Ben Myers argues he's got the right to make fantasy out of Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards' legend in his novel Richard, out in October
Excuse the flagrant pretentiousness of the following statement, but when I think of Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards I don't think of a bloke who star-jumped around stages looking pretty. Rather, a modern Shakespeare character bearing the world on his shoulders like the tragic heroes of Hamlet or Macbeth. Hamlet, Prince Of Blackwood maybe. Someone who felt life could be a curse and chose to fall on his sword rather than continue in a corrupted world.
It's for this reason that I decided to write Richard, a novel, told from Edwards' perspective, which documents his life from birth through school, the pitfalls of adolescence, university and on to his unlikely position as one of the most important pop stars of his generation. It is an attempt to challenge the myth that history and hindsight have shaped.
It is 15 years since Richey disappeared. In that time New Labour has been and gone and Oasis are no more. There's been new hairstyles, new drugs; celebrity culture has reached saturation point and apparently everyone's into a new computer game called 'the internet'. Yet, as with Ian Curtis before him, the interest in Edwards, forever frozen at 27 (and boy does he still look cool in photos), continues to grow.
Only distance could allow a book of this nature to be written - I never met Richey - and though I don't know what the Manics themselves think, I only hope they appreciate the purity of the intention in documenting a tragic modern mystery. Because Richey's relationships with his bandmates are crucial to the book. Four young men can't be in a rising band and not have fun, and even the bookish Manics got pissed and shagged groupies. In fact, it was a Nicky Wire anecdote about Richey drunkenly moonwalking across a bar in Portugal that made me realise the perception of him as a doomed young Rimbaud-type figure was only a fraction of the story. Richey and Nicky were a hilarious double act and a real rarity for British heterosexual males: two straight queens consistently trying to out-shock each other.
The only good thing to come from Richey's disappearance is that he is lovingly remembered - a one off, never to be repeated. Or, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "He was a man, take him for all in all / I shall not look upon his like again."
[Originally published: New Musical Express, 14 August 2010]