Hello and once more into the maze. Been a wee while. Quite a bit happened since my last post. My Dad died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and all the fall out that comes with that. His ashes now sit on my writing desk. The little urn a reminder of the transience of life and that we’re all just dust in the making, whether we like it or not. So, whatever your personal ‘it’ may be, do it now. Live without regret or worry, like there’s no tomorrow…One day you will be right. More positively, I was recently invited to join the McRenegades, a bunch of Independently minded Scottish writers, doing it their way. I look forward to discovering a lot of interesting writers and their work. I’ve made a start with the wonderful ‘The Bookies Runner’ by Brendan Gisby, Which I’ve reviewed below. There’s been a hell of lot of good Indie books coming out recently and I’ve reviewed a few of the best below. But I haven’t just been reading, oh no. To add to the Indie book fest, I’ve finished my own second novel ‘Daydreams and Devils’. So, what’s it about? I thought you’d never ask. (pretty slick eh).
Without any spoilers, it has two storylines woven together. One follows the exploits of Vincent, a sociopath who follows the road of the gangster as a means of entertainment to keep the boredom of life at bay, something he finds generally pointless. Picking up useful associates on the way, captained by the sadistic Frankie, Vincent plays the game of criminal expansion by terror, employing mind games and violence to achieve his aims and also as sources of pleasure in themselves. The second strand follows James, a young school leaver, dreamer and Morrissey fan who decides, as so many of us do, to form a band. Upon recruiting his own ‘gang’ he’s quickly confronted with the reality of band life. Personality clashes, musical differences, but also the magical alchemy of creating music and friendships from strangers and inanimate objects. Eventually the two worlds collide, the daydreamers meet the devils and…that’s yer lot. Don’t want to spoil it.
It’s a mix of coming of age, crime, contemporary lit and humour. I don’t make it easy for myself when it comes to Genre and corresponding marketing strategy. But I believe in just writing what I want to write and the genre is what it is. As usual with my writing the focus is on characters and dialogue, but there’s an entertaining story there too. More verbs than adjectives. Too much description slows things down for me. Just my opinion. Themes also seem to play a part in my books. It’s not something I decide when I start writing, just something that evolves, but just as when characters evolve, it helps focus the writing…Or am I just being a pretentious twat? Probably. Anyway, in ‘The Search for Ethan’ it was a search for redemption. With ‘Daydreams and Devils’, it’s probably about a search for approval in its various forms. Maybe it’s because of the amount of dialogue, but when I write my mind turns to film adaptations. (James isn’t the only daydreamer). These might give you a flavour of them. ‘The Search for Ethan’ I saw being directed by Peter Mullen. Any friends of Mr Mullen, feel free to give him a call on my behalf, finder’s fee applies J. With Daydreams and Devils its part Shane Meadows and part Guy Ritchie. Same deal! It’s out now on kindle, with the paperback mid June. For more flavour, here’s chapter one to whet your appetite. Enjoy.
Vincent O’Neill was bewildered by life. Not afraid, because he was afraid of nothing. He just saw no point to it. His early years at school only reinforced his belief that his presence in the world was a mistake. He looked around on a daily basis for someone or something to give the game away. But they were good this lot. They played, they learned, they kissed, they planned, formed groups, had fun, bullied, sought stature or at least acceptance. They learned the rules, though some they just seemed to know, didn’t ask too many questions, not big ones anyway, and on it went. Outside of school were the old hands, the ones who had got to the end of the manual. They had worked towards and found their place in it all, based on a career, be that a job or benefits, and a family with a few random add-ons, aka hobbies. And that seemed to be it, other than the small spattering of humanity who tried to squint beyond the surface before taking their place in one of two camps: the religious, who searched with various degrees of fervour for answers, and secondly, those who searched only for oblivion. To Vincent it was all part of the same thing. But what? Acts within a play? Sub-routines within a program? The cliché of wheels within wheels? He didn’t care. That was all just the whimsy of poets and philosophers.
