The always-controversial businessman and former comedian Chris Dangerfield has not cropped up in this blog for a while.
He now lives in Cambodia. Things have turned out OK for him.
When the weather is suitable, he wears $2,000 suits and $600 shoes. We spoke via Skype.
As always, blogs involving Chris are not for the faint-hearted reader.
JOHN: Here we are in the middle of a world-wide economic calamity. Are you still running your lock-picking business?
CHRIS: Yeah. Internet businesses are doing very well.
JOHN: When did you move to Cambodia?
CHRIS: Three or four years ago this March, I think. But I really don’t know. I’ve lost count.
JOHN: Why did you move to Cambodia?
CHRIS: I used to come out here to get clean. To Thailand. To get off the heroin. I used to come out here, cold turkey and stay clean while I was here but, every time I went back to London, I wouldn’t last long. I started associating my life in England with drug use and a sort of melancholy. It’s cold and grey and England’s changing in dramatic ways that I don’t support in any way.
JOHN: So why did you not move to Thailand?
CHRIS: That was the initial plan. But the visa there is not so simple. With me owning a business in Britain. You’re right. Patong, Thailand, is in many ways my spiritual home… but the phrase I’ve used before is I didn’t want to marry my mistress. Wherever you live is your life and I want Patong to be a holiday for me. I didn’t want to live there.
JOHN: It always struck me as a tad odd you went to Thailand and lived in a brothel to get off heroin.
CHRIS: It was very difficult to get heroin in that part of Thailand. Really. Compared to ice and weed and all the other stuff. So I didn’t have a hook-up for heroin in Patong. Also, I had an affair with a Thai madam who, when I met her, was a street-walking prostitute but, as our relationship developed over the years, she ended up running two of her own massage shops.
JOHN: Your business acumen helped her?
CHRIS: Not at all. She’s an incredible woman. But part of going out to Thailand to get clean was knowing that she would be there and she loved me and she would help me. I knew she would. I had never met a woman like her before. All the women in my life had been psychotic and awful… Well… I had a part to play in that. The common denominator was me…
…though also they WERE all mental.
Anyway, about five or six years ago, after about five weeks of the acute period phase of withdrawal, I just started writing this novel for the lack of anything better to do because I didn’t have the strength to go out. I was shuffling about like a zombie.
So I just started writing down what I’d gone through during that very intense withdrawal. I didn’t have any methadone or Subutex or anything. A couple of Xanax here and there, but…
Anyway, after that I kept doing bits and bobs and bits and bobs of writing and I was talking to Will Self about the novel and, when I finally got it near finished last year – about 110,000-120,000 words – I asked Will: “Look, what do I need? A copy editor? A proof reader?”
And me and him got on like a house on fire. We were chatting about it for the year leading up to a couple of months ago and I gave him the manuscript and there’s a lot of work needs doing on it but I’m kinda hopeful it will be out in around March 2021. It just keeps taking longer because Nick wants it to be as good as it can be and, because I want people to read it, he wins… I’m very, very proud of it.
The working title was Thai Style Cold Turkey, but I think maybe it’s going to be called Pharmakon Patong.
JOHN: It’s a bad time to be publishing books, isn’t it?
CHRIS: I think there’s not been a better time to be a writer.
Amazon Direct Publishing is the way to go at the moment. It’s unlikely you’re gonna sell hundreds and thousands of novels and get rich. It does happen, but not often. When you self-publish through Amazon, your novel is available 48 hours after uploading it and it’s available as a paperback or a Kindle. And you get 70% of the cover price – not 7½% which you get with traditional publishing.
So you publish the novel, do as much marketing as you can, do podcasts, build up a social media presence which I’ve kinda got – I’ve got 20,000 YouTube followers, 6,000 Twitter followers and ten years of stand-up gave me a little bit of a reputation out there – and you might sell 50 copies a month… which isn’t gonna make you rich…
But, on YouTube, I have told 400+ hours of stories. At the moment, I do two streams daily on my YouTube channel.
So, after this novel, I’m going to transcribe all those and I’ve probably got about five books of short stories. So I can put all them out there. And they might all sell 50 a month.
So I might be selling 300 copies of different books a month.
300 x £7 is not bad coming in monthly.
Then I do another novel. And another novel. And, if you can get two novels or two books of shorts out a year and create a little bit of interest in you then, in five years, it wouldn’t be unreasonable, to be earning a few grand a month from writing.
JOHN: Where did you get this business brain? Your parents?
CHRIS: (LAUGHS) No. Unless you include a failed Amway period by my old man. He was buying loads of really stupid cleaning products and pyramid selling them.
JOHN: But you ARE quite entrepreneurial.
CHRIS: It was noticed very early at school sports day – I used to go down the old cash & carry and sell sherbet dib-dabs and make a few quid. My grandad once gave me a sheep’s skull. Not covered in meat. Just bone. But I set a little stall up in my front garden and people could touch it for 2 pence. I mean, like, I’m Thatcher’s Child. I was like 10 years old in 1982.
JOHN: So you have this upcoming book to promote…What’s the elevator pitch?
CHRIS: At the start, a man is at Heathrow Airport. He’s decided to get clean and go to Thailand. And the end of the novel he is on an aeroplane going back to England. So it’s seven odd weeks. True story. There’s very little creativity there. It’s just what happened.
JOHN: So the moral is you should never leave your own home country?
CHRIS: No, the moral is you SHOULD because it turned out quite nice. BUT there’s two stories running simultaneously. There’s one in Thailand – which is written in the first person present. There’s also one about my childhood, which is written in the first person past. And they kind of interlink.
One of the problems I’ve had with the editor is he keeps talking about the architectonic of the story.
JOHN: May the Lord protect us.
CHRIS: Yes, I’ve had to Google it regularly, too… But here’s the point… Much like my stand-up, I tend to start telling my story, then remind myself of something else, then go into that story then, while I’m telling that story, I’ll go into something else… so it’s kind of like fractular.
CHRIS: Fractular. Now, that’s OK so long as, at some point, you come back to the first story and second story and round it all up. That’s fine.
But what he’s been saying is sometimes it’s just confusing. He says he knows there’s an element of it reflecting what I’m going through in the novel, which is kind of cool… If the form of the novel reflects the content, then you’re on to something. But he says sometimes it just gets in the way of the storytelling. So that needs looking at.
JOHN: So back to the elevator pitch. What’s the novel about?
CHRIS: I set out to write a novel about addiction and withdrawal but I think it’s a story about love.
JOHN: Love of whom or what?
CHRIS: Just love as an idea and what happens when there’s not a lot about.
JOHN: You’ve got to love something. It’s a verb that needs an object.
CHRIS: Right. So when you don’t have a lot of love in your life, you end up doing what goes on in this novel.