Iain Sinclair to launch new book American Smoke at ‘F’ in Stoke Newington

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair. Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

Author Iain Sinclair gave a public reading from his ‘forgotten’ book-length poem Red Eye this month – four decades after the work was written.

The author, possibly Hackney’s foremost writer, spoke at the inaugural event at a new pop-up cultural space, called simply ‘F’, in the old Sea Cadets on Church Street, Stoke Newington.

He will return to the venue, set up by literary collective The Test Centre, to launch his new book, American Smoke, in November.

While American Smoke is published by Hamish Hamilton, Red Eye has been unleashed on the world by The Test Centre – a much smaller operation.

Sinclair said he wrote Red Eye in 1973 as a “kind of diary” that was accompanied by a film he helped make.

He intended to publish the work through his own publishers, Albion Village Press, but the typescript subsequently “disappeared into a void”.

He stumbled across it again many years later after being encouraged by an American bibliographer friend to “carry box after box down from the attic of all these strange, ancient publications”.

At the public reading last month Sinclair said: “Suddenly the typescript of Red Eye fell out and I got very excited and looked at it.

“There was also a book called Suicide Bridge which I had published in 1979.

“It was one of those great moments when you realise that the Hackney of now is paying some tribute to the strange happenings of many, many years ago, but in a much sharper – a much more technical and more brilliant – way than I could have done, so that the book that emerges, Red Eye, is much more beautifully designed than I would have ever have done.

“The colour and images in it are astonishing – astonishing recoveries of this grungy film that was shot at that time.”

Of Red Eye, he said: “It was about a period when I worked in Whitechapel in Brick Lane’s Truman’s Brewery, in what was the Ullage Cellar.

“I just love that word.

“It was dark, dingy pit which had a tank, and returns came in from all the breweries.

“Your job was test these things and then pour away the slop into this underground subterranean network. All that finished by 11am and then we set out to explore the topography of space. That became the base of what I wrote for the next many, many years.”

American Smoke, described as Sinclair’s “first, full engagement with the memory-filled landscapes of the American Beats and their fellow travellers” focusses on some of the writer’s literary heroes including Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

It will be launched at a free event on 8 November at ‘F’, 110 Church Street, N16 0JX at 6pm.