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Tomas: Poster Boy for the Credit Crunch

Champagne showered hookers and bricks of cash inspire James Palumbo’s debut novel Tomas.

Picking up the literary baton of monomaniacal money lust carried by Bret Easton Ellis during the 90s, James Palumbo’s Tomas drips with distain for the cancer of economic excess. Launched last Friday amid much black-postered, celebrity-endorsed, and web film-supported fanfare (see films below), Palumbo’s first foray in to the world of words is a surreal, searingly critical search for a new messiah in a near-distant future.

With the populace chasing the dragon of reality TV like it’s the new crack and fame and fortune well and truly top of the agenda (just above gargantuan tit jobs and getting on the guest list), one man, Tomas, decides to take matters into his own hands and shoot some sense into people. Sentenced to death in court for the killing spree and resurrected as the new saviour, Tomas takes off on a time travelling trip to redeem mankind.

Palumbo, who founded Ministry of Sound back in 1991 (just as American Psycho was hitting shelves), spoke to Dazed Digital about the book he never intended to write.

Dazed Digital: How did Tomas come about?
James Palumbo: It was Christmas 2007. I had no plan to write a book. No inspiration, no characters, no plot and no idea. I just sat down and started. It wasn’t even something I’d planned to do. I suppose most people’s reaction when someone tells them they’re going to write a book is ‘Christ you’re a loser’. I was sitting in my comfortable chair and it just came spilling out. I just had all this stuff in my head – most of which is probably rubbish . I’m fascinated by business and the human behaviour and psychology around money and the dilemmas of money. I guess that had been swirling around in my head.

DD: The book’s set in Cannes and you’ve got a house out there. So do you love the place or hate it?
James Palumbo: I love the south of France. The light, going to the markets, stepping off the plane. There’s something about it that I love. But 10 years ago everything there was normal and now when you’re sitting there in a restaurant there’s all these Russian accents and big fucking boats and 10 Kazakhstani  hookers dripping off someone’s arm. That’s not Cannes. The south of France has become a bit of a clichéd playground for show-offs. That’s not the belle epoch, happy, wonderful place I know. People come to Cannes and they go mad.

DD: Do you think the crunch had calmed people down?
James Palumbo: I’m not sure. We’re supposed to be in the middle of an economic nightmare yet the night after the Monaco Grand Prix there were two guys in a club and I hear one saying to the other ‘I’ve got more money than you’. Within half an hour these fuckers had sprayed €30,000 of champagne into the air much to the undiluted joy of the Kazakhstani, Russian and Ukrainian hookers partying with them. And then someone with a brick, literally a brick, of €500 notes came in, a pallet of Cristal gets ordered and the next thing I hear is waiters firing off corks like artillery. I mean are these people fucking mad. But that thing happens all the time.

DD: So is Tomas an anti-money book?
James Palumbo: I’m all for money. You’ve got to have it and you’ve got to go for it. And also in a moralising high-pitched voice sort of way if you work hard and you deserve it then fair enough. But if you’re the 19 year old son of some rock and roll star who decides to show off to some girl with money that’s not yours is it admirable? Is it grotesque? What does that mean? I don’t want to say something boring or clichéd but it really has got to extreme levels. Something’s go to give. It’s got to the point of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The whole thing about writing a book is that you do it for yourself. It’s a massive exercise in self analysis and working out what you think. It’s like therapy. I don’t know if I’m pessimistic or not. I’m a lot less angry than I was when I was younger. I’m a lot more reflective. But I don’t think I reached some sort of Ghandi-esque state where I have a positive approach to everything.
You either believe people are either essentially good or essentially bad. My guess is if everything calmed down and the credit crunch was over and people still had the chance to make money and could go back to trading toxic assets they would. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Some people laugh when the bombs fall. It’s human nature isn’t it?

Tomas published by Quartet Books out now.

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