Alex Hargreaves first heard the name Vernon Crane at one of his publisher’s parties.
The next morning, after he had made tea for Karen and taken it up to her he Googled the name and found a few sites referring to a children’s author who had died in 1943.
Sitting in the kitchen he thought back to the night before but couldn’t remember much. The party had been held under London Bridge. A series of tunnels converted into a venue. As they were leaving, someone took him to one side, drew him into the shadows, asked him in a whisper: have you ever heard of Vernon Crane?
Whoever that was Alex must have trusted their judgement enough to remember the name, but apart from Facebook profiles and this one reference to a dead author he couldn't see much that was likely to be relevant to him.
His head began thumping, his hangover coming on. Glancing up at the clock he saw it was still only 7:30. He had woken up early, still drunk and decided to go back to bed. His Barbour jacket was lying on the sofa and he picked it up and went through the pockets. There was a flier for future events at the club folded up in the inside pocket. He'd scribbled down a website address www.vernonscranium.com
He typed the address in and clicked enter. There was a black page with a message and three links.
“A page dedicated to the life and work of Vernon Crane.”
The links were all dead.
He clicked on the email address and sent a message to email@example.com.
My name is Alex Hargreaves. I’m a London based novelist and writer who has just published his first book Corrigan’s Century. A friend passed on your website address to me. I’m very interested in learning more about Vernon Crane, but unfortunately the links on the page are all broken. I wonder if you could tell me where I might be able to get more info.
The rest of the weekend passed pleasantly enough. On the Saturday evening they went out for Vietnamese food with friends and on the Sunday to his parent's place for lunch. They said they had read the reviews for Corrigan’s Century and felt they had largely been positive. His father said that if he had listened to the critics’ views on his first play he would have given up there and then.
Karen went to bed early as she had work the next day. Alex was restless and sat down to watch a DVD from I.C.A. online but he found it hard to concentrate. He deliberately put his phone down on the floor next to the sofa, out of reach, but twenty minutes into The Colour of Pomegranates he decided to check his messages. There was a reply from Paula Adanor.
RE Vernon Crane.
Thanks for getting in touch. I didn’t realise those links were broken, anyway that website’s quite old (2005. Internet stone age.) You know it’s so weird/typical that you emailed me yesterday, on what was/would have been Vernon’s forty fourth birthday. Are you thinking of writing a piece on him? I knew it was just a matter of time. Who mentioned Vernon to you? The person you really want to talk to is David Gillespie. If you need any more information please feel free to get back to me. It’s so funny, the idea that Vernon might get known after all this time, but he was brilliant and so sweet and troubled and it’s just such a tragedy (or maybe not from his perspective, I firmly believe he’s still out there somewhere) that he’s not around anymore.
I’m London-based too so if you want a coffee and a chat, I’m sure we can arrange something. Though as a working mum I don’t have an awful lot of free time as you can imagine.
He had a mountain of work still to get through that he’d been putting off, deadlines for book, film and music reviews, opinion and comment pieces looming, not to mention the long article he needed to finish off on the enduring influence of Paul Henry Garigs' work for the Guardian. And of course he should be focusing on the next novel too.
Immediately he felt depressed. The next novel. He had some ideas he had been playing around with but he didn't like any of them. They felt stale, generic, contrived. But he had to produce something. He was contractually obliged.
Plus, there was several things in the e-mail that intrigued him.
After all this time. Brilliant. So Sweet. A tragedy. His instincts told him that here was a scoop, of a sort. Maybe.
It also occurred to Alex that he didn’t even know what Crane had been involved in. He wondered how to phrase his email back.
To be honest at this point I know absolutely nothing about Vernon or his work, just that a friend recommended I check him out. Any chance of filling in the rather large blanks for me (in fact all I have at the moment are blanks!)
The email he got back sketched out Crane’s life.
He was born in Barrow in Furness in 1970, attended Manchester University for a year before dropping out, was heavily involved in writing and music-making through the late eighties and the early nineties up to his disappearance and probable suicide in 1996. He published a series of short stories in various fanzines and underground magazines. With his friend David Gillespie he also wrote and produced a large number of different electronic based pieces of music, much of it put out on ultra obscure labels or distributed privately on cassette among friends. With the advent of the Internet it became possible for his friends to start collecting his work and putting it online which is perhaps how someone got to know about it and pass the information on to Alex.
All of this was of great interest to Alex Hargreaves. He sent back an e-mail asking if Paula had any photographs of Crane. She replied that she did but that she would have to dig them out, they were in a box somewhere, and she really ought to go and get them, open up that box, even though it brought back painful memories because there was all kinds of stuff in there, letters he’d written her, an old ideas’ book of his, cassettes filled with music he’d made and sound collages and field recordings. All stuff which she should really find some way of uploading. She said she’d get back to him in a day or two and meanwhile here was David Gillespie’s e-mail address.
He sent a message
My name is Alex Hargreaves, a London based novelist and journalist. I have been corresponding with Paula Adanor about Vernon Crane, whose work I’m very keen to track down and have a look at/listen to with a view to writing a piece on him for a major publication. Paula tells me that there are several sites connected to Vernon and his work out there but I’m having trouble tracking any of this down. I know that you’re responsible for the online curating of Vernon’s work and I wonder if you could point me in the direction of some of the stuff you’ve been uploading.
Alex got out of his chair to make more coffee and when he returned to the sofa he already had a response:
Go fuck yourself.