Writer fashions a sinister debut

2:04pm Thursday 2nd March 2006

By Peter Stebbings

Murder. Paedophilia. Prison. Asylum seekers.

These are just some of the thorny subjects explored by Crouch End author Barry Laden in his debut novel, Klarkey's War, to be released on March 16.

Mr Laden, 40, of Rectory Gardens, has already enjoyed a successful career as a fashion entrepreneur, having opened The Laden Showroom in Brick Lane, east London, with his sister Adele a shopping mecca for celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher.

Mr Laden, a Crouch End resident for 20 years, also launched The London Fashion Bus, a double-decker bus converted into a mobile clothes store.

His latest contribution to the arts world is something entirely different, however.

Spanning Aberdeen, Portsmouth, London, Paris, Spain and beyond, this gritty thriller follows the character Francis Klarke, or Klarkey', a people-smuggler who unleashes a tidal wave of revenge upon the unsuspecting criminals of Britain'. Punishment and revenge are the central themes. In particular, are there any circumstances in which murder can be justified?

"How would we feel if our nearest and dearest were actually killed by someone? How would we feel about that person? And how would we react? That's at the core," said Mr Laden.

This novel is not for the faint-hearted a disclaimer at the beginning hints at the nastiness to come. Almost comically, the book seeks to distance itself should anyone decide to wreak revenge on a rival as a result of reading it.

Its preface states: "The conduct of the characters is neither condoned nor condemned by the author, and should not be considered a manual for action."

Mr Laden said: "It started as a short story with the first chapter, but then a lot of people who read it asked me: What happens next?' From there ideas led to other ideas. I did the book on and off over a couple of years, finishing in the summer last year. I'm not one to sit down and do it religiously sometimes I wouldn't write for a couple of months.

"There's a lot going on in the book. A friend of mine who read it, who works in TV and is a writer, said to me: I really like the drama, but is it really true?' I like to write exciting things that you're not sure if they are true or not."

For a man who has made his money from the fashion business, this book represents a curious departure. While Laden conceded that was a fair point', he is hoping people will not judge him personally according to his choice of subject. "It's just something that came to me," he said. "It's nothing more strange or sinister than that. I suppose crime and criminality, and our perceptions of criminals, is something that is on a lot of people's minds.

"Klarkey is an anti-hero. You don't necessarily think he's a bad person. His actions are quite extreme, but we want to like him."

Klarkey's War, published by East of City Press, will be available to buy at amazon.co.uk and tesco.com and, hopefully, will soon be in bookshops.

All profits from the book will go into a trust for young fashion designers.

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