Authors: James Herbert
My special thanks to Richard Young,
true paparazzo, but also true gentleman
(and certainly nothing like Joe Creed, the
dubious ‘hero’ of this novel). Richard’s
help in research has been invaluable.
My thanks also to three other
photographers – David Bennett for more
stories, Bob Knight for
technical advice and David Morse for
use of a certain mews home.
Demons today are a shoddy lot . . .
The first thing you ought to know about Joseph Creed is that he’s a sleaze of the First Order – maybe even of the
Order, considering his trade. The second is that he’s our hero.
(Not by choice, incidentally, is he the latter – not by
choice, anyway. Let’s just say circumstances and his own inglorious nature conspired to make him so.)
His trade? Taking candid snaps of the rich, the famous, or those who fall into that loose category of
. Ideally these snaps are of the kind the subject – or victim – would prefer not to be published (of course, the less preferred the higher their value on the media market). Creed, then, is a paparazzo (a scavenger lensman, some might say). Paparazzi is the plural, or ‘reptiles’ as their prey might refer to them. There are other descriptions: parasites, leeches, vultures. Scumbags is very popular. But lest we be too hard on them as a breed, it should be said at the outset that there are some exceedingly nice members of the paparazzi, some who even behave like gentlemen on occasion and yes, even those who are trustworthy. Unfortunately, Creed isn’t one of these.
Sometimes – no,
– his own kind, fellow photographers, snappers, smudgers, monkeys, shunned him (although it should be said that envy played some part here, for Creed had an upsetting knack of capturing on film the almost impossible, of snapping the unsnappable).
methods were despicable.
Something else that rankled with a few of the others in his male-dominated profession was his success with women (as a rule you have to be disliked in the first place for this to annoy others). His romances, to use an unfashionable term, seldom lasted long, but they
frequent and, three times out of five, his partners were definite lookers. He himself, you see, looked a little like Mickey Rourke, the actor (Mickey Rourke at his sleaziest, if you can imagine
) and when he smiled his knowing, almost mocking, smile, women knew, they just
, he was trouble. And God help them, that was his allure, that was what intrigued the ladies. They sensed he was a shit and, it’s true to say, he rarely let them down in that respect. Still they went for him, still they dipped in a toe and were upset, although not surprised, when they got scalded. Women aren’t easy to understand.
He had other bad points. Joe Creed could be mean, selfish, disreputable. He was a moral cheat, both amoral and immoral – although, in his favour, not all the time. He could be tetchy, obstinate, cynical and, if he thought he could get away with it, belligerent. He had friends, but no
friends. And yet he was tolerated by establishments which would never entertain others of his professional ilk (another point of envy among his colleagues): he was allowed to drink in the bars of several ‘in-place’ restaurants and clubs when on duty, provided his cameras were kept out of sight, and doormen and bouncers of the trendiest and most élite London nightclubs would always tip him the wink if there was a worthy celeb inside. This was mainly because Creed himself was a ‘known’ face, having haunted these places for so many years now; his name, because it had appeared so often beneath photographs of the rich and glamorous, was also ‘known’. He had, himself, become an integral part of the celeb circuit (or circus, if you prefer). As well as that, he knew how to grovel when the occasion demanded, and into whose hands to drop readies when required.
So that’s our boy. A rough idea only, but you get the picture. He’s sleazy, but good at his job; dislikable, yet interesting to certain women; accepted, although perhaps not respectable. You might like him, you might loathe him; maybe there’ll be a balance between the two.
Unfortunately, the circumstances in which we first meet him aren’t too endearing.
He’s . . .
. . . pissing into the corner of a tomb, inside one of those big old mausoleum affairs. A tomb, in fact, with a view, for it stands on a small knoll in the grounds of an expansive and impressive cemetery, surrounded by and slightly above others of its kind. As well as these extravagant sepulchres, there are acres of headstones – crosses, angels, obelisks and marble slabs, many of these crumbly and rotted (but not as crumbly and rotted as what rests beneath them). Creed zips up, shivering with the cold, damp, mouldy atmosphere, and leans back against a tier on which a chipped stone coffin lies. He continues to wait . . .
Creed sucked smoke from the thin brown roll-up dangling between his lips, warming his lungs and neutralizing the tomb’s earthy smell. He scratched his chin, fingernails loud against stubble within the confines of the echoey granite chamber (Creed, incidentally, sported stubble before and after it was designer, just as he wore clothes that fitted badly before that, too, became fashionable). He looked at his wrist-watch, angling its face towards the barred doorway through which cheerless light drooped. Not for the first time that morning he told himself there had to be better ways of making a living.
He stooped only slightly to check the Nikon’s viewfinder, for the camera, with its 400mm lens, was mounted on a tall tripod. That lens was pointed down the hill towards an open grave, the mound of earth beside the excavation moist and dark. He imagined the long lens was a bazooka and mentally blasted the narrow foxhole to hell, whispering the missile’s whooshing roar for sound effects. The earth explodes, bone shrapnel erupts from the pit, a thousand maggots feeding on the last of the flesh find the ability to fly . . . Creed closed his eyes.
Unhealthy, he told himself. Hanging around graveyards was definitely unhealthy. Skulking inside tombs was a degenerate pastime. And all for lousy shots of lousy people mourning a louse. Shit, Creed, Mother wanted better things for you.
He straightened, puffing smoke without removing the cigarette. Quit griping. You do it because you love it. The hours might be crazy, the conditions often lacklustre – he surveyed the stony décor – but you still get a buzz when
moment comes, when
shot’s in the viewfinder, when your finger hits the shutter release at precisely
right time, and you know beyond doubt you’ve got
one, the perfect picture. Nothing quite like it, is there? Even the pay-cheque isn’t as good as getting the shot. No,
moment is the thing,
moment rules. The ducking, the diving, the waiting, the scheming, they’re all part of it – every bit of foreplay counts – but
moment is sheer ejaculation. And if you knew you’d got it, that supreme moment captured on film, the high lingered until it was in print. By then, with luck, you were already on to the next, and maybe planning the one after that, even though planning didn’t come into it much because usually it all happened by chance (you just had to be ready for it). Gimme three big ones, Lord, was Creed’s constant prayer. Prince Charles weeping for his lost friend on the Klosters ski-slope, John Lennon signing an autograph for his assassin-to-be, a burning Buddhist or two. Something
, Lord, something for worldwide syndication, five-figure bids no less, front-page ratings. Gimme a classic like Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald. Or something like those Vietnamese kids fleeing naked from a napalm attack. Or even Joan Collins
wig would do. Be good to me, God, time’s running short.