Interviewing Alan Moore

Working for the Northampton Herald & Post (the ‘HP’) is little different from working on any other local paper. Small ads, schools, hospitals, local councillors,  fun runs. People are generally nice. And you quickly learn to cope with the certain number of local “characters” (nutjobs) you repeatedly find yourself crossing paths with – bit of colour in a drab world, I say.

It’s true – running a paper just gets more and more difficult in this day and age (even since I started). Skeleton staff cut right back to the bone, and we’re very much dependent on the readership contacting us rather than good old roving reporting.

But it does have one big perk: interviewing Alan Moore. Local landmark. Born, bred, lives (loves) and very probably going to die local.

Not everyone sees eye to eye with him and his “ways”, but we’re glad we have him. And he seems to like talking to the HP. We’re probably not as devious as the nationals or glossy magazines – he knows we’ll treat him straight.

(He’s not one of the local “characters”, by the way. He writes characters. He’s not one. Not in that way).

The Alan issues are always popular. (“Alan issues”: I call them that. Not that he’s on the cover or anything. No special banner headlines, fanfares or ticker tape parades of shredded back issues. No, he always ends up back on page 23. And the articles are never long in the grand scheme of things. I checked – the last few have all come out at exactly 487 words.

I’m not 100% sure how the sessions are arranged – whether the editor calls him or vice versa. Some form of summons or contact behind the scenes. I wouldn’t know. I’m just a humble scribe.

The bump in sales we get isn’t all about him, I’d add. There’s more to the HP than the esteemed Mr Moore. Those issues also tend to coincide with a lot of birth, death and contact notices being placed, so that contributes to the increase at least as much as his hardcore local support and all the special overseas orders we get from Alan fans (long may those handwritten SAEs roll in. Blotchy, scrawly things. Don’t tell them they can get it online whatever you do!).

My old colleague Charles, prior to moving to the Algarve (Or was it Spain? Greece?) Made a remark about the “Morval equinox issues” when theorising about the spike in births one Friday lunchtime in the Wig & Pen. The Alan issues usually happen around mid spring and mid autumn – which is nine months after the longest day or longest night. People get tired, or careless, or jolly, or lonely at the extremes of the year. Lots of babies.

The deaths? Well, people always seem to die in clusters – but that’s mainly just one of those cognitive tricks your mind plays on you. Making sense of and finding meaning in data which doesn’t really have any. Maybe they’re just holding on until the babies are born. The birth brings relief, with relief they stop fighting so hard to keep going.

Whatever the ins and outs of the arrangements (and I’m always the last to know), you arrive at work, and you just know that it’s an Alan day. The air in the carpark is cooler and crisper; and the smells wafting across from Yu’s Chinese are keener, less greasy, more subtly aromatic. The coffee is sharper; the fonts on your monitor clearer.

Sometimes he’s already there, prodding at a pot plant or leafing through stacks of years-old magazines. At other times, you go to the kitchenette to make a cup of tea or coffee, and when you get back, there he is, clasping that big tartan Thermos of his own herbal brew. You learn not to offer him anything. Hospitality seems to be an imposition.

The details at that point always become vague when you try to describe them back (other than by looking at your notes). He sits there, the frizz of his great mane of hair and beard almost seem sort of greenish in the fluorescent light against the office-beige walls, and he draws you in.

He’s such an engaging speaker. Charismatic. Not strictly a melodic voice or way of speaking, but it carries you along. Lifts and drops, resonates. Piercing eyes and a very, very captivating manner. Sometimes he sings. Soon the interview proper starts, on whatever topic of the day is exercising him. He talks, you write, you talk, he talks some more. Talking and writing. Some arm and hand gestures. Glinting canetop, rings and bangles. Knowing laughter. Thumping of blood in your ears, flushed cheeks. More talking. Pen on paper.

And then he’s gone. Leaving behind a faint scent of sweet pipe tobacco (which I don’t think he smokes) and the smell of moustache pomade (which he most definitely does not use – I realised I recognised it – it’s a very specific one I once had demonstrated to me by a local, old-school Turkish barber when researching a male grooming article).

You then usually have a slight headache centred just here, behind the left ear for a day or two. The photographers sometimes have nosebleeds. They’re not full time press photographers, so it’s made for an awkward weddings and christenings afterwards. But we sort out the rotas accordingly.

He is unarguably one of the great British writers and that really rubs off on the interviewer. Brings out the best in you. Once the air clears and the lights stop flickering, you look down at your notepad or laptop, the piece is basically done. Just a bit of the normal editing & tidy-up (take out accidental rhymes, modernise some of the English). Then it’s off down the butchers to buy some thick, prime juicy steak for dinner. Or kidney. Occasionally sausages or black pudding.

