The latest edition of UK magazine Beatscene is out now and there are three reasons I’d like to turn you on to its existence. But first a brief history of the magazine.
Beatscene was started by Kevin Ring in 1988, a time when interest in writers like Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs was at its lowest. As Kevin writes, ‘News of the books, many of which were out of print in those far off days, and the writers in the English media was pitiful, sporadic and patchy. Finding out about Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and the others was a difficult thing to do.’
(I can attest to that. Around the time Kevin was just getting going, I pitched an idea for a TV programme about Bukowski to a commissioning editor for a BBC arts programme. The whey-faced child had no idea who I was talking about.)
I discovered Beatscene in the early 1990s, in a dingy Brighton vinyl and kitsch emporium and had a frisson as powerful as when I was 15 and heard the Ramones first album. Beatscene was the magazine I’d been looking for since I read On the Road in 1973, aged 12. I bought every issue I could find.
Today Beatscene is distributed worldwide and is highly respected. When I interviewed David Amram recently he said 'I have almost every edition of Beatscene since they started publishing and it's a marvellous and truly valuable resource for all people interested in the legacy of Jack and the era and ethos that he documented'. Best of all for me, Beatscene was also instrumental in getting me writing regularly again.
It starts in Tangier
Fast forward to August 2011. I was in Tangier interviewing Mohammed Mrabet, a Moroccan friend of Paul Bowles, formerly a storyteller but now a painter. Mrabet and I didn’t take to each other, although I have to say I still love his painting. I was using Mrabet as the starting point for writing about the darker, more magical side of my life. Mrabet, who was 75 and sick, wanted me to help him write a final account of his life which rewrote history and presented him as a good Muslim.
To date, the only published piece of writing that has come out of my encounter with Mrabet appeared in Beatscene in summer 2012. It was an interview with American composer Phillip Ramey, a gleefully waspish man who knew Bowles well. It felt good to have my work published in Beatscene and it was a start.
Since then, my writing has appeared regularly in Beatscene. I’ve written about Tangier, William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke in Mallorca (where I live) and, most recently, Jack Kerouac and David Amram. Beatscene has given me a reason to write about a group of writers who continue to fascinate me and who are some sort of influence on my own work, even if I’m not entirely sure what this is.
The three reasons
If you love the Beat writers – from the big names to footnotes like Jack Micheline – Beatscene is one of the very few places you can read about them in-depth.
Today, when we do so much of our reading online or via screens, it’s a joy to receive a heavy-duty old-fashioned steam magazine in the mail and know you’re going to be happily in Beat world for the next few hours.
And the third reason? You can read more splendid writing by moi, of course. So why not order your copy now? As they say.