dubiously true stories and cartoons

Monday, January 13, 2014


 My first book, a novella entitled Permanent Moments was published on the 15th December last year and it contains a revised version of one of the stories that have been posted in this blog. The story in question was called The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers and it raised a problem with the publishers because it features a scene describing two fifteen year-olds indulging in under-age sex. The reason why it caused a problem was because the publishers are American and the age of consent in the US is eighteen.

This is the front cover of the book. If you look closely at the picture in the lens of the camera
I'm the child with the long legs

After a few increasingly angry emails (all from me) I wrote to them explaining that the chapter takes place in Britain where the age of consent is sixteen and so if a reference to this was included I would change the age of the characters to conform to British law.

I thought that was fairly reasonable.

The publishers disagreed and it was at this stage that I threw my toys out of the cot and behaved in the most childish manner possible.

I told them that I was going to rewrite the second half of the chapter so that no sex at all was mentioned.

This is what I submitted to them.

These are the changes to the chapter ‘The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers.’

I have checked through the rules and it does fall within the requirements of the publisher.

“After line 36, I would like the word CENSORED to appear in Franklin Gothic Heavy font and in letters large enough so that the word stretches across the entire line, like this:


Page 76 – Page 80: Remove everything from Page 76 line 37 (Pete, who was . . .) to Page 80 line 8 (the final line of the chapter) and replace it with the following:

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately I can’t go any further with this chapter because of a caveat placed into the contract by the publisher, which I signed without reading properly and which states:

We do not permit any explicit or graphic descriptions of sexual situations featuring individuals under the age of eighteen. This does not mean that we are opposed to the characters in a story being involved in sexual situations for character development, because that does occur in real life, however, we want to make sure that all the details of the sexual situations are avoided. Avoid descriptions of the act entirely, specifically the following: kissing in a sexual manner; sexual touching; visible signs of arousal or sexual attraction; nudity of underage individuals; double entendre.

I never read contracts because I (wrongly) assume that they are sensibly written by sensible people. I am a British writer writing about British things that happened in Britain in the 1960s and aiming this British book at a British audience.

Unfortunately my publishers are American.

Because the characters in this chapter (and indeed, throughout the book) are under age and therefore still at school I was informed that I was only allowed to include a sex scene if I made the characters eighteen years old (the age of consent in the US being eighteen and not sixteen like it is in Britain). This is obviously ridiculous as the whole point of this chapter is the fact that the characters are under age. I tried to argue my case with the content evaluators, but to no avail, and they informed me with some finality that since they are US publishers “characters need to be eighteen.”

It strikes me as supremely hypocritical that a country where High School shootings are becoming more and more commonplace that a publisher would restrict the use of sex in a book because the characters are under age. If they feel that banning scenes of two under age people having sex will discourage other under age people from having sex, then, by using that same rationale, why not ban the use of guns in books, particularly guns that are being fired – at other people; surely that would discourage Americans from shooting each other on regular basis.

Recently I went to see the film Kick Ass 2, which had, unfortunately been cut by US distributors so that the film could be seen by a family audience. Every single word of bad language had been removed from the film, although, strangely, all the violence had been left in. The message that this version of the film clearly sent out, therefore, was this: It’s OK to stab someone in the eye with a sword but it’s not OK to use the word “fuck”. Also the original Kick Ass film had an under-age girl, not only stabbing people with swords but shooting them and using the word “cunt”.

These films were made in a country where, via music channels, children are exposed to soft porn disguised as pop videos; where disgraceful reality programmes such as Teen Mom – she’s a mom and a teenager, geddit – pander to an audience that’s all but dribbling into their TV dinners – but don’t worry, despite the fact that she was under age when she had sex, the network didn’t show the act that got her pregnant in the first place. It’s a country where rich criminals posing as evangelists roam the networks extorting hard earned cash from gullible poor people who are labouring under the misapprehension that God actually exists.

Ah, America, you are a land of contradictions.

Anyway, for those of you curious enough to find out what was missing from this chapter (you’ve read this far, so you must be showing at least some interest) you can read it by the going to the 25th entry of my blog Travels With My Rodent, where the chapter originally appeared. All you need to do is type www.travelswithmyrodent.blogspot.com  into your internet browser and then search for 25: The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers.

In case you’re wondering where title of the chapter comes from, let me just say that it ends with the line “And, of course, I let him smell my fingers.”

I hope you enjoy what you find there.”

So there you have it – a childish, knee-jerk, reactionary rant that was inappropriate, xenophobic and pointless all at the same time.

The Content Evaluators understandably rejected it as it must have seemed plainly obvious to them that I had quite clearly gone totally insane – or worse, judging from what I’d written I had turned into that most intolerant and despicable of creatures –  a Daily Mail reader.

I eventually got over myself and rewrote the chapter using a different situation and with the ages of the characters changed to eighteen.

And do you know what?

It actually improved the story.

So what the hell do I know about anything.

This is the back cover of the book. The rather arty back-and-white photograph is actually a selfie taken on my phone.

The book is available on Amazon as both a paperback and a kindle book. The kindle book is only £2.67 (cheap).

So that's my ruthless sales pitch over.

Have a Happy New Year!


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