Great guy.

An eldritch beacon of transcendental illumination and truth in this corrupted, misshapen world of shoggothic shades and untruths.

You might say.

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Draft – Green dream

Elias lay down and, turning some, finally settled in a middling comfortable resting pose: largely on his left hand side, elbow between his jaw and the earth, his knees tucked up tightly to his chest. And there he was.

He soon passed from this midway state of dry, dusty breathing and sharp stone prickles on his skin into a dream.

He opened his eyes in an unfamiliar world. Smooth, long, green tables. The walls of the long, wide, tall, echoing room the same: Green-lit. Shiny. Hard.

Red vapours puffed periodically from recesses where the walls met the ceilings. And around him, huddling round the tables or otherwise busying themselves in uncertain occupations, unfamiliar figures. Tall. Broad. Corpulent. Bulbous red lips. Green and knobbly and pockmarked leathery skin. More like people than not. But not people. Not at all. They hissed and hawed and burbled. Startling lurid eyes and emanating gases.

Not liking this dream, and feeling the unfamiliar weight of his own body and mouth in this, not wishing to explore further, and frankly not seeing what he should be doing there at all, he closed his eyes and opened them again on the floor of his cave.

He clutched his legs with both hands and set about feeling them up and down in fine detail in the dark.

Hours later and in his own place, Ogrin woke angry from a stupid, unfathomable dream. His father had his mother’s voice, his mother had that of a dog, staring crowds and statues made of ice, air and crystal and eyes made of dripping fat. “Nonsense! Idiotic nonsense”

Fingers on fingertips.

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Draft – Ogrin and the night

Day passed away. Its ocean of light and clear blues drained away once more, revealing the black mountain of the sky.

Looking up, he could pick out dimly over there, as here, signs of people. Huddling from the darkness round campfires and in their tiny flickering homes. A few travellers guiding themselves along the black mountain paths by lantern on foot and horseback.

Tonight the raw beast of the moon was at large, surveying the chasm, ready to pounce upon the unwary and devour them.

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“Toyshop and Pastrycooks” by J. Grimaldi

Sourced from

HARLEQUIN and COLUMBINE run on as if pursued, knocks at PASTRYCOOKS.

He comes forward and they request admittance. He entreats them to walk in.

As they go in CLOWN runs on and sees them enter. Calls PANTALOON and tells him where they are.

They go to shop and find they cannot get in.

Seeing the window above, they go off at stage entrance P3 and return with a letter (ladder), place it under the window and absent (ascends).

When HARLEQUIN looking out of the door waves his slapstick, the window changes to the Sign, and the Sign to the window.

Finding his mistake, PANTALOON comes down and puts the ladder at the other window, mounts up.

When HARLEQUIN again waves and the window changes to a magnificent fire place, enter the WHITE CLOWN and a BOTTLE BOY with a basket of blacking bottles on which is written “Warren’s Blacking”.

Enter together, they stop and look and look into the window.

The WHITE CLOWN steals the sausages and two bottles of blacking and crams them into his pocket – and exit BOY.

WHITE CLOWN seeing no butcher goes into the shop, brings forth a pail, empties blacking bottle into it and throws sausages into it to dye then black – which CLOWN hangs them up at the butcher shop for sale.

Goes into shop and brings out Red Nightcap, steel and apron which he puts on and says,
“I’ve taken possession”
and BOYS come on crying “Meelons”

CLOWN, he says he play them at marbles.

CLOWN goes into TOY SHOP and buys marbles when one of the BOYS steal it. “A sullen reception” – and a report taking place at the same time – CLOWN takes off the letter (ladder), the fireplace disappears leaving it as a window.

While CLOWN is assisted on his left again by PANTALOON, HARLEQUIN helps out with COLUMBINE and goes into the TOYSHOP – CLOWN recovers his fall and seeing PASTRYCOOK’S door open goes with PANTALOON.

HARLEQUIN slaps the door and an inscription appears “ICE HOUSE”. They return quite cold.


The sign of the CONFECTIONERS changes back to window – several characters may appear and go into the shop as if to buy meat and off again.

CLOWN and PANTALOON astonished at the change of scene – when a POULTERER’S BOY enters – with a basket of fowl and (CLOWN) steals a string of sausages and a piece of beef and runs off. –

HARLEQUIN changes the BUTCHER’S SHOP shut up

CLOWN returns and plays BOY at marbles.

At that time HARLEQUIN changes the TOY SHOP to a “PRISON” which the CLOWN at present does not see.

A PARISH BEADLE now enters having a WOMAN in custody. /This character to be acted by a man/ He has a trick child in her arms, the face is painted like the CLOWNS. She is Inebriated and dressed exactly like Moll Flaggon.

