In the late '70's and '80's the warehouse district of downtown Los Angeles was an area alive with artists, writers, musicians and others who had freed themselves sufficiently from the constraints and financial rewards of the Establishment in order to pursue their own thing ­ their creativity. Into the '90's the emphasis changed; the disillusioned among us bailed out and the spirit that had kept the area alive for so many years waned as creeping commercialism became ever more brazen around us. It was a magical time before that, a time where we shared one common denominator - our art.

      I think when you are growing up and, as is sometimes the case, expected to take on an identity to which you cannot relate - particularly in the case of an artist - when you reach an adult age you begin to throw out the parts that don't fit. In the process you have to destroy a good part of the support structure that was created around you at the same time. Without the support structure you no longer see the world through coloured glass, but rather as it really is. Unless you retrieve some of those characteristics somewhere else, replacing one support structure for another that might be equally alien to you, you are independent of prejudice, of rationalization, of all the convolutions that serve to build up a nice structure behind which we can live our lives. You begin to question everything around you. It wasn't difficult to see a scenario that could arise out of my immediate environment.  

      I went from one extreme, life in downtown Los Angeles, to the other - a quiet rural existence tucked deep in the countryside in SW France, where I live now.  I needed time to be introspective, to live simply, to play my piano,  to have time to do 'nothing.' It may have saved my sanity, but I still have misgivings that this was the right decision. 

      The downtown section, as always, was also the habitat of the homeless, who lived off the streets in the area - all types, all ages. Despite their apparent differences, I was struck by the one thing they had in common - their apathy. Apathy isn't hard to understand - years of rootlessness, years of not being able to define 'life' in any way, years of being subjected to the role of trash, of being always "moved on" from wherever you were, as if you had not the right to establish yourself in any place would grind most people down. I thought at the time - they need to be galvanized by a stronger force; if they were galvanized, their shared deprivation of the basic human rights and values would create between them a common bond that would be formidable. My novel got started on that premise, put on hold for several years as I was working on other stuff at the time, then taking off on its own as novels are supposed to do.

      It's taking place all over at the present time - social unrest, elements of society bursting open at the seams. Some of us do not accommodate easily to stereotype roles, cannot relate to being sheep, cannot develop our values to our satisfaction while at the same time having to fight the continued pressure to identify with roles that incite nothing in us but feelings of self-contempt. Refusal to give away one's self-respect is a noble cause; sadly, at the same time as the pendulum gets pushed further to one side, the space is also created for less idealistic elements.

Barbara Langford - Order the book