Of love and other demons

Schon! - - Contents - Words / Chloe Rash Photography / Cal­lum Toy Styling / Katie Til­lyer Make Up / Yu­miko Ya­mamoto Hair / Brooke Neilson us­ing Bum­ble and bum­ble Photography As­sis­tants / Phillip White & Jori Ko­mu­lainen

Sweater / Sib­ling Cardi­gan / Bot­tega Veneta Neck­laces / Wil­liam's own

“It’s my bi­ble,” Bri­tish au­thor Wil­liam Hunter How­ell proudly grins and points to his copy of Hunter S. Thomp­son’s Fear and Loathing in Las Ve­gas. How­ell’s eyes are as fiery as the canon Thomp­sons’ ashes were shot out of as he speaks of his lit­er­ary lu­mi­nary with tran­scen­dent fer­vour. In fact, How­ell has a lot in com­mon with the ec­cen­tric nov­el­ist: both men lost their fa­ther at a young age, ex­hib­ited a fleet­ing in­ter­est in pol­i­tics and, even­tu­ally, turned to sub­stance abuse.

Af­fa­ble in Ad­ver­sity: The Be­reave­ment B*tch be­came the best-sell­ing book on Ama­zon and chron­i­cles How­ell’s fight to cope with the death of his fa­ther, Euro­pean Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Paul How­ell. In 2008, Paul How­ell died in a plane crash near Beira, the sec­ond largest city in Mozam­bique. At the time, Wil­liam Hunter How­ell was in his sec­ond year of uni­ver­sity study­ing His­tory and Pol­i­tics. Fa­ther and son were ex­cep­tion­ally close; How­ell con­fesses, “Af­ter my fa­ther was killed, look­ing at life was like look­ing into the dark abyss of a loaded bar­rel,” and so he be­gan to numb his pain with drugs. Bathing in rem­i­nis­cence, How­ell re­marks, “like the sear­ing [sting] of an in­fected cut, hav­ing fun af­ter you’ve lost some­one feels immoral.” He even started to re­ject love, be­liev­ing that, with­out his fa­ther, love was im­pos­si­ble… “It took me five years to get on with my life. I wouldn’t say [it was] self-pity, but I was es­cap­ing.”

How­ell’s brood­ing tale func­tions as an introspective Odyssey, il­lus­trat­ing the woes of a man bogged down by the man­a­cles of mis­ery, des­per­ate to evade dark­ness. Ini­tially, he wrote the book as an out­let to ex­press his sor­row, but the novel be­came some­thing much more than that; a uni­ver­sal vade me­cum show­ing that the de­ceased “want those they’ve left be­hind to en­joy life with an in­creased pas­sion and flair: to re­main af­fa­ble in ad­ver­sity”.

Through a murky glass win­dow of a bo­hemian Lon­don cof­fee shop, How­ell watches as pedes­tri­ans pot­ter down the lane. He speaks of his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal achieve­ments and ex­claims, “Be­cause of [my dad], I have seen what pas­sion cre­ates.” Sud­denly, his ex­pres­sion soft­ens. He di­gresses. Paus­ing for a mo­ment, the Nor­folk na­tive mur­murs, “In Lon­don you can’t see the stars.” Th­ese di­gres­sions seem to hap­pen of­ten and show the work­ings of a mind that never sleeps.

Like his idols Hem­ing­way, Ker­ouac and Thomp­son, How­ell wishes to travel and ex­plore. He chooses not to pay homage to his men­tors but, in­stead, wants to live how they lived and in­spire oth­ers to do the same. How­ell has had his fair share of adventure. Blood Stained Sands – a book he has about 90 per­cent fin­ished – is based on his time in Mozam­bique, where he trav­elled alone for nine months. In this new nar­ra­tive, he re­counts a mul­ti­tude of bad de­ci­sions that forced him to learn how to sur­vive. Af­ter a lo­cal child stole his pass­port, How­ell woke up at the boarder bleed­ing from his face, po­lice hov­er­ing over him, their guns also drenched in his blood. He had made the mis­take of chas­ing the lit­tle boy.

Although How­ell’s ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent lies in writ­ing, the au­thor has also spent three and a half years work­ing in the film in­dus­try. Cur­rently the ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant to for­mer Dis­ney UK top­per Robert Mitchell, How­ell is keen to ul­ti­mately work as a pro­ducer and does not see him­self writ­ing a screen­play any­time soon. As for a ca­reer in pol­i­tics, there he ac­knowl­edges, “The me­dia is more pow­er­ful than a politi­cian. With film­mak­ing, there is a mes­sage. I be­lieve that you can in­flu­ence more peo­ple just by mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary, than David Cameron.”

At just twenty-six years old, How­ell seems to have al­ready lived nine lives and out-cir­cled the dark rings on a cut tree: per­haps it is the way he ar­dently ar­tic­u­lates the world he sees around him, in­sist­ing that he “strug­gles with the [ter­ri­fy­ing] tyranny of life”. Or maybe it is the res­o­lute man­ner in which he waves his hands like a vet­eran politi­cian to croon his con­vic­tions.

When it comes to his tal­ent, how­ever, How­ell ex­hibits an en­dear­ing, child­like hu­mil­ity. He tends to credit his suc­cess to any­one but him­self – when his old flat­mate told him that his book was a best-seller, he thought it was a joke. “I felt like I was a fraud,” he says, and thinks it un­fair that his first book was a tri­umph, but his dec­la­ra­tions are ex­ceed­ingly mod­est, for he, and his work, are in­jected with pro­found sen­si­tiv­ity. As luck would have it, How­ell hates feel­ing sen­si­tive. Drift­ing for an in­stant, his eyes again search for the stars. He ex­hales… “But it’s bet­ter than feel­ing noth­ing at all.”

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