The moment she sees the CLOWN she screams out “That he. That he” and throws the child into his arms.

The PANTALOON coming out at this time enquires the meaning of the quarrel when the BEADLE informs him – while this is going on CLOWN takes from his jacket the other bottle of blacking and blacks the child’s face and says “There you see it’s none of mine” and thrusts the child into her arms. (CLOWN) Look again and runs off.

MOLL follows him – fast gallop – BEADLE after her followed by PANTALOON.

They follow each other off at one wing, on to the next, cross the stage, on again at the first entrance with CLOWN leading – the others being too close behind him fall over each other, when PANTALOON getting up secures the WOMAN assisted by CLOWN

BEADLE unlocks the PRISON door – leaving the key in it and WOMAN put into it

BEADLE now seizes the CLOWN and tries to take him in also, gets him to the door – his back towards it when CLOWN gives him a push and he falls backwards into the PRISON and the key being in the door locks him in

BEADLE entreats to be let out but no go is the word and the scene closes with WOMAN and BEADLE who are seen sighing through the bars of PRISON.

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Draft – Barren Man – Palaces

Elias (dreaming) awoke in a palace.

The marble floors were smooth and hard. Polished. Cold like ice.

He looked around.

Flea-infested, ear-torn mongrel that he was, he had never been in a palace.

Mute and dumb and wild and skittish, he had not conversed with any man about them. He had not (probably) even heard or overheard the word: Palace.

And, being a plain and simple fool, he could not have conceived in his mind of what (or why) a palace was.

Thus he was greatly confused. But he was a curious fool and, accustomed to a life lived haphazardly in a cloud of great confusion, he rose to his feet, shook the dust from his hair (there was no dust) and began to walk.

(…Exploration narrative…)

Within the room, in a far corner, in view of wide-open doors which led to a sun-soaked terrace, was an alcove. Within the alcove the an upright chair. And upon the chair a young woman.

“Princess”, he said, with a voice like peppered honey.

She smiled.

At this signal he was removed from her presence. Grasped firmly by the upper arms by guards who had appeared as if from nowhere (he had not seen them). One rough, large hand upon the back of his neck and skull, another clamped across his mouth to spare the lady the embarrassment of commotion.

Then one sharp dig to his left hand side, three glancing kicks to the backs of his knees, and he was away.

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Draft – Barren Man – Shadows

A dream. Again. But this time the dream was here. In the desert. And now. Or not quite now. Eight hours hence, sixteen prior? Or possibly some days before. Some days after? The present time and season, but with the hours turned from night to early morning. Clear and bright. Chill and hopeful, before the weight and heat of the day would overwhelm it.

The same place and time (more or less), but also sharply different.

Shadows moved across the sands. Shadows without bodies to cast them. Large and small. Some solitary. Others massed.

From the mouth of his cave (in his dream), Elias looked down the hillside and over the plains beyond. And everywhere he looked, dotted shadows juddering, itching and scratching across the land.

And in the rock around the cave mouth, the same. Silent motion. Busy. Just drifting; or swirling, rushing. Frenetic as if chased, but all around, the shadows. Shadows which looked for all the world like the outlines of fish.

Yes. Shadows of fish. Moving through the sand and rocks.

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Draft – Barren Man – A question of hospitality


Like knives in a box. Knives in a chest.

Eedah’s eyes narrowed, darted over to his comrades. His eyebrows, thin and pointed,

Kicking. Kicking. Lashing out and screaming. Squealing like a piglet.

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Draft – Barren Man – The Scarab

The desert. A few degrees before of the approaching dawn. Starlight fades and the blackness of the sky bleaches into blues, browns and greys, slowly washed out by the light of day.

The scarab (“dung” beetle) – broadly indifferent to day or night – is on the move again. He rolls his boulder full of turdy goodness nimbly across the sands. Stops, surveys the terrain, inspects his burden, patting in uncompacted strands, and carries on. Wading through the dust.

The sky now hums with the suggestion of morning light and the ridges on his hard, black shell begin to glisten. Dimly, but definitely.

Such is life.

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Draft – Barren Man- Ogrin unsleeping

Three things disturbed Ogrin that night, and robbed him of his sleep.

His belly (its constricted emptiness, its intermittent, grinding spasms – like the yelping of a dog when kicked).

His head (hot and dry and full. Heavy and thumping).

And his fears. Indistinct, momentary fears which shot across his mind, flashed briefly, but slipped his grasp.

“This place…” He moaned as he turned over and over, and back. “This place.” Had he had tears to cry… Well, no matter. His face creased and wept silent agonies. His body tightened like a clenched fist.


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Draft – The quandry of the feather

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