When very young he did wonder why he was different. Parents? As far as parents went, his lavished him with what he learned was called love and affection. He also got the best toys, smartest clothes, anything he asked for, which wasn’t much. To him clothes were clothes: functional. Occasionally, out of curiosity or boredom, he’d ask for something ridiculously ostentatious and then destroy it, watching his parents wither a little each time. But he didn’t blame them for how he felt. He didn’t blame anyone. Blame them for what? He wasn’t unhappy. It was just how it was, a situation he could accept or not. No more than that. And what to do about it? No point in whining, that much was clear. One option would be resolution by suicide. I don’t want to do this life thing so I’m stopping it. He’d given it some thought, researched the different methods, their respective discomfort, practicalities, reliability. Eventually he’d decided to experiment with life, be in the world, but not of it, playing the game to his strengths – his lack of fear and empathy. Immune to emotional snares or blackmail, oblivious to any kind of punishment, whether physical or psychological, he would continue in the world and be free from it.
When he was fifteen, the school and his parents decided that something had to be done, that they had to get to the root of the problem, to give it a name, a label. After some amusing sessions with the medical cabal they had their wish. They had their name. The name was ‘sociopath’. A few weeks later he found a label of his own. When asked by his careers officer what he wanted to be, he answered simply.
REVIEWS (in the order read) I’M DEAD AGAIN If you’re a fan of Nixon’s ‘The Fix’ you’re in for a treat. You’ll find some of the same characters, this time given bigger roles (Russian maverick Konstantin and the sinister puppet master Lamb), but its journalist on the edge Dave Brodie who owns centre stage here, as he kamikaze pilots the ‘Shit machine’ through a kaleidoscope of events, twists and characters which takes a highly skilled writer to pull off. ‘I’m dead again’ is a taught, fast paced crime thriller with a noir tint, sprinkled with cynical wit. Another cracker from Keith Nixon.
THE BOOKIES RUNNER This is a beautifully written tale, told by a son wistfully looking back on his father’s life. As he sets off on the bus to school on the first day back after the holidays, Brendan uses the bus journey as a metaphor of his dad’s life journey, each stop triggering another chapter, a device that works wonderfully well. It’s not a story of high drama and exceptional achievement, but rather finds and shows the extraordinary in the ordinary in a way that few writers can. It’s not a misty eyed rose tinted remembrance, as Brendan doesn’t shirk from baring his family’s failings and there is anger amongst the pride. It’s not the Walton’s. Real life isn’t, but it reminds us of the poignancy of everyday life and indeed everybody’s life, that we all take for granted. I’ve got a few more of his books loaded onto the kindle, which I look forward to.
THE SWITCHED Reading the blurb you may be expecting a festering cauldron of perversion, obscenity, bodily fluids and every deviantly murderous coupling conceivable…Well, okay, welcome to the ‘The Switched’. But there’s a lot more going on here than that. While other writers try to out f*ck each other, they lack Bracha’s creativity, imagination and intelligence. A good example is the jumping from third to first person, allowing the reader to really get inside the heads of the characters, hear their rage, fear, hopes and feel their pain, raising them above the two dimensional cartoons they may have become at the hands of a less skilled writer. I don’t want to give details of the wonderfully inventive plot away, I’d rather you discover them for yourselves, but it does contain an interesting spin on the phrase go f*ck yourself. It’s been said by others that he’s a writer at the top of his game. I’ve read most of his work and have to agree that this is, in my opinion, his best so far. If you haven’t read any of Brachas’ work, start here and work back. A magnificent achievement.
URBAN DECAY – Aidan Thorn I first came across Aidan Thorn from his piece in the ‘Near to the Knuckle Presents – Rogue’, anthology. When I saw this coming out I decided to check out what else he could do, and am glad I did. This is a fine collection of short stories from a young writer, displaying surprising maturity with the quality of writing You expect from a ‘near to the nuckle’ publication. Thorn avoids cliché’s both in his characters and plot to present rounded, realist stories that are gritty, but believable, inhabited by people you feel you know even after a few pages. The writing is evocative without getting bogged down in an ocean of adjectives. The story comes first, which keeps the pages turning and the reader interested, which is at the end of the day what it’s all about. Several of the stories have a thread linking them, which gives more breadth to the overall work and I believe there is a novella coming soon, which seems a logical next step. Look forward to it. In the meantime, this is certainly worth checking out. A writer to watch.