Richard: A Novel – Read An Extract

This week’s issue of NME features an interview with Manic Street Preachers’ Nicky Wire.

In it, he discusses the Manics’ tenth album ‘Postcards From A Young Man’, due for release on September 27.

A week later, Picador publish a novel by Ben Myers based on the life of disappeared Manics guitarist Richey Edwards.

It’s called Richard: A Novel, and you can read an extract from it below. It describes the now-legendary incident where Richey carved “4 Real” into his arm in front of a journalist.

You planned this. You did this. It’s your fault.

Afterwards he’s there again, backstage, the journo. Self-consciously chain-smoking and hovering sheepishly.

He’s just doing his job, you remind youself. Just doing his job.

It could be you. It could be you getting paid to write for a living.

It could be you hovering in cold, dark dressing rooms with your cigarettes and your Dictaphone, one eye on the deadline.

No. It couldn’t be you.

Because you have no interest in the opinions of young drunk gobshites like yourselves.

The room is nothing but murmurs, an airless post-gig void that has just seen forty paying punters throwing plastic cups and spitting at you like it’s 1977.

Surly and shirtless, James smokes in the corner. He’s been curt to Steve Lamacq all night, in no mood for justification. Not when he has just been spat on and abused by yokels. Nick is cornered by some familiar faces. Jackie and Carrie, the fanzine girls, another girl we secretly nicknamed Suicide Allie and some chubby teen in a Nine Inch Nails top. Sean is staring blankly at his new Gameboy, perfectly still except for his thumbs.

– Can I get a few more minutes?

Him again. Lamacq. Your gateway to the impressionable NME readership. So far they’ve been less committed than their weekly rivals so deep down you know need them now more than ever. You need him. You resent it, but you can’t deny it.

Forty paying punters.

Senseless Things pull twenty times that on a rainy night.

So of course he can get a few more minutes.

– Of course you can.

You’re in Norwich Arts Centre, a gothic ex-church with tombstones for a floor.

Fucking Norwich.

Forty paying punters.

Mega City Four pull twenty times that on a rainy night.

The dance floor fills up now that you’ve finished. Naturally. The DJ plays Nirvana, Wonder Stuff, Birdland, ‘Head Like A Hole’, ‘Step On’. Everyone is dressed like Clint Poppie or Wayne Hussey; everyone’s dancing like they’re on drugs. There’s not a decent haircut amongst these pernod and black-swigging, patchouli oil-doused tractor drivers.

You congregate by the flight cases for the usual round of accusations disguised as questions and for a while you respond with all the eloquence you can muster. All four of you.

But Lamacq has his agenda and you have yours. Yet still you want to convince him so you take him aside, this pallid man from London with the Dictaphone and the concrete ideas of what constitutes ‘punk’ and you look him the eye and you go to work on your arm with a blade.

Fifteen slices to your flesh and you feel nothing. Nothing approaching pain anyway. You feel calm. You feel good confirming your commitment in cuts that spell out ‘4 REAL’.

You planned. You did this. You’re doing it. Doing it now.

You feel the warm flow and see the downwards flicker of his eyes.

– Jesus…

Now you’ve got his attention. You have let him know that the Manic Street Preachers are do or die. The last gang. All of that stuff that you know he secretly wants to hear.

Because you give good copy. Because you give good photographs.

Because you planned this.

(Because you’re a pussy for wimping out on the full ‘FOR’).

And then you calmly walk away to the toilets dripping blood across the stone floor of an ex-church down a side street in Norwich. Fucking Norwich with its forty paying punters.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin pull twenty times that on a rainy night.

You stem the blood flow. You watch it turn pink as it mixes with the water and swirls away. Swirls away into the drains of Norwich. Keeps swirling away. You keep bleeding.

The artificial light glistens in the pools of blood like stars.

You look in the mirror. You smile. You feel no pain.

Because you planned this.

You keep bleeding. You did this.

You made a dull night new.

Painted the town red.

Then bandages are stemming the blood flow and someone is driving you to hospital in the van.

There’s no sense of urgency. You stop on the way so Sean can get honey barbeque chicken wings and chips at KFC.

Inside the A&E lights are too bright, and you’re glad you’re sober. You wish you’d brought a book though. It’s going to be a long night.

You sit amongst the drunks with the broken noses talking with thick East Anglian accents through blocked sinuses and you sip water from the cooler in the corner. You keep your head down, wondering if maybe you went too far. You forget that what is normal in private isn’t always normal in public.

Now you’re waiting to be swabbed and sutured.


You’re just a bloody show off, you. A sick fuck.

It didn’t even hurt.

You didn’t think people would be so upset by a few cuts.

But it’s a quiet time, the NME need something to write about and this fits in neatly with their whole Van Gogh/Iggy/Sid self-destruction-as-art lineage. You can’t pretend you didn’t think it would go unnoticed.

Of course you can’t. That would be stupid and naïve. And a lie. And you’re not a liar. You are many things, but a liar is not one of them.

You have a band meeting in the morning with Philip and Martin. Despite everything the mood is upbeat.

– Can you still play guitar, Rich?

– Of course he can’t play guitar. He never bloody could!


– Let me re-phrase: can you still jump about looking sexy without bleeding everywhere?

You roll up your sleeve and inspect the tightly-wound bandages that go from wrist to elbow on your right arm.

– Urgh – seepage, says Sean. That’s minging.

A tutting James flicks through the tabloids, a fag dangling from his tip as he drops ash into his tea.

– You should have cut your cock off, Edwards. We’re only on page eleven of the Star. You really must try harder.

Ha-ha, bloody ha.

– Look, he’s still bleeding. We’ll have to cancel tonight.

You sit in silence and let the decisions get made for you.

– Where is tonight? Wire asks.

– The Barrel Organ in Birmingham.

– Birmingham’s a shit hole.

– Everywhere is a shit-hole – that’s not the point. The point is he’s had seventeen stitches and it’s probably best that we let them heal.

You sit in silence and you smile through it all. The cuts are actually starting to sting now. You entire arm feels cold. Numb. It aches down to the bone, but you can’t admit that. You can’t complain.

Don’t you dare complain, you think.

Don’t you dare.

Just keep laughing. Make light of it. Join in the piss-taking.

– Daft twat.



Don’t you dare complain.

Just keep laughing, otherwise you might just find yourself asking: why?

– Drunk berk.



Oh shit that hurts.

Richard: A Novel is published October 1 by Picador

Ben Myers: Why I’ve made fiction out of Richey Manic