Of love and other demons
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.”