Endless, Impossible

Ragbag Explained

What is Ragbag?
Ragbag began in 2018 as a music, comedy and storytelling podcast, in which I played a fictionalised version of myself. Besides playing some great music, and interacting with the (equally fictional) listeners, Frank began telling stories from his life, which built up a picture of the character over time, which formed the basis of the longer narratives in the Ragbag novels.

When I started the podcast I had absolutely no idea it would turn into a series of books. Ragbag was only supposed to be a fun side project where I played some music and told some jokes. Instead, it has expanded into a video series (The Ragbag Rambler), a series of books, and has recently branched out further, as the audio sitcom, Frank And Claude Are Following You.

Claude Burton (AKA Uncle Claude) did not appear in the Ragbag podcast until episode 25, but has since become a key figure in the Ragbag universe, appearing in each of the novels, as well as several episodes of the podcast. Claude co-hosted the final episode of Ragbag, which the pair of us capped off by singing our own unique rendition of the song 'If You Go Away'.

Although Uncle Claude is a fictional character, I have put a great deal of effort into making it appear as though he is a real person. Actually, please forget I ever told you Uncle Claude doesn't really exist. It's not me doing both the voices. Honest.

But I suppose I ought to stress the fact that Ragbag is a fictional world, and none of the stories I've told on the podcast or in the books are based on fact. I'm making this point because I'm aware that a few people have been unwittingly tricked into believing the books are a genuine account of my life, and also that the character known as Frank Burton who presents the podcast is my actual self. It's never been my intention to fool people into believing the stories and characters are real. Unfortunately I didn't quite realise the full implications of creating a fictional character with the same name as me.

Why it it called 'Ragbag'? To be honest, I've forgotten where the name came from. I expect I chose this particular word because I like the sound of it. Also, it goes nicely with the style of the thing - ie, a bunch of contrasting elements that don't quite fit together. (This isn't self-criticism, by the way. I actually think I'm great.)

A regular feature of the original Ragbag podcast was a series of interviews, mostly with musicians (sometimes writers too). As a result, I've had the pleasure of speaking with some truly extraordinary artists, including some of my heroes. In hindsight, I probably should have done this as a separate podcast. The interviews were great, but they didn't quite find their proper place, having been stuck in between different bits of weird comedy and narrative nonsense. Or maybe they fit alongside the other stuff perfectly well. You be the judge, I guess.

In 2022, the Ragbag podcast changed its name to Ragbag Presents. It's no longer a music and comedy show. It's the audio accompaniment to the Ragbag novels series. This new version of the podcast began with the serialisation of the novel Brollywood. Plus, for anyone who's interested, each episode ends with an extra half an hour's bonus content, in which I talk off the top of my head about various things that interest me.

I don't know where the podcast will go next. It's been constantly evolving and reinventing itself, so it's impossible to know.

As far as the novels go, I think the fifth one, which I'm currently working on, will be the final part of the series. But I may change my mind on that too.  

Noteworthy characters from the Ragbag Universe:

Frank Burton Senior: Frank's largely absent father. First introduced in the early episodes of the podcast. Frank Senior is the central figure in the first Ragbag novel, Everything I Am.  Also appears briefly in Getting Away With It, and more substantially in Endless Impossible. 

What's he like?
Bad parent. Not necessarily a bad guy.

Elizabeth Burton: Frank's mum. Long-term alcoholic. Appears in the novels Everything I Am, Getting Away With It, and Endless Impossible.  

What's she like?
Readers don't like her very much, perhaps with good reason. Endless Impossible possibly shows a softer and more vulnerable side to the character. Depends on your point of view. 

Uncle Claude:
Frank Burton Senior's older brother. Currently the only member of the family Frank Junior is still on speaking terms with. Regular co-presenter on the Ragbag podcast. Has appeared (briefly) in all four Ragbag novels so far. Claude has what can only be described as a very silly voice.

What's he like?
Annoying, overbearing, opinionated but with an open mind. Loves his nephew.

Jenna McIntyre:
The central character in the novel Getting Away With It. Befriends Frank while at university. Jenna is either a criminal genius or a very good storyteller. Or both.

What's she like?
A good friend. A bad friend. Very entertaining.

Benedict Cumberbatch:
An actor. Not the real one.

What's he like?
Oh, well, he's a complex character. For the best insights, read the novel Brollywood, or listen to the Ragbag podcast episode 52: Benedict Cumberbatch Takeover.

Sycamore Steve:
AKA Steven Schiffer. Frank's friend and nemesis ('fremasis'?). Co-founder of Corrugated Metal Club. Almost succeeded in murdering Frank, and has subsequently threatened to have another try. Currently on the run. Sells ice cream. Sings. A podcast regular, who is yet to appear in one of the books. In Ragbag Episode 100, Steve confidently claims to be working on an autobiographical stage musical. We look forward to hearing more about this.

What's he like?
It's difficult to know how much of Steve's psychotic behaviour can be attributed to mercury poisoning. Perhaps his forthcoming stage musical will shed more light on this. In the meantime, it's advised that members of the public stay away from Sycamore Steve's ice cream van.

Shared a cell with Frank during his six-month prison sentence. A highly sophisticated con man, with multiple identities. First appeared in the podcast. One of the main characters in Everything I Am and Brollywood.

What's he like?
Pretty cool. The closest the Ragbag series gets to having its own superhero.

Eileen Angel
A cult leader. Star of Endless Impossible. 

What's she like? 

Mate, she's a cult leader.  I'd stay away from her if I were you. 

Dennis Gleeson
Investigative journalist, Frank's mentor and long term correspondent.  Possibly bipolar. One of the main characters in Endless Impossible.   

What's he like? 
Very entertaining.  I had lots of fun doing his voice for the audio version.  Check it out.  And the book too.