Joolz Denby's 'benign literary virus'



One of my favorite contemporary novelists is Joolz Denby, who also happens to be a poet, tattoo artist and longtime partner of New Model Army frontman Justin Sullivan (who was recently interviewed in these very pages).

Denby's previous books (Billie Morgan, Borrowed Light, and the poetry collection, Pray for Us Sinners) are edgy, intelligent and eminently readable works that earned international acclaim and literary awards. So it’s really not all that surprising that her latest novel, Wild Thing, was turned down by today's increasingly desperate, genre-obsessed publishing industry.

Undaunted, the author announced this week that she’s giving away her book for free, by request, via e-mail attachment.

The novel, notes Denby, was “turned down by publishers both in the UK & US on the grounds that though 'beautifully written' it is not 'in genre' & therefore cannot be 'marketed' - also that it is 'too harsh for the modern reader'. I would ask whoever gets it to pass it on & ask those whom they send it to to pass it on to people they think might like to read it and so on and so on - a kind of benign literary virus. However, if you don't like it & think your friends would not be interested, that's also fine, just delete it.”

Not being one for spoilers, I won’t tell you anything about the novel, except to quote a couple of early passages that, I think, suggest the range of Denby's literary gifts. So here’s how the book opens:

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, I had everything you’re supposed to want. All the stuff they tell you about on the telly and in the celeb mags, the lifestyle you’re supposed to die for. I had a good job at a major record company, a bijou loft apartment in London, the parties, the clothes, the gorgeous rock-star boyfriend, the cocaine, the champagne, the permanent guest-list at the kind of clubs that pissed-up silicone sculpted glamour-models are paparazzi’d leaving with a Premier League footballer in tow and without their knickers.

And here’s how the first chapter ends:

And Wild Thing is out there. On the frost-silvered black hillside. I know what he’ll look like; I’ve watched him so many times before. He’ll be a dark shape cut out of the icy ground and the sharp diamond glitter of the freezing stars; sinuous, silent, full of power; a shadow moving this way like thunder creeping over the horizon. You’d never spot him if you didn’t know how to look for him. But I know. I know.

He’s on his way home.

He loves me.

You can send off your request to


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