assassinating a bevy of filthy rich and corrupt (in their fingers eminently corruptible) men. Meanwhile they are sewing (as women do) louche loose exotic satin dresses in which they might inadvertently reveal all at our forthcoming gang Bash!
Your indisputably most erotically disturbing novel "Death the Satin Woman" set in our lovely Lake District, is one of our seminal (with semen?) texts. We've tried our utmost to unravel all the subtle literary and cinematic allusions, multi-layered parallelisms and hyper-text links - worthy of the esoteric Japanese! We realize you situated the novel near Coniston Water because the murders your detective is trying to solve 'derive', in plot context and archetypal meaning, from the sublime work of Thomas De Quincey: his obsessive dreaming about (you say murder of?) Ann of Oxford Street by a Jack the Ripper figure ('Satin Woman' being Ann's stage name, dancing in a seedy brothel in Frith Street), and the MI5 murder of a Turbaned Terrorist, aka the Malay. Fab! Exposing De Q's eerie obsession with the Orient in his dreams as a subliminal, barely veiled sado-masochistic fetish for the erotic exotic; the tantalising paradox of "ice-cold passion" - the daunting notion that true passion is only achieved in the context of absolute detachment! Murder as the ultimate sex trip! Also your use of the other bloody murders discolouring De Quincey's opium-drenched mind as disclosed in his flippant cynical essay: "Murder considered as One of the Fine Arts".
We are having a glittering birthday celebration of our Hell-Fire Club in three weeks, on the 21st, and wondered - long shot from the hip - can you talk to us? No expenses payable but lots of beer and willing pretty girls! We are also expecting a visit from an independent film director who has offered to pay your train fare from Carnforth (£3: qua - very Independent) for the chance to film an interview with you: on the night train! She is Japanese, a dancer, she specializes in Noh plays, loves noir films and novels and is herself as dark and lovely, and has a weird thing about night-trips on night trains. She is making a film on Noir books/movies, honing in on the pulp writers whose books the films were so often plagiarisms of. Working title: "Salomé Beheaded! Reason's Revenge!" Her last film "Lesbian Embrace Denied" and subtitled: "Salomé: the Whore Virgin Axis", about two prostitutes living in Kyoto, one of whom is a virgin (sic), won a prize at the Something-or-Other Erotic Film Festival in Okinawa and she was jailed for three months for showing two copses (yes, copses not corpses) of unveiled, unmasked, matching edge-trimmed pubic hair: known as Kyotos! Quite a cool canny Kooky! She is bringing a wacky girl-friend who read a couple of your recent novels and would like to present an erotic Monopologue (she's a CPA - Carnal Performance Artist) posing as one of YOUR novels' victims! Apparently she looks like Jean Harlow (Harlot?) and working on a PhD entitled: "Media Art Considered as Murder of Love's Body." Two girls positively dying to meet you!
The Japanese girl says your last novel "Sisters in Death" reminds her of her favourite Noh play: "The Wind in the Pines." She's planning a modern version of it as a film. Erotic of course. Ms Harlot is to star in it! She says she may also have a part for you!! Make of that what you will. She wears black satin - says Japanese girls wore satin under kimonos, especially geisha.
Can you come? As yourself or someone else? You to the Power Two? Stranger things have happened in the treacherous Interzones between I and He, faction and fiction, especially in the legendary idyllic domains of our famed damned and drug-crazed Lake Poets! Can we tell her she can meet you on the train at Carnforth? The last stop before you arrive in Kendal? Unless you become so embroiled, the pair - or three of you - and the troilism ends up travelling to the last station on the line: the Hell-Fire Club at The Back of the North Wind! Triangulation, strangulation, trainfulatio?
Norton St. Clair and Christina Petite.
