Mark: A couple of people have said to me with regards to this book: "oh, you've rewritten Carla!" but no.
The review below, from someone I don't know, says the same thing. I am glad he saw the difference! I am returning to Carla next year, writing a book from the "Carla" character's perspective (as there is so much else to say), but this novel, while having loosely the same theme, is completely different.
This is a thriller. And a love story. And it's crime fiction that is probably happeniing within ten miles of you write now (well, except the ending, I hope.) It's a novel with real people and real situations.
And I think it's the best book I've written.
By Mr M.
Here's an extract.
It's an example of the type of writing you might find in any of the books.
Context: Terry Valentine could have made something of himself had it not been for an obsession with easy women, hard drugs, football violence, betting on horses and the dark side of life. Now, he's washed-up. A loser. A failed wannabe living an invisible life.
After being released from prison for a crime he definitely committed, the good times are over. On a fast road to nowhere, his obsessions alternate between suicide and the next fix of Doom, the latest designer drug, a highly addictive synthetic amalgam of crack, E and opium.
By some stroke of luck, he takes a casual, cash-in-hand job driving Chloe (a beautiful young escort who caters for Nottingham's rich businesswomen), to her appointments.
Here, a quarter way through the book, Terry is in his dingy one-bedroomed flat, recovering from a frightening incident where he protects Chloe from an attack carried out by the sex-crazed husband of one her clients. In his dream, Nottingham is annihilated by a nuclear attack, something he watches from a distance...
Later. At home.
I flop on my bed, turn off my phone. I am too wired to sleep and too depressed to go out. The monkey I received for the Leicester horror was no comfort and I throw the money clip on the sideboard.
Battering Blondie felt like a loss.
I can’t sleep because of the voice inside me. I reach over to the top drawer of the bedside table and take out a Temazepam. I only have one tablet left.
Omar. I’ll get Francis to call Omar. He’s got the sweeties. Pricey, but you have to be in your sixties, demented and half-dead to get jellies from the GP nowadays and they’re the only sweet that works. They succeed every time. Exactly what it says on the box. A mental note is etched and a jelly disappears with the remains of a can of Tango I cracked open before Leicester. The pop is flat and I wince.
The other night I had a nightmare, which may or may not have been caused by the jellies (or the Doom, or the beer) and I get anxious. The dream was a bad one, but the only element I can recall now is the nuclear explosion, in still life, except deep, deep magenta, like wine and blood blended.
In the dream, I was wandering the area where my Mum was born, in Basford, the old Shipstones brewery and I could see people lined up on the road, staring into the distance. A cobalt sky, vast in a way British skies never are, extending well past the horizon into a singularity, the cosmic void.
There was no wind. I watched as the vista changed and I was on top of a hill, under a bridge, well away now, as if I had walked into a vortex, a shifting time lapse. Nottingham, now a hundred miles away.
The atomic cloud: It’s torso thin and bloody, it’s mushroom apex enormous, immeasurable in scale. No soaring wind, no fiery afterburn, no devastating blast. The cloud stood in the distance, part of a still life.
I turned and there was my son, next to me, someone I had not seen for a decade. Now a man. He didn’t notice me or if he did, