Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Erik Bellinker

Erik Bellinker comments on the eve of publication of Shameless Exposure:

Followers of my work will know that I don't usually give interviews or comment on the critics' reviews of my exhibitions. The one exception I make is prestigious arts programmes on satellite television where the fees are generous even by my standards. I am doing this as a favour to Caroline's husband, Robert. You could say I owe him one.

I haven't yet read the book, though it's loaded on to my Kindle and ready to go. Caroline has warned me that I feature heavily, particularly in the first part of the so-called novel. I thought I would take this opportunity to say what really happened from my perspective. People tend to forget that we artists have a trained eye; not much escapes the Bellinker gaze.

When I received the commission to paint four nude studies representing the seasons for a charity calendar and auction I knew immediately that I wanted Caroline for my Autumn muse. I called the work 'Miss November', although Caroline is, as she keeps reminding me, Mrs. I use the word muse rather than model, because my subjects, although minutely examined, are mere inspirations. I am not interested in representation per se. I am looking under the skin to the universal social themes revealed in posture and expression.

In the case of Caroline, who I first knew when I was a struggling artist in a garret above a butcher's shop in Willesden Green, and she was a student in need of  money, I was shocked by her appearance when she walked out of the lift and into my Whitechapel studio. She looked careworn. What a contrast to Xena Bardot, who you probably know as my 'Miss August', a painting which immediately caused a public sensation.

I do not mean the contrast between the redhead of autumn and the blonde of summer. Xena, a self-employed designer, leads a bohemian existence, full of parties, music and creative relationships. Xena relaxed into my sofa and was easy to paint, as comfortable without clothes as with. We formed an immediate connection, and she introduced me to other people in her circle. Caroline on the other hand was tense and close to tears. I knew something was wrong, but my job is to paint what I see.

When Caroline saw the results of those first sittings it was like a revelation for her. She berated me, of course, for showing the stress that was under her skin. As an old friend, I felt obligated to rescue her from the prison of business life into which she had voluntarily incarcerated herself. Fortunately, the real Caroline was not far below the surface and by the time the painting was finished an entirely different vision was decorating the canvas.

In life, one thing leads to another. The phenomenal success of the charity auction of the paintings increased my profile in Russia and the Far East. The bidding war for Miss November between a Chinese man and an Italian casino magnate was all over the social media. My charitable efforts mean that my paintings now sell for twice what they used to.

For Caroline, those evenings spent in my studio led her to the door of a quasi-religious experience. I believe she even considered becoming a priestess, though I find that hard to imagine. I'm looking forward to reading where that path took my muse in Shameless Exposure. I will let you know the moment it is available on Amazon.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Miss August

Hello, my name is Xena Bardot and Robert has asked me to say a little about myself. I am French, I live in London, and I run a design consultancy with Craig. Craig and I share accommodation and friends. We both have a passion for design, adding the little touches to everyday objects which nobody notices. Robert has been kind enough to include me in his new book, Shameless Exposure, which is published next week by Steam eReads.

I can't say I know Robert very well because our paths crossed only briefly at the launch of series of artistic nude paintings done for charity. That was the famous night at the National Portrait Gallery when Princess Fiona of East Anglia revealed her love for a lady-in-waiting and gave up her royal titles to become simple Dame Fiona of Fakenham.

I do, however, know his wife Caroline very well, and count her among my friends. I count everyone I have a bath with as a friend. I remember the first time we met. I had already heard much about her from Erik Bellinker, one the artists commissioned to do the charity paintings. I was his model for August, and in the hours I lounged on some bales of hay in his studio, I often had to listen to him going on about how wonderful Caroline was. I don't know if he was trying to make me jealous because at other times Erik was all over me.

Caroline was his autumn model to take advantage of her red hair. Erik started scheduling his work on August and November back to back so that we were both in the studio at the same time. I knew what Erik was up to; he has exotic tastes. It was no surprise when he invited us all, including my boyfriend Craig, to a party in Notting Hill hosted by the Algerian musician and mutual friend, Omar Zidane. It was a great party. Omar played an impromptu gig with some musician friends in the front room and Craig did the cooking, creating a divine lamb tagine. Caroline was there on her own - I remember she said Robert was away on business in Scotland.

A lot of the women at the party were talking about this new technique to put women in touch with their animal spirits. I had been to the Orgatron Training Centre myself and have to admit the results were fantastic. I had given Caroline the address and told her she should try it. She went to the wrong address, which was a funny story. But you will soon all know, so I might as well tell you, that Caroline ended up with a front seat at the solstice moon ceremony at Regina Heart's main centre on the Isle of Mura in Scotland.

Robert didn't include it in the book, but it was me who made soup and nursed Caroline back to health after she nearly froze to death on a Scottish hillside in the middle of winter. I did it to show Caroline that even free spirits like me have a caring side.

Shameless Exposure is to be published on 28th October.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Many and sincere thanks to those of you who have provided feedback and reviews on Shameless Ambition (available as an e-book from SteameReads and Amazon). One or two have pointed out that it breaks the rules of romantic fiction, and even the rules of not-very-romantic fiction. There is a distinct shortage of adjectives, adverbs, and heaving bosoms. Some readers found it difficult to follow, citing too many characters. Here is an extract from an actual review on Goodreads:

i honestly didn't like this book it was all over the place following a bunch of people that i actually got lost reading this book.
I have not tampered with the reviewer's syntax or punctuation, but I take the point. Ideally, romance involves two main characters, possibly a third to muddy the waters. The dashingly attractive alpha male hero is high status and probably a doctor. The self-deprecating and hopelessly lost but gorgeous nurse is our heroine. Who shall we have playing Muddy Waters? A faceless but ruthless hospital bureaucrat? Or an ex who is stalking gorgeous nurse?

In Shameless Ambition the alpha male doctor is a female business executive and the nurse is me, barrister Robert Fanshaw. In the book I am not in  uniform, and gorgeous would not be the right word, although Caroline likes it when I wear a wig and gown. Since we are already married, there is no explosive moment when A sweeps B off his or her feet, though I did find some relief in the fact that at the end of the book we were still together.

In this, the first of the Shameless series, it is the Muddy Waters character that leads to confusion for those who read books mainly while they are driving to work and so get lost. For my Muddy Waters is not one character, but many; a collection of bankers, politicians, and business people who are desperately trying to save the Eurozone from financial ruin. I accept the criticism of too many characters, but in my defence I have to say it really was a confusing time. Thank goodness we don't have to worry about major nations defaulting on their debts any more. (NB:  USA, USA !! Please note the use of irony. I shouldn't have to point it out, but some of the reviews from across the water suggest I do.)

I have undertaken a major cull of characters in the forthcoming Shameless Exposure to make it easier for people to read and operate machinery at the same time. Muddy Waters is played more or less by one person, Regina Heart. I am intending to signpost the plot with the use of BLOCK CAPITALS, bold type, and underlining at crucial points. I will also help readers get to know the characters (some of whom I can still count as friends) over the next few weeks by providing pen portraits, actual photographs, and contributions from said characters about their part in the book.

I will begin next week with Xena Bardot, who appears as Miss August in a very artistic charity calendar.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Moon Ceremony

Forbes-Brown has an office in Edinburgh and throws a piece of work my way every now and then. When he said he had a client who wanted to take on a big company for a complex case of wrongful dismissal, I didn't for one moment suspect that the client would be a woman I had previously crossed swords with. It was only when I got to Castle Dunlaggin that I realised the woman now calling herself Regina Heart was the same woman who, under the name Melody Bigger, had tried to blackmail my wife Caroline in the Eurobonds affair.

She appeared to be a reformed character. I should have remembered about leopards and spots, although Regina's animal guide was said by some to be a giant pussy. Bad weather made it impossible for me to leave the Isle of Mura on schedule and I was forced to stay for the 'moon ceremony.'

The tables were filled with smiling, chattering women. Nobody missed dinner this time, and not just because of the bottles of wine on the tables. Everyone was looking forward to the moon ceremony. For the majority, it would be their first attempt to make contact with an animal spirit. It would also be, except for the wayward Jocasta, their first physical release for at least twenty seven days, a release they had been skirting around with increasing difficulty in their daily practice.
     The upper reaches of the legal profession were one of the few remaining areas of modern work life, apart from rubbish collection, which was still a predominately male environment. Robert was not used to being outnumbered so comprehensively and sat down next to Angus for moral support once he had collected his bowl of yellow lentil stew with yellow rice from the kitchen.
     “Ye decided to stay then?” said Angus, taking off his cap and placing it on the table.
     “Regina more or less insisted, but I am curious to see the ceremony.”
     “Well I hope ye are feeling energetic. Ye may be in demand later on.”
     “Not me, I’m married.” Robert picked at his lentils, his appetite not stimulated by the smell or the texture.
     “There’s no one married on Mura. That’s what Miss Heart says, anyway. Ye best be prepared. Eat yer stew.”
     “What about you? Are you married?”
     “Nay. I’m still looking for the right girl. There’s not many single lasses on Sporran.” From his grizzled looks, Robert guessed Angus had been looking for a long time. Angus drained his cup of wine.
     “Is that where you’re from?”
     “Aye, lived there all my life.”
     “What about the women who come to Castle Dunlaggin? Lots of them seem to be single and looking for something or someone.”
     Angus leaned towards Robert and spoke conspiratorially: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad of the work ferrying people here and there and doing odd jobs for Miss Heart. But most of these lasses are wrong in the head. I wouldn’t want a girl of mine to get up to what they get up to.”
     “But surely there’s nothing wrong with masturbation?”
     “In front of strangers?”
     “But it’s not just mindless sex, is it? They’re trying to connect with some bigger power, develop themselves spiritually.”
     “You’ve no been taken in by this nonsense have you?”
     “Not taken in I hope. I’m just trying to keep an open mind. It’s part of my training.” Robert immediately wished he hadn’t reminded Angus that he was a lawyer. Angus gave him a look of contempt and refilled both their cups with wine.
     “Well don’t say I didn’t warn ye.”

Shameless Exposure by Robert Fanshaw will be published shortly by SteameReads.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Sound of Mura

Regina Heart had used the shell of Castle Dunlaggin to build the main centre for her animist religion. The castle was on a remote island, and to get to Regina's castle you had to take your chances with a small ferry, The Sound of Mura, that only ran when the weather was flat calm. The reason for my journey there was a legal matter. I certainly wasn't intending to participate in the programme.
Robert heard the boat before he saw it. He thought it must be some small fishing boat with an outboard motor, but then, as the high pitched whine increased, a flat-bottomed launch surged out of the mist. The captain of the vessel, standing at the back holding the tiller, cut the engine and the Sound of Mura drifted up to the jetty. Three women stood up in the boat and lurched to the side to clamber up on the jetty, assisted by the captain. When they were on the jetty, the captain looked at his watch.
“Eleven o’clock then. That’s when the boat leaves. If you’re not here I go without you.”
“Excuse me,” said Robert. “I thought the boat left at ten o’clock. That’s what it says on the notice.”
“That was last winter. We changed it to fit better with the ferry over from the mainland.” The boatman busied himself securing the vessel to the jetty.
“Is there anywhere to shelter – get a cup of coffee maybe?” asked Robert.
“You might as well come with us,” said one of the long haired girls. Robert was used to looking down slightly when he talked to women, but it was not necessary in this case. All three were taller than him. “We’re going to the hotel for our daily fix.” Robert looked puzzled. He’d not expected to encounter drug addicts in such a remote spot.
“Don’t look so worried. They do really good coffee. And more important, there’s a cigarette machine. I’m Georgina, by the way. And this is Joni. And Greta: she’s from Poland. We do assignments for the same agency.”
Ten minutes brisk walking with the long-striding women and Robert was back at the hotel in Blackwaterside. The man behind the bar was obviously expecting the women.
“The usual?”
“Yes please,” said Georgina, “but put in an extra shot all round. Coffee for this gentleman, too.”
The waiter nodded at Robert. “I thought you were a wee bit early for the boat. It’s not a day for sight-seeing.” Robert nodded back. He knew in theory that Scotland was a mountainous country but in three visits he had only ever had the merest glimpse of hillside through rain or mist.
Robert joined the women in the smoking shelter whilst the coffee was prepared. He asked them how long they had been at Dunlaggin Castle.
“Nearly three weeks,” said Joni. “Twenty eight days is the preferred stay – you have to go though one complete lunar cycle. It’s my second visit. It’s great because I lose loads of weight which is so hard in London.”
“I didn’t know Regina ran a weight loss programme,” said Robert.
“No, she doesn’t. It’s just that the food is simple. There’s no alcohol – except once a month at full moon. We drink loads of herbal tea and the pounds just fall off, which is handy in our line of work.” Of course, thought Robert, models.
“So you’re not interested in Regina’s animist philosophy?”
“I am,” said Joni, directing a plume of smoke away from Robert. “I’m not sure about those two. They seem more interested in practice than theory.” They all three giggled. They moved back into the warmth of the hotel to drink their coffee and spent the next twenty minutes establishing that Robert’s social circle and their own did not overlap at any point.
“Is that a watch?” asked Robert. “Only I’m worried about missing the boat.”
“This?” said Georgina, waving an electronic bracelet on her right wrist. “No, it’s not a watch. You have to wear it if you’re following the programme. You explain it, Greta. I get embarrassed.”
Greta shuffled up close to Robert and pulled back her sleeve.
“This is an Orgatron. It measures the female sexual response. It’s an aid to women following the programme because some women aren’t so sure if they’ve had an orgasm or not, and others have them at the drop of a hat. See the red area on the dial? That lights up if I have an orgasm and it sends a signal to Regina’s computer. And the yellow, that’s the zone we have to stay in until the full moon. It starts to flash if you get close to orgasm, it helps you learn control. Regina will explain it much better. It’s a means to an end. The idea is to connect with the spirit through the power of the female orgasm.”

Extract from Shameless Exposure by Robert Fanshaw, published soon by Steam eReads.

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.