Pete Shanks

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I was born in Singapore in 1949, and received a classical education at boarding schools in Hampshire and London before studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Trinity College, Oxford. A gypsy by nature, I have been based in Santa Cruz, California, for most of the years since 1974.

Being qualified for nothing but the office of Prime Minister, for which I am temperamentally unsuited, I have supported myself variously by building the Sydney Opera House (as part of the overused demolition crew), proofreading mathematics and French, waiting on tables, marketing part-works, running a typesetting company, and for one notable afternoon selling chicken shit door to door as organic fertilizer. Some of my activities, and latterly passivities, have been profitable enough to enable me to travel a good deal, in Concord and also in Nepal, Zanzibar and Yosemite, to name three favorites.

I enjoy reading, writing, running, roaming & rock 'n' roll, salve my conscience with political activity against the established power structure, and consider Blonde on Blonde an even greater novel than Gravity's Rainbow.

In another reality, I see myself a little differently, but who knows what's true? Especially on the world-wide web.



I have completed at least two novels, and drafted two more, one of which I once thought was finished while the other actually may be.

My first novel, (Searching for) Solid Ground, is now up on the website.

Trans-Zip is about the adventures (internal and external) of a group of six travelers on the Trans-Siberian Express from Beijing to Moscow, including a stop-over in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia. After six drafts, including a radical rethink of the book's focus, I was very happy with it, until it inspired no interest at all from the first round of agents, which devasted my self-confidence for a good eighteen months. It may just be too "mid-list" for them (in other words, the upside marketing potential is insufficient); or they may be wrong; or, of course, right. It may appear here, for you to judge. Watch this space.

The Non-Violent Murders is a humorous mystery, set in a fictionalized version of Santa Cruz, and taking the mickey out of various characters who would be my friends if they existed; it is written from the point of view of a 25-year-old Brit seeing off-the-wall California for the first time. The rejection letters generally say that the readers laughed, and that's all I really wanted (aside from money and the opportunity to turn down celebrity), but they claim the plot falls apart. Nonsense, of course; I made it up as I went along, so how could it fall apart? I may yet try to fix it.

When I Told You I Loved You, I Thought I Was Lying is one I should reread. It is, I suppose, the story of the sexual awakening of an emotionally slumbering youth. Or perhaps vice versa. It includes attempts to write honestly and graphically but not particularly erotically about sex without descending to cliché. Sounds like a sales winner, huh?


Other Writings

I am a poet, who has won a couple of prizes and published occasionally in 'real' magazines, and the author of three chap-books of poems, Sonnets from Tibet, Dharma Path, and Coral, as well as the web-published Occasional Turbulence and Sonnets of Serial Monogamy (which overlaps with Sonnets from Tibet).

I have also produced three chap-books of short stories, Borders, Singles and Ghost Hunting, as well as commentaries for radio and numerous political articles. In my youth I was also the editor of The Golden Hands Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.


Alternatively, 5/1/97

I am a middle-aged rootless flake, whom some people think is a lot pleasanter than I am just because I am sufficiently well socialized to conceal my nastier impulses.

I am a classic example of the half-accomplished man – brighter and better educated than most but well short of outstanding. In everything I do, I achieve B+, at any level, and I never hit an A. I was a pretty good student, a pretty good waiter, a pretty good proofreader, a pretty good manager, even a pretty good writer; and equally a pretty good hippie, a pretty good traveler, a pretty good free spirit; and I never hit the top in any of them – never a junkie, never a success; sometimes broke but never desperate; sometimes free but never out of control.

I know more about many things than most people, and less about any of them than any competent professional, be they musician or publisher or politician or designer or hacker or whatever. I am a runner at the back of the pack; a writer who can't seem to make money at it; an activist who gets bored; an anarchist who wants to know the rules and gets confused when he doesn't; an anti-materialist with hundreds of CDs and even more books; a control freak who throws everything away every few years; an alien in every home.

Actually, I was a very good proofreader, and maybe even hit an A+.

So I am also a liar who tells the truth.

Am I hard on myself? Hell, no, I reckon I'm more or less normal.

(back to the former reality)



Of course, I could make up an entire autobiography, the way I hear that middle-aged men pretend to be nubile bimbos in some of the news groups. I toyed with the idea of putting one in as another alternative, but couldn't figure out what to say; I'm interested in making up characters and exploring their reactions, as a fiction writer, but who would I want you to think I was? If you read much of my poetry, you'll probably get a better idea than I'd give you explicitly anyway.

There can be a strange quality of intimacy in placing personal details on the web. You can just put up the standard work-related résumé, with all its ordinary fraudulent truths, but somehow that doesn't feel webbish to me. Or you can publish, unmediated, uncensored, unedited personal reflections in a way that has never been possible before, for readers you know nothing about.

The most extreme and successful effort of this sort I know of is the Journal that was posted regularly in 1997 by Robert Hunter, who is best known as Garcia's lyricist, though that underestimates both his contribution to the amorphous entity that is (still) the Grateful Dead, whose web site it is still on, and his own other work. He has addressed the issue from time to time, adding a further layer of intricacy to the process in so doing, as you read him writing about writing about writing, among other things. What I get from it is that he's a nice guy. I don't think that was the point, though; had it been, it would have failed.

You just can't discuss this stuff without paradox, or possibly a pair of docs.