Caught by the River

The Edge

25th January 2020

How do you stay high when endless gratification no longer works? Jamie Collinson introduces his new novel The Edge, published earlier this week by Oneworld.

I remember interviewing one of my favourite novelists, Alan Warner, back in about 2006. ‘You don’t write what you know,’ he said. ‘The clue’s in the word fiction. You’re supposed to make it up.’ It took me quite a long time to unlearn that – or rather, to learn that it’s OK to use the clay of your own life to sculpt something new. Perhaps only a very great type of writer can run on pure invention.

I began writing The Edge during a period of disillusionment with the music business. I’d been lucky to work with and for people that were largely wonderful, but the wider industry sometimes seemed to surround this little patch of goodness like an encroaching, polluted sea. This problem was compounded by the fact that I knew I was lucky to be working in music at all. First world problems, and all that. On the upside, there seemed to be something uniquely funny about the music business’s particular failings – the hypocrisy, the blandness, the successful commodification of things held, elsewhere, and by the consumers themselves, to be increasingly sacred. And thus the idea struck me of a comedy set within the LA music business.

But I also wanted to write about Los Angeles itself, a city I’d fallen in love with. Or to be more accurate, the geography and wildlife that exists in and around the city: the mountains, the raptors, snakes, skunks and forests; the LA river – a truly wild place that runs like a jungly artery through the seething metropolis. The ancient landscapes and animal rites that stood in stark contrast to the inanities of the entertainment business. These things had been a balm for me, and they would be for my protagonist, too. More than that, bizarrely, very few people seem to know this side of Los Angeles, or to realize how remarkable it is. I wanted to shout about it.

And then there’s love – the third element that went into the book. The horror of wasting it, and the wounds it leaves behind. I had read that ‘a psychic wound can be useful’ for a writer, and it certainly seemed to have been for some of my favourites. I thus decided to make use of my own.

So I wrote about what I know, and what came out was something entirely made up. A satire and a celebration. A love story, and a little bit of a tragedy.

You can read Jamie’s writings for CBTR, including about LA and its river, here.

The Edge is available here, priced £14.99.