Last week, a book I wrote became a bestseller. As you can imagine, I was pretty stoked about this and proceeded to get roundly drunk and throw up in a pair of trousers. All I can say in my defence is that the trousers seemed like a good idea at the time, though did produce a moment of shock the following morning.
The reason I went on such an apocalyptic rampage was not that it had gone bestseller, but that it was the culmination of five years of pain and struggle. A struggle caused by writing a book that did not star a soldier, a lawyer or a maverick cop on the edge, but a bartender.
Bartenders, it seemed, were not viewed as a suitable subject for fiction, but something that exists on the fringes. They are the ones who give advice to the heartbroken hero, who break up the fight, or sleep with the girl then never call her, the streetwise fixers who the cop goes to for information with a discreetly slipped fifty.
I quickly discovered that we were seen as seedy and a little sleazy, the hospitality lifestyle viewed as too hedonistic, too ‘niche’ and, according to one publisher, who I will hereby refer to as Tom A**womble, too ‘pointless.‘
I worked in a bar for 15 years and I can tell you it was never pointless. On any given night it felt like I was living in a novel, or in some twisted sitcom starring a cast of thousands, all fuelled by Jäger, hope, or broken dreams; a story in which anything could happen and probably would.
After five years spent dealing with the Tom A**wombles of the world, my editor took matters into her own hands, mostly I think to shut me up, and pushed it through as an e-book to try and prove that people would enjoy reading about bars and bartending. I was given a marketing budget that could just about buy a round of drinks, which I spent on a round of drinks, and was asked to go away and not come back until I had some proof.
By the end of week one I had sold twenty copies and responded with despair. By the end of week two it was a bestseller. It was made a bestseller not through advertising, marketing and focus groups, but because bartenders liked it, embraced it and did the thing that bartenders do so well; talked about it.
The moral of this story is that bartenders are there when you fall down and they do what they can to pick you back up again. They see what you do, when you do it and who you do it with. They provide the soundtrack to your night as much as any stereo.
When you bartend you see wonders. You see violence, stupidity and laughter. You see love, lust and everything in between. You witness people at their most erratic, most hostile, and yet most vulnerable. You see the best and the worst of people, often in the same night.What could possibly be better source material than that? And don’t ever let the Tom Asswombles of the world tell you otherwise.
Filthy Still: A tale of travel, sex and perfectly made cocktails is out now on Amazon.com. An excerpt from the book will be published on db.com tomorrow.