Goodnight Steve McQueen

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From the author of The Perfect Play comes a charmingly romantic- yet very edgy-novel set in the music industry about friendship, love, growing up, and always following your dreams. Danny McQueen has dreamed of being a pop star since he was thirteen-years-old. Now he's twenty-nine and still dreaming. But he faces a dilemma. His girlfriend Alison wants him to sort his life out. She's given him an ultimatum: Find a record deal by the end of the year or it's find a new girlfriend. When is it time to give up on your childhood ambitions? When is it time to stop watching Columbo in your underpants and get a proper job? Is six months long enough for one last assault on the big time? Is friendship ever more important than love? Is it just your imagination or can your girlfriend always tell when you've been looking at Internet porn? With the help of his boss Kostas, his two best friends, and an eighty-year-old Kung Fu enthusiast called Sheila, Danny McQueen is about to find out.


Goodnight Steve McQueen
A Novel

Chapter One

Do you remember the quiz show Winner Takes All? It had a top prize of one thousand pounds. They kept it in a Perspex display case. A thousand crisp green notes. Right there. Right under your nose, and it was real money as well, not like those cheques they wave about on WhoWants to be a Millionaire?

I can't remember anyone winning it, though. Not ever. Most ofthe contestants seemed happy with fifty quid and a slap on theback from Liza Tarbuck's dad: a weekend for two in Blackpool ifthey were lucky. And you knew it would rain the whole timethey were there. And you knew Peter from Wilmslow wassecretly gay so he'd have to take Beryl, his arthritic nan, insteadof Rita, his imaginary wife. And you knew he wouldn't be ableto go backstage and have his picture taken with the Nolan Sistersafter all, because he'd have to be back at the Grand PalaceB&B before the ten o'clock curfew.

Thanks, Tarby. Thanks very much.

I mean, what a con. Talk about massaging the truth. It shouldhave been called Loser Takes All. It should have been called No-Hope-Rubbish-Hair-Crap-Job-No-Prospects-Lousy-Boyfriend-LoserTakes All.

I can't help thinking I would have done rather well.

My name is Steve McQueen and I'm a very bitter man. What onearth were they thinking of, calling me Steve? Didn't theyrealise it would ruin me? Didn't they know I'd be tortured?Didn't they understand it would be impossible for me to live upto? Did they hell. It was my mum's fault, of course, she wasobsessed with him. The only reason she married my dad in thefirst place was because of the name. It didn't matter that he wasa geography teacher. It didn't matter that he was bald at the ageof eighteen, fat at the age of twenty-two, and dead at the age ofthirty-three and a half. Mum had what she'd always wanted.She'd married herself a genuine McQueen.

I was three years old when my father died -- he had a heartattack on a field trip to an ox-bow lake -- and for a long time Iactually thought Steve McQueen was my real dad. I remembermy mum sitting me down to watch The Towering Inferno when Iwas five -- spooning down my second helping of Heinz spaghettihoops -- and feeling really proud. We both clapped at the end.What a guy. He'd even managed to save Fred Astaire and thecat. What a guy. What a dad.

There were pictures of him all over the house. Steve drivinghis Porsche 917 from Le Mans, Steve flying through the air inhis 1968 Mustang from Bullitt, Steve being chased by Nazis inThe Great Escape, and a giant scrapbook filled with press cuttingsthat she kept in a bruised leather suitcase under her bed.

"Who's this?" I said, flicking through her scrapbook oneafternoon. "Who is this?"

"It's Ali MacGraw, the lady out of Love Story."

"What's Love Story?"

"Oh, it's so sad. Oh, I don't think I can talk about it. Notwithout crying."

And off she went, off to fetch a hankie from the dressingtabledrawer, and all I could think was, Why is Dad doing that?What is Dad doing kissing Ali MacGraw?

I suppose things were okay to begin with. I was a great-lookingchild. I looked like the Milky Bar Kid only cuter: white blondhair, wire-rimmed spectacles, and the cheekiest, wide-mouthed,gap-toothed grin you've ever seen.

She was dead proud of me. I could tell she thought there washope: that I might grow up to be a movie star or a Formula 1driver or a teenage multimillionaire, and for a few precious years(apart from finding out that my dad was a dead geography teacherinstead of an A-list Hollywood star) I was blissfully happy.

I brought home crayon drawings of racing cars and Mum stuckthem on the fridge next to her collection of Steve McQueenquotes. I built models of doomed Apollo rockets out of cornflakepackets and Mum put them on the sideboard next to her picture ofSteve McQueen's house: 27 Oakmont Drive, Brentwood, California-- we knew the address by heart. I collected model motorcycles,built planes out of balsa wood and elastic bands, and I even wentto martial arts classes on account of my namesake being a thirddanblack belt in karate. I was rather good at it. I won the club'sunder-tens trophy in 1979. It was a great year. The same year I wona Blue Peter badge for my papier-mâché Shep.

And then it all went wrong.

"What's this?" I said, pointing to an angry red lump on my forehead."What is this?"


"What's acne?"

"Oh. It's so awful. I don't think I can talk about it. Have youbeen masturbating, Steve McQueen?"

Of course I'd been masturbating. I was thirteen years old.My life was one long shower. I was the cleanest teenager in thewhole of Woodford Wells. I masturbated so much I worried thatmy cock would spontaneously combust from all the friction(spontaneous combustion was very big in the eighties), and anywayit was supposed to make you go blind, not cover your face indeep-pile acne vulgaris. I didn't wank again for almost threeyears. I didn't dare.

I tried everything I could think of. I gave up chocolate,stopped drinking milk, painted my skin with foul-smellingpotions that made my skin peel like a sun-baked onion, butnothing did any good. Every morning I'd wake up in a pool ofnocturnal emissions, half my face stuck to the brushed-nylon pillowcase,desperate for a wank and a bowl of Coco Pops ...

Goodnight Steve McQueen
A Novel
. Copyright © by Louise Wener. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Goodnight Steve McQueen by Louise Wener
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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