The reclusive novelist turns 50.
Tabytha Towe interviews Marcel d'Agenau

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Archive 2
New Fiction
Hacktreks Travel

Either Or
Marcel D'Agneau




When Antique Sellers get depressed, they get depressed. We tackled Marcel d'Agenau the lapsed author in the Cinammon Cafe in Falmouth on the eve of his 50 birthday and got him talking. Marcel talks to Tabitha Towe

'Turning 30 was a year long crisis I seem to recall. Full of tortured feelings about not have quite reached all the goals I set myself, worrying about losing hair - little did I realise then that I was having the most successful year of my life so far. Hindsight brings little comfort.'

'My God, my output was amazing at thirty. Two novels published that year, living in New York and London, by thirty one, the second book 'Eeny Meeny Miny Mole ' was in the Sunday Times ten best sellers list (at ten) and my third was about to go into print. I was so busy, I didn’t notice I wasn’t actually having a life. Didn’t real the contracts too well either. Four novels in four years and nothing to show for it.'

'Forty was agony. Well six months leading up to it was. Where had all the success gone? Couldn’t be more broke and I had the worst agent in the Western World. Friends were thinking that I was probably burned out. Actually the day I turned 40 was great, celebrated in the City of York with all the people I loved most in the world at that time. Nicolas and Manina were there, Beverly and Geof, John, I am sure some others. A month later I was in Vancouver again and depressed. A book contract had gone sour, a $12,000 cheque had bounced, the publishers gone belly up. I took it badly, worse I’d sat so long at the bloody typewriter to write it I had to be hospitalised for an emergency operation for piles on New Years Day. Piles are no joke, men don’t like to talk about it, but here’s a warning, if you are suffering DO NOT IGNORE IT.. (Anyone will know who has had it, that the piles op is ‘hell’, well the recovery part is, and the bastards give you tons of laxatives to make you shit through the stitches. Oh joy).'

'I came out of hospital just as the Gulf War began on TV. Everyone else remembers CNN and reporters talking on rooftops as missiles flew over. I just recall sitting in very hot baths and going ‘Ow’ lots, crawling over to the sofa to watch more war, than back to the bath. I’m sure there was more to it than that, but that’s all I can recall. Oh yes, just before the operation I had a brainwave for a great screenplay and wrote all my notes on the sheets. I had to buy the sheets from the hospital and I spent the entire gulf war trying to decipher my hastily scrawled notes. The script is still my best, but I never yet sold it.'

'Of course, having the World’s Worst Agent didn't help. If I thought my UK agents were bad and they were TERRIBLE, my Canadian agent, a man so bad at his job, he couldn't even get a script to a producer, even if they screamed down the phone to him to send it. In the end he resorted to faking letters from famous producers in Hollywood to prove there was interest. I heard they finally took him away in a straight jacket. It’s hard to have a writing career with your agent being strapped to a bed and poked with cattle prods. Somewhere around this time I began selling antiques in Cornwall. Long before Fox Mulder said it, I was telling my customers ‘Trust No One.’ (Especially the 18th century stuff).'

'So, here I am approaching the big deathwatch - 50. And weirdly, I am living exactly as I was when I was thirty, only not exactly in the best-seller list. I am sure there is a plan to all of this, but I have put myself in the position where I live nowhere, - literally, so I can move to the ‘next’ place wherever that will be. I have a great business in the wrong place. I know there’s tons of people all over the world who’d love to work and sell antiques in Cornwall, but no one could dislike a place more than I dislike Cornwall. The house is sold, my debts are paid, the credit card is empty, I have nothing except stock of 19th century furniture I can get rid of if I wanted to and I can’t recall a time like this since I was 30.'

'My girlfriend must have caught a whiff of this and casually dumped me about four months ago. Of course we still talk to each other every day because sad people we are, like many long term couples, who else? The long term partner knows all your secrets, shares all your dreams and desires and well, it’s hard to break off. When I think of all the acrimony other couples go through, we seem to missed out on that. Of course it is very annoying when the love of your life continues going to all the places that you used to go together and then calls you on the cellphone to ask, ‘do I turn left or right from here’, ‘did I like the chicken, or was it you?’ She doesn’t know how much this tortures me. I am stuck down here in the English Hades and she is living my life without me. I am dead already. This is what it feels like to be a ghost. You can’t resist answering the call, but feel empty inside because you can’t taste the wine.'

'Sometimes I wonder what happened to the career. Never trust a publisher, don’t even dine with one. “When are you going to write something new people ask. Well, when a publisher pays up front is the answer. Then they can go bust.'

'Fifty sounds so big. So daunting. It isn’t a mid-life crisis. Forty is a mid-life crisis. When you turn fifty, you have at best thirty years to go. Thirty getting harder years. Harder of hearing, harder of artieries, harder to please. The downside. Sure there might be a good autumn, but it’s only every going to be glorious sunsets. That’s why she left. The loved one, that is. Why waste a good young life on a sunset.'

'At best I have ten years left to make something lasting. I’m fighting an astrological chart that talks of ephemeral success. Hell I’m even good at ephemeral success. So there we are, migrating from books to the web, still writing, hackwriter to the last. '

'How to celebrate turning 50? Got this plan to fly to somewhere hot, swim lots, get a tan, maybe go to New York for a few days, with the tan. Do something really ephemeral, like go to Barbados, or Hawaii? Never been to Hawaii or Singapore. Yes, that seems like a plan. Go somewhere I have never been and just be as far away from who and what I am, as I can. A place that doesn't even like antiques. Of course I’ll have to come back to it all and the credit card will be full, but who cares, I’ll be fifty, there’s a lifetime to pay for it right?'

'It will be spontaneous. Come second week of October I’m going to disappear. That’s what it will be. Just another overgrown schoolboy with a half-life crisis - that’s all.'

If you have a nice place to share on Biarritz beach or a Singapore beach...let me know. (Hetros only I’m afraid).

Marcel d'Agneau in conversation with Tabitha Towe- September 2000

© Hackwriters and Tabitha Towe 2000
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