76 Oxford Street London. W1.
Where the f****** hell are you? Not often MI5 admits to losing one of its agents - albeit a soon-much-to-be-missed ex-agent - we tried to find you in all your old haunts but you finally eluded us. So? Chilling out in a Cairo brothel, penning (is it 'penning' on a laptop?) another ghastly sleaze novel? Or in Shanghai exporting whores to Japan, a most lucrative trade there in "Dancing Girls" we are told by our ertswhile colleagues in MI6. Quelle Euphemisme! Especially virgins! No, no more whores for you, you are a reformed man at last, devoted to your muse and in a passionate spirit of self-denial you are at last dedicating your hardly won freedom to the art of er ... serious novel writing! Kerpow! The pursuit of that cold passion you once told me, passionately!, was a special kind of spiritual enlightenment! Yeah! What is it this time? "Herr Schlieman and the Satin Woman", "Nora, Dancing Girl of Cairo", "Salomé Deflowered?" How does she get murdered, an asp secreted into her black leather Armani bra or copulating with a cobra? Or are you enjoying a final ecstasy, the Dance of Death, the ultimate sex trip you always wrote and dreamed of? Sorry, I know you too well, I miss our illicit Soho dinners. In "Your cafe" - so perilously located between sex shops.
Talking shop of course ...
We've been in touch with your College and your publisher (sic) neither of whom have been 'friendly' enough to tell us your whereabouts (Clouds Unknown). You trained them well over the years of our fraught affiliation. Surprised to discover you quit the University 'Forever' as well as us, your loyal friends here - US! The idealistic British Intelligence Services you served so reluctantly off and on over the years, enslaved as we are to the avaricious dictates of The Defence of the Realm.
Okay, this is a wild shot. From the hip! We know you have firmly decided to retire and you have the luxury (as well as your pension) of three months full pay, paid to do nothing except enjoy Cairo and your trashy, transitory harem of doting women; but we have an emergency. Serious. So serious my department has been advised to assume genuine humility and BEG YOUR services; ONLY for three months! Yes, but! It really IS your domain, an assignment needing extreme delicacy.
Can't say too much except we're having trouble with 'our man' in Sellafield. Much more 'betrayal' than hitherto already known, fused irrevocably with the recent much-publicised calamities with the "Faked papers and Mox plutonium exports to Japan". He's disappeared, may even have gone over to the other side? - and is now living in luxury in the volcanic wastes of North Japan (surrounded by nubile young Japanese dancing girls) working for their nuclear industry (both him and the girls!) or the Japanese Mafia (WE know what THEY are like from Hollywood movies), earning a fortune from a cache of stolen ultra high-grade plutonium 18*/HirshB; the newest of the new, as we know you know.
This could be the biggest 'story' of your distinguished career, the last and biggest! We need someone in Cumbria to meet up with a second 'mole' who may be able to throw some light (sic) on the subject; not radio-active we hope.
We fear the worst. This whole business with the recent exposé of the fake-documents sent to Japan now seems to have been a scam to cover up a series of huge thefts. BNFL is doomed if we can't act before worse contaminated nuggets of truth leak out and bring us to our already bruised knees. Kneedless (!) to say, the fact that it is 'our man' who has gone feral and is now an untraceable fugitive, has caused much panic here.
What is happening? What have we done wrong? After the 'Confessions' of Peter Wright and David Shayler (now to be 'disguised' as 'fiction'? He says he's becoming a novelist) and Dick Tomlinson and, Jesus wept, our much-respected director Dame Stella Rimington - have we gone mad? Clearly we do NOT need our man from Sellafield writing his 'Confessions' in a hermit's hut in the pine clad-mountains beyond Niigata, where the wretched Japs have their nuclear power stations.
It might even be a question of firmly imposing a Definitive Silence. 9th Configuration on him; before it is too late. You see why we need you. Talk of a special Royal Act of Recognition - kneeling and having your too-long hair lopped by a best Sheffield steel scimitar in the bejewelled hands of a crimson-robed, or purple? - Queen Eliza-Beth. I suppose you've let your hair down since your termination letter telling us to - Go To Hell! I know you were more polite. Your elegant letter asking for early retirement quoting Thomas de Quincey and Samuel T Coleridge - as if YOU (sic) were the Albatross (and the last of the species) that got shot! It will be on my (bedroom, not Loo) wall forever. But there is bitterness here, it has all been a bit sudden, not ideal timing at all (qv those named above, the True Betrayers, those who ought to have remained nameless and silent).
