Bruce Dickinson is the chord-crushing guitarist for Iron Maiden.

Dickinson is also a world-class fencer who recently was interviewed for a Sports Illustrated profile.

And he has a best-selling novel on the English paperback charts called "The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace." It's a black comedy, he says, a cross between "Benny Hill" and "A Fish Called Wanda."

"There are rock stars that can't spell 'cat' and rock stars that can't walk a straight line," says the taut-speaking Englishman. "I don't know if it is fortunate that people think rock stars are kind of dumb. I guess it is for me, because I can shake this image."

Dickinson has broken off from the band for a few months, and with new Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, 3 Rivers bassist Andy Carr and drummer Dickie Fliszar has cut a searing new album called "Tattooed Millionaire" (Columbia). And instead of playing to a roaring sea of blackness in "huge mausoleums," the quartet is hitting the little club and theater circuit.

"The closer you are to people, the more energy is generated," he says. "You can see it. You can smell it. You can see the funny faces. You can see the women sweating."

No wonder this guy has gotten into writing.

About the book: It took four years to finish. He did it "partly just to see if I could and partly as a form of therapy to get my brain into gear while touring." Let's set the record straight, though: It is not going to shake up the philosophical or intellectual communities.

"It's designed as a form of entertainment -- not to win the Pulitzer Prize," Dickinson explains. "It's supposed to make people laugh."

Oh, and he also recorded a track for the last Freddie film, "Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 5."

Bruce Dickinson is performing at the Bayou Tuesday night. Tickets are $12.50 at the box office and at all TicketCenter outlets. Doors open at 8. For information, call 333-2897.