Sadly, Michael de Larrabeiti passed away a few months after this interview. You can read my tribute to him and an article about his funeral here.
© Jude Calvert-Toulmin.
Above left to right: To Hell With Publishing's founder Laurence Johns; Tallis House's founder James Benstead. A private club in Soho, London, November 2007.
© Jude Calvert-Toulmin.
Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite
Marcel Proust quote. Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite -Page 77
And where are the ones who had talent but no bravery – those who could sing but didn’t dare raise their voices. Do they suffer in the deepest part of hell? Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite – Page 30
To be overwise is to ossify; and the scruple-monger ends by standing stockstill. Now the man who has his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling weathercock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very different acquaintance of the world, keeps all his pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as he runs, until, if he be running towards anything better than wildfire, he may shoot up and become a constellation. Robert Louis Stevenson quote. Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite - Page 33.
He speaks to me so clearly through his words, through the words of Cooper and his pupil, through the words of the great poets and writers whose greatest works he has so selectively quoted, and through the words of "L.Lestrange" the mysterious writer whose quotes also appear in the book.
'Dust and ashes!' So you creak it, and I want the heart to scold.
Dear dead women, with such hair, too―what’s become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown old.
The last verse of A Toccata of Galuppi's. If you haven't yet read it all, then DO! A truly beautiful yet horrific poem that has resonated within me ever since first reading it 35 years ago.
Horace quote. Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite - Page 44.
Above: Michael in his Dennis The Menace hat, surveying the grounds of his beautiful home in Oxfordshire.
© Jude Calvert-Toulmin
We went back to our machines and found a track that brought us round to the building. It was totally dark now, but we could hear springs splashing out of the ground and running off into the marshes. The building was small, say seven yards by seven, there was no roof to speak of and a weak moonlight fell onto a rectangle of water that was contained in blocks of stone. We lay down on the ancient paving and plunged our arms into the bath; it was warm, and the bubbles caressed our hands. It was a moment of sheer delight; we had discovered Polo’s ‘handsomest and most excellent baths of warm water’. Spots of Time - Page 63
Jude: Where do things stand with The Borrible trilogy at the moment?
(Michael tells me the whole story naming names and I promise to keep schtum.)
Michael: I was hitchhiking in the holidays, in Greece, and I got up to the top of this hill, wonderful place, you must go there sometime, and I thought the fairy story was a nice way of describing it. Coz a lot of Greek women don’t like their men you know. Their men are even more male chauvinist pig than I am.
Jude:Was, I’m sure. I’m sure you’ve mellowed with time.
Michael:Well, I don’t have the same energy anymore, otherwise I might still be. (chuckles)
Jude: What about the characters in Princess Diana's Revenge? Are they invented?
Michael: The Bunce is totally invented. The Borribles is totally invented and Princess Diana’s Revenge is invented.
The character of Joe is a bit like me. I love that attitude where the Joe character sees everything but is a bit pathetic in that he doesn’t do very much, and I like taking that point of view. So I mean, that’s totally invented.
Above: One of Michael's many bookcases, containing, besides books, folders of photographs, clippings and notes.
© James Benstead, 2008
Michael:Ah. Well. Ars longa vita brevis.
Jude:Yes, I'm aware of that.
Well the thing is, it’s different for a woman. I chose to take 15 years out to raise a family. If you then want a career then that’s a big block of your life that you’re gonna be behind the men.
Jude:And that’s why there aren’t as many famous women writers or artists as men, because they’ve been raising families.
Jude:I know. That’s why I’m here.
Michael:I know, but I’m just saying that as a celebrity, however you’ve got to that celebrity status, makes getting published easy.
Jude:Yeah it makes it easy but it’s not the only way to get published. I do think what you have to do nowadays is put yourself out there as much as you can.
Is it OK if I take some photos?
Jude:Yes you do.
Well...none of us look like what we did when we were 20...
Michael: When they got to 16 I bought them a huge bunch of flowers each and said “You’re on your own. I don’t want to interfere, but I don’t want you coming back here pregnant.”
.Journal Of A Sad Hermaphrodite - Page 135.
First chapter of Journal of a Sad Hermaphrodite
First section of Princess Diana's Revenge
First chapter of The Borribles
First chapter of The Borribles Go For Broke
First chapter of The Borribles: Across the Dark Metropolis
A Selection of Michael's travel articles for The Sunday Times:
Going Loco: The Copper Canyon Line links Mexico's cowboy heartland to some of the most dramatic scenery on earth. Michael de Larrabeiti climbs aboard. First published 11 October 1998.
Heart of Stone: MICHAEL de LARRABEITI does battle with the unforgiving terrain of Greece's Mani region and achieves a childhood desire to find Cape Matapan. First published 27 April 1997.
Treasure Island: A hero's final resting place exerts an awesome pull - more so if it happens to be a South Sea island. Michael de Larrabeiti paid his respects. First published 7 March 1999.
‘...deadly glint and sophisticated appeal.’ Kirkus
‘London’s answer to The Lord of the Rings...try The Borribles, warts and all, before they become a legend.’ The Times
‘...the offspring of a singular imagination.’ The New York Times
‘...Larrabeiti has written a modern epic.’ Publishers’ Weekly
‘...this juvenile Clockwork Orange projects a gripping story through slam-bang action.’ Los Angeles Times
‘It’s stuff as strong as Fagin’s underworld. Dickens would have approved of this book.’ Evening Standard
A ROSE BEYOND THE THAMES
‘...a beautifully warm, inventively true book.’ The Guardian
‘...the whole thing is a tour de force.’ The Sunday Times
‘A dark story with overtones of Ian McEwan’s Atonement...keeps you enthralled.’ The Guardian
‘It is so well done...Michael de Larrabeiti’s book is of a high literary standard.’ Beryl Bainbridge
‘Compelling and atmospheric.’ John Carey, The Sunday Times
‘Craftsmanship, style, imagination and intelligence make this an enjoyable, sometimes alarming novel.’ Time Out
‘...rich in comic life...there are escapades galore, vicious, lewd, hilarious...crime as vaudeville.’ The Guardian
‘The plot roars off on a letching-retching rollercoaster... hurtling pace, sharp tin-tack writing.’ The Observer