To be frank, a last effort on your part to fulfil this extremely sensitive assignment would be welcomed and highly respected by all of us here in the department, before you - Et Tu Brute? - go off to publish your Confessions? Please don't we can't take much more!
If you agree I can arrange for you to meet a new man dealing with the fresh but already gangrenous wounds in the body nuclear. Please call me or write TopSec-dip16BC so we can arrange a clandestine meeting before he leaves London. I know you will prefer meeting him rather than your pet-hates: Pendleton and Harcourt!
Your friend Sister T (as you call her, we never did figure that one out) says you have 'Gone away to write a novel to Cairo'. Yeah! You 'used that one' before. 1001 times! Seriously, are you in Cairo again? With Nora? How is your daughter by the way? But for US, who forgave you time and time again for your literary puns/pundits - why not go to your much-loved Cumbria all expenses paid? I give you a week to find yourself! Come back from your literary and sexual Voyages en Orient; Great Britain needs you! If time drifts beyond our control as it often does these dog days of Terrorism and its Discontents (as you called it), you could meet him in Cumbria.
Fondest wishes, your favourite Controller, much stressed and, like you, on the verge of nervous breakdown - don't tell anyone! How are we going to survive without you Herr Docteur Schlieman?
Michael's replies were brief:
Dear Doctor Gordon,
By chance I will be in the Lake District around 'the appointed time' and can read a paper on something vaguely linked to your concerns, maybe the "Terrorism Considered" paper, but if so, informally, off the cuff, it's in the state of the final 64th I Ching Hexagram: 'Before Completion'. The old fox is trailing his tail in the water! Is there any such thing as completion? I like to improvise! Like Pirandello!
I may read a paper in Japan on De Quincey's failure (as was the case with so many of his close literary friends) to complete his intended 'Great Work', the summation, the apotheosis of a life's writing, finally achieved, in perfected form! The sad fate of ALL victims of opium addiction. Their minds forever expanding as if to mock, and foretell, the modern scientific paradigm: the infinite expansion of time and space! The Japanese Conference on "Shishosetsu", their traditional Art of Autobiographical confessional 'novels' seemed oddly appropriate.
I always enjoy talking to students. I'll contact you in a week's time when back in the UK.
Dear Christina and Norton,
By chance I will be in the Lake District giving a lecture in the afternoon of your proposed date, so I can come to your meeting; but most informally! Please, please, No! No adverts of my name and NO filming! I will none-the-less be happy to read a bit of purple prose (and other bruised nuances) from my new unpublished novel and meet the charming Japanese director to hear what she intends to do with me! In her film that is. And her friend who already seems to know too much about me. But 'who knows'? The truth? I have been accused in the past of losing myself on the see-saw (sic) pivot of the present. And do we ever live in anything but the psychotic present? However, words and a name can be denied, they are ideal masks - but never the Face! No filming!
Does she make erotic dance films? I might manage the part of teacher in a film entitled "The Ballet Lesson", script by Genet or Ionesco!
I'm flattered, it's always nice to be wanted, especially a debauched old misanthrope like me. Reluctant to visit the Lake District. Some things we must forget, repress, erase. I spent the most gullible and fabulous (fabled) times of my childhood there. Too raw, too magical, too painful to recall. I know life always tends towards Endless Repetition, so I am tempted, but Occasional Avoidance is also a useful plot ploy. If you'd said I was to meet a beautiful Japanese Intelligence agent (though most honey pots these days - ice-cold and passionless as the Siberian tundra - seem to be Russian) sent to smooth things out disguised as an erotic Noh Play dancer, well, yes indeed! Alas, who knows how far from the straight and narrow path I am currently wandering, knapsack on back, trekking towards the Far North and its snowy tundra wastelands seeking silence, exile and non-self discipline. Always a maverick, I go north in the winter.
Seriously, I must go somewhere foolish but remote, to finish a novel I've been working on for ages, far too long stuck at the 'Before Completion' stage. Current title: "Plagiarism or The Lesbian Embrace Denied"! Yeah! Or: "The Girl on the Train; Derrida I murdered her!".
You were always riled by my obscure pretentious allusions! Good! There's a few more by way of an epitaph!