Excerpt: VINYL DETECTIVE: WRITTEN IN DEAD WAX by Andrew Cartmel (Titan)

CartmelA-VD1-VinylDetectiveUKFollowing our interview with Andrew Cartmel, yesterday, Titan Books has sent us an excerpt from Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax. First, here’s the synopsis…

He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others.

Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client. 

Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…

Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax is out now, published by Titan Books.

*

The first thing I did was get online and search the Internet. Like I’d told her, this was usually the best and simplest way of finding a record. If she chose to ignore my advice and I happened to find a copy lurking somewhere in cyberspace for five quid and resold it to her at an enormous profit, that would serve her right.

But I didn’t find a copy. Not for five pounds or five hundred. There were some images of the record — it had the usual wacky Everest cover art — but no copies for sale. And no information about copies having ever been sold, anywhere, in recent memory. It was obviously a very scarce item. There were various mentions of it on vinyl chat rooms; sundry losers talking about how they’d love to find a copy, and speculations about how much money it might change hands for.

But no hard facts.

So I put my coat on, told the cats to expect me back in a couple of hours and went out. I tramped across the common through the long wet grass and caught a train to Waterloo and then got the Tube, the Northern Line, to Goodge Street. Between Goodge Street and Charlotte Street there is a warren of narrow back alleys, although the word “alleys” doesn’t really conjure up the scrubbed and gleaming affluence of the neighbourhood. The area is a mixture of upmarket shops and narrow terraced residential buildings. I walked down some whitewashed stairs to what looked like the gleaming red front door of somebody’s basement flat until you read the brass plate on it, which read styli in a discreet typeface.

There was an illuminated doorbell on the left but I pushed through the door and walked straight in. A short hallway led to a staircase on the left and a door on the right. I went through the door. It led into a small lounge, carpeted and full of handsome but mismatched armchairs with green shaded reading lamps.

The walls were shelved from floor to ceiling and lined with records, CDs, and a few DVDs.

On the wall there were small, framed pictures of conductors and opera stars whom I couldn’t have named if my life depended on it.

The room was empty at the moment except for Jerry,

who was sitting in his favourite chair near the window reading a book about Bernard Herrmann. “Hello there,” he said, putting a pencil in the book to mark his place and setting it aside. “I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Cash flow problems.” I sat down in the chair nearest to him.

He shook his head. “That should never be a problem,” he said. “You know your credit’s good here. If there are things you want, just take them home. Pay me later, or whenever.” He smiled. Jerry Muscutt was a small, contented man with enquiring grey eyes. Despite his considerable age he had an unlined face and sleek red hair and a pointed beard. The hair and beard at least were the products of artifice. Some wag had once left a package of Tints of Nature red hair dye in the kitchen unit to tease him. It hadn’t bothered Jerry in the least and the hair dye packet had remained proudly on display for months, on a high shelf beside a boxed set of Gounod.

“We’ve just bought a large collection, including a lot of jazz,” he said. “Haven’t got it sorted yet. I’m still going through it at home. But when we bring it into the shop I’ll let you know. You can have a sneak preview. I think there will be some items to interest you.”

“Thank you.”

 “In the meantime you want to pop upstairs.” Upstairs is where they kept the jazz. “We’ve got some Spanish Fresh Sound reissues on vinyl that you’ll want to see. Tell Kempton I put them behind the counter for you.”

“Thanks, Jerry. That’s great. But actually today it’s the classical department I wanted to explore.”

He looked at me shrewdly. “Classical music? That’s not like you.”

“I’m on commission,” I said. “Looking for a record.”

“Well, if it’s classical, I’m your man.”

“It’s an original Everest pressing.”

He smiled. “The turquoise and silver label, then.”

“I imagine so. It’s the Goossens Firebird Suite, recorded here in London.”

His smiled widened. “Ah, really?” he said. “Why don’t you make us both a cup of tea — coffee for you, of course — and I’ll tell you all about that record. Fascinating story.”

*

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