Michael Moorcock happened to be visiting the UK in the May or June of 1999, shortly before publication of my Britpulp! short story anthology for Sceptre. He had contributed a new Jerry Cornelius story called ‘The Spencer Inheritance’ to the collection, and had also made available some beautiful and never-before-published writing by the legendary Jack Trevor Story. Mike’s presence in the UK seemed a good excuse to pull together a photo shoot of as many of the other, living contributors as I could assemble in one place. We shot some interviews for Channel 4’s then late night TV book show Pulped in the Golden Hart on Commercial Street and then walked around the corner to the Brick Lane entrance of the lower levels of the old Bishopsgate Goods Yard (now demolished) where I’d arranged an hour or two’s access to this incredible space. A few of the writers just couldn’t make it, including Victor Headley and Simon Lewis, who I think must both have been out of the country. Photographer and friend Hugo Glendinning did the honours, producing this amazing panoramic shot, here newly digitized from 35mm slide, and which as far as I know never appeared in print at the time, except as reportage in Iain Sinclair’s review of Moorcock’s King of the City for the LRB. ‘When he makes one of his brief returns to England,’ Sinclair writes:
he is treated like a privileged ghost, a convalescent. Younger writers, attached to a sentimental notion of the heroic age of pulp, rumours of mass-market readership, have elected Moorcock as their King of the May (like Allen Ginsberg in dark ages Prague). A Prince of Thieves. It’s a courtesy title: see Moorcock, in the publicity shot for the collection britpulp!, on his throne under the railway arches, a scarfed and hatted Fagin surrounded by smooth-cheeked, bare-headed acolytes – Tony White, Stewart Home, Steve Aylett, Steve Beard, China Mieville. What you are getting is a frame from Moorcock’s comic strip, The Metatemporal Detective, showing a traditional ‘hell’s kitchen’ where ‘Old Man Smith’, the piratical ruler of the underworld, lounges on a raised chair to receive his tributes. Only in the labyrinth of fiction is Moorcock recognised as king of the city.
L-R: Stewart Home, Steve Aylett, J.J.Connolly, Nicholas Blincoe, Stella Duffy, Michael Moorcock, Steve Beard, Tim Etchells, Billy Childish, Jenny Knight, China Miéville, me, Darren Francis.