The Cross by Joseph Ridgwell

Besides the brilliant zine Paper And Ink, Martin Appleby’s latest publishing venture is a three part novel in zine format – The Cross by Joseph Ridgwell


It started in the 70s. Development moguls began squeezing the sleaze out of one our more notorious suburbs. Sydney’s Kings Cross was our beacon. We were told the stories at a young age and believed every one of them. The Cross was often referred to as a state of mind. It held a place in our imaginations and everyone’s was different. It was a magical fun fair, bright light dream maker, twenty four hours of sin. When I first experienced it, it was 3am schnitzels and live music after everything else had closed. It’s where we all came for a night cap, star gazed at the bar and a little R&R. It was where we usually watched the sunrise or passed out whichever came first. Everyone was welcome. It had a great history of bohemia and mystery, dark alley deals and violence. Corrupt cops and a dodgy underbelly. Sure it was dangerous at times, but us regulars were all pretty street smart. This is where we learned a load of lessons.

dddAs the noughties moved in, so did the ‘nanny state’ brigade. It’s march down Darlinghurst Road was swift, we were all grounded for being very naughty boys and girls. 10pm licensing and a heavy hand was in place. So now the snakes of real estate and government control the way we socialise and interact with each other. Our most famous strip has changed forever. My drinking habits have also. Kings Cross got too involved with the wrong crowd, it was an all or nothing cleanse. Soon, all its history will just be a framed photo on a twenty dollar hamburger joints wall, and I will scream ‘bastards!’ and I will run by blue plaques crying cause all that is left is a homage to it’s former glory! El-Alamein fountain watching the new brigade stroll by surprised that that no one doesn’t piss on his dress anymore.

So where did all the misfits go? The great characters that make the world different. We are losing comfortable, unassuming and cheap places to congregate. Places to listen to bands, to dance, to rally. Our churches of the like minds all destroyed by these new gods of mammon. We lose our community and even lives in the name of development. Many mysteries. It’s all about money, safety, litigation and with that our spirits sanitised. The cafes are oh so nice, yet oh so expensive. Bayswater beauties needing their nails done and the tops of their macchiatos decorated.

We have become so intolerant of the anti social that even those that dress a little crazy would be risking a chat with the cops. The fear of coming face to face with a guy in a harlequin suit talking to angels just too damn uncomfortable these days. It upsets the locals. Kings Cross had a thriving music and art scene once. Even when I lived there in the 90’s it still had a few pockets untouched by greased palms. The over-spill from The Yellow House still in our memories. The divine characters of The Sydney Push, our favourite ‘futilitarians’ would not recognise an inch of what Kings Cross has become…*she sighs*

A tourist’s perspective on a city is very enlightening. Not trapped down by local knowledge, just recording exactly how they see it. The bruises and sins skim cream like, the obvious end of an era noted by a stranger. That traveller is London born writer Joseph Ridgwell. Joe became an honorary Australian back in the 90’s. He lived in Kings Cross the same time I did. When I found out I was surprised we hadn’t shared a pash and kebab or at least a bar stool at the Bourbon & Beefsteak. I got in touch with Joe a few months back to talk about his writing. An interview I’ve not yet written. But since then I’ve got to read plenty of his work. Even done a few reviews. I became a fan of his writing real quick. Joe slipped me a copy of a story I might be interested in. It was called The Last Days Of the Cross. Set in Sydney, he thought I might dig his reminiscences of my home town. The suburb that was on the cusp of change. The Kings Cross we all loved for it’s filth, characters and notoriety was dissolving. He could still feel the tremors of an old Kings Cross. He has a gift for that. The beauty found in the backstreets. He also saw the sadness. We liked it dirty. I think he did to. Rents were hiking, gentrification and crime evolution were just some contributing factors that made me feel it was losing its spirit and individuality. That book unfortunately now out of print sunk right in. Joe got it so right. The feels for an old cross and a great story that I hope gets a re release one day.

The Last Days Of the Cross got me yearning. I hadn’t been back to my old stomping ground for a few years. So one Sunday I went on safari in search of the old cross. First thing I noticed was no prostitutes, no junkies, no one asleep on the footpath, no vomit, no goldfish bowl and no coke sign. Quite disconcerting I must say. I began walking down the backstreets and clicked away matching the memories that Joe had sparked in me. I sent them his way on a whim that maybe it would spark him. A few must of stuck cause he asked me if he could use them in the release of The Cross, a novel in three parts released in zine format published by Martin Appleby of Paper And Ink Zine. A beautiful coincidence.

Part one has all the regular pace and humour that I expect in a Ridgwell adventure. Once on Australian soil, he soon gets sucked into the vortex of eccentrics, drug addicts, strippers, witches, locals and tourists. His charm getting a roof, a job and a root in no time. Each chapter blends into the other and yet on their own stand out with it’s own unique atmosphere and yarn to tell. This issue is only a limited release and nearly sold out and Part 2 is available soon. You will enjoy them just as much as single entities but aim for the three part set if you can. Also in the stages of release is Paper And Ink zine’s Hangover Issue. Inside you’ll find a few masters of the morning after including Joseph Ridgwell, Dean Lillyman, Ford Dagenham & u.v.ray. The Cross and Paper & Ink #7 is available here.



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