HP Tinker

Excerpts From The Extraordinary Autobiography of Mister HPT

Let me speak with ruthless candour for there isn’t much time.

I was born on a mountaintop in Montana during an entirely unexpected flower festival. My mother was a blooming orchid, a dazzling drop of golden rain, a sizzling sunshine shower who worked in retail fashion. Raised in a brothel on the wrong side of the tracks, she found salvation as a part-time good time girl until she met my father, a Texan rustler only just re-released into the wider community. Soon wrangling Levi jeans for a living, father became a semi-professional metaphor for rural American life and flew us to England for narrative reasons. Here, rented seaside circumstances and a lonely, humbling childhood of smartly-observed bowling greens and luxuriously rundown sports pavilions. Father being an uncertain man in many ways to mask his uncertainty he wore many masks. Favourites included ex-President Jimmy Carter and a hard-faced Catholic hard-man known only as West Fife Frank.

Around March 1975 father became increasingly delusional.

He began dressing in ill-fitting maternity clothes and declared himself to be the long lost brother of Gore Vidal. Often he would disappear mysteriously into the middle of the night only to reappear again outside Sainsbury’s several hours later having drunk heavily. Eventually he was imprisoned for smuggling imaginary cocaine to footballers and not long after an intruder broke into the family home and stole all of my mother's affections. In buoyant mood, she left for Calais on the newly-invented hovercraft before throwing herself over the side just five minutes later. She left behind few clues why - only some laminated suicide notes and an erotic mural of Anne Sexton eating pizza. Orphaned to the fates of chance I went to live with my Uncle Goethe who ran the local reptile zoo from his simple mountainside chateau. Very quickly I acquired a lively appreciation of the arts here, surrounded as I was by ancient holy artefacts, dark occult research materials, and boys from the local squash courts.

One evening I awoke to find Uncle Goethe hunched over my bed, the warm smell of distilled beverage on his lips. Almost immediately he began adjusting himself and slurring heavily in italics. “There has been a slow and steady erosion of melancholy from the modern world,” he mumbled darkly. “Genuine melancholy is now being replaced by new forms of State-subsidised emotion and the ruling classes have introduced mass-manufactured melancholy into modern ITV drama - apparently realistic programming which induces a state of faux melancholia within the viewer, evoking only the palest responses, causing people to dissolve slowly over the course of many years, fusing into armchairs and sofas, like a hugely worrying national symbiosis …”

Uncle Goethe too was now insane.

And by June 1977 he was also dead, killed by a falling pig.

February 1978 arrived eventually - and after six months in an All-Catholic Girls School, I became incredibly self-important and intensely shy and very unpopular. Soon however it was 1980 and Capitalism was everywhere closely pursued by the ZX81, the Falklands, Space Invaders, school bullies, divorcing parents, Double Fantasy, bad poetry, Geography, and Kajagoogoo. Then 1981 followed. Or 1983. Or 1982. (Which, I can’t recall.) And I fled into the woods with Isabelle and Alexis and Louisa and Claudette and Little Tommy. That first evening beneath the stark gaze of the moon, we swore our allegiance to the Six Ruling Principles of the Forestry Senate and hung Little Tommy from a sycamore tree.

When I woke the next morning Isabelle and Alexis and Louisa and Claudette were gone.
I took to taking long lonesome walks through the brutal wilderness and spent approximately the next five years alone, accompanied only by a badly damaged lingerie catalogue. Curiously, the images of semi-clothed women contained within cheered me, instigating as they did strangely hollow feelings similar to actual sexual desire. Many hours passed me here alone in quiet contemplation of my catalogue until one afternoon when several savages appeared some way off in the mid-distance. On closer inspection they seemed to be disgruntled career women removing their business suits near the motorway service station bottle recycling facilities.

Dear reader, some strange and rare compulsion overtook me in an instant and I sprinted towards these women with a most uncommon vigour. One woman - who claimed her name was Miriam - explained that a time of human cloning was drawing near. I listened intently, noting that her head was shaven and there appeared to be a surgical scar across her brow. For what felt like several hours “Miriam” passionately espoused a radical philosophy combining guilt-free sexual relations with the lesser known scientific theories of Karl Popper. My penis rose and she kissed me and the next morning she kissed me again until after several days I ejaculated into the palms of her hands.

Two years later I escaped to Bromley and joined André Deutsch.

This heralded a period of intense personal creativity for me, characterised by an incredible self-belief that - I would later discover - had absolutely no grounding in any basis whatsoever. Sitting at my heavy oak desk, I was 37 again, having aged backwards while my contemporaries wrinkled visibly around me. It was winter and I was being treated for severe incontinence, but my cancer was in remission and my cock was showing small signs of life. Late one evening my close friend Studs Terkel lured me into his office from across the corridor by performing the Theme From Shaft on a ukulele. On entering his damp, rather stuffy quarters I was surprised to find a fatherly face contemplating a Woodbine. I was even more surprised to find the face and Woodbine belonged to Doris Lessing, the semi-handsome female author blessed with prominent canines.

“An attractive older lady like you shouldn’t confuse herself with quirky semi-autobiographical prose,” I quipped in a voice that suggested it knew what it was talking about.

She agreed and beat me zestfully across both nostrils.

Although my nose bled for weeks from her playful ramifications, I commissioned her to write the greatest novel of the 1980s. She declined and wrote the greatest novel of 1960s instead. A few days afterwards she danced into my office wearing a beer-stained raincoat, a curious expression all over her face. Peeling off the coat to reveal a pair of tennis shorts beneath, she soon stood naked where the rest of her clothes had once been.

“Let’s discuss James Joyce!” she cried.

“No,” I said sternly and following an unsuccessful bid at carnal relations she flew to Ibiza to shoot a fitness video with Kathy Acker.

A year then passed while I ruled Shepard’s Bush like a vagabond Messiah, wreaking my peculiar brand of sexual magic upon the local populous, sleeping with an alarming number of alarmingly young harlots at a quite alarming rate… followed by a whole other year, a year of living vicariously in brightly lit places where lonely taverns and twenty-four hour strip joints are traditionally traditional. Eventually, however, I moved to Muswell Hill – home of acclaimed film director Mike Leigh and popular Scottish homosexual serial killer Dennis Nilson - and turned to eviscerating quirky semi-autobiographical prose to myself, examining the lost celluloid of youth… expressing my years of dismal dismay in beautiful words… reconstructing tragic events out of day-to-day emotional bric-a-brac… until eventually they resembled a small masterpiece. This small masterpiece even went on to earn itself a small heap of praise.

“What do you get from a small heap of praise?” I asked Mrs. Empson at one of her famously crapulous garden parties.

“A whole heap of trouble,” she laughed, flexing her shoulders like a heavyweight boxer. Amongst the bevy of young Victorians sprawled languidly across the lawns I noted a gaunt Malcolm Lowry looking immensely pleased with himself and the young novelist Fay Weldon cheerfully beating CS Lewis over the head with a hockey stick. Returning to Gower Street several days later in a state of sartorial disarray I vowed that from now on my life would proceed in a quite different direction. So it proved. In less than six months I grew a Lou Reed poodle perm and married Gertrude Peppercorn, the well known solo pianist. We moved to Worthing and lived together very miserably in a cemetery by the sea. Most weekends were spent painting curtains onto the window panes in an attempt to replicate the apparent happiness of others.

“What is happiness?” she asked me one day.

“I have absolutely no idea,” I admitted. (I had just eaten stale prunes and cold water, washed down with a hot jug of custard.)

An explosion of contemptuous wrinkles rippled across her face.

“Button up your pants,” she barked, “and never remove them in front of me again.”

She sliced a cucumber viciously while I contemplated a career in investment banking.

The next morning after a traditionally stressful marital breakfast she ran naked along the beach and climbed into a taxi that by sheer coincidence happened to be waiting there. There swiftly followed a depression of such spirits as I have ever known. By now just the very business of being Mister HPT was proving fruitless and barren. From certain angles I resembled Gene Hackman in The Conversation and I was barely able to scratch out a living as a tuna fisherman, crop-picker, hired gun, short order cook, cab driver, lithographer, door-to-door Bible salesman, floorwalker, and personal cocktail waitress to ex-Communard Jimmy Somerville – whilst also publishing prodigiously on the early political slapstick of Bertolt Brecht and Walter de la Mare in prestigious Parisian journal Les Temps Modernes

In time I became so poor I began chewing my own shoe leather.

For the next few years I travelled extensively, exploring myself and much of South East Asia.[1] The melting pot of New York offered a temporary sanctuary from other melting pots worldwide. I briefly tasted the warm throb of Rome - but when Rome stopped throbbing and Paris proved indifferent, I started to flounder. (In retrospect my subsequent affair with a young, impressionable, flame-haired 19th Century prostitute was probably always doomed to failure.) Following a nervous breakdown in the Pyrenees I flew home to discover a kind of economic cataclysm had taken place within general society. Amidst the dreary post-war landscape of Paul Auster austerity I staggered through an abandoned Piccadilly, lurched down a silent Trafalgar Square and urinated freely in front of the unguarded Buckingham Palace. Eventually I found refuge in a lesbian gyp joint where my few sources of comfort included the novels of Rick Moody and a Venezuelan gymnast I encountered cheerleading in the remains of Canary Wharf. For a while it seemed as though my entire life had lost much of its previous meaning.

Then one morning everything changed.

On July 16, 20--, a handwritten manuscript of China Miéville’s greatest works fell into my possession.[2] For only the second time in seventeen months I leapt onto both feet and snorted "jebo ti morski pas mater!" decisively through upwardly flared nostrils. From a close textual analysis of the text I began extrapolating various revolutionary literary theories which had previously baffled Creative Writing tutors for centuries. Uncertain of how to proceed I handed the manuscript to DCB Pierre, an acknowledged connoisseur in the field of lyrical Gnosticism, for further analysis. DCBP was unusually interested in the unthinkable and how you go about actually thinking it.

“Unsayable things do exist,” he insisted. “Like a spastic colon, for instance.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

Ahhhh,” DCBP said, rather mysteriously, “you’ll never know because I'm being rather mysterious.”

The next day DCBP sold the manuscript to Hari Kunzru for £150,000 and chartered a prawn boat in search of the lost treasures of Stéphane Mallarmé. I can still recall the fateful afternoon he set sail with near brutal clarity.

I stayed at home reading Martin Chuzzlewit.


[1] A long, somewhat drawn-out journey, I must admit, encompassing the ancient hills of Cork, Geneva, Bordeaux, Colorado, Libya, Gothenburg, Venice, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Cornwall, an apocalyptic traffic jam, a group of violent ex-philosophers, a couple of wise-cracking carjackers, Sir Stephen Spender, Joan Baez, Charlton Athletic, Jorges Luis Borges, and ELO, live at Wembley Arena.

[2] The exact details of how it did so are not important.

HP Tinker lives in Manchester. He does not write for the Guardian, the Independent, the New Statesman or Time Out.


  1. Absurd, delusional, schizoid and strangely enjoyable.
    Hoorah for HP!!!

  2. I am trying to contact HP, how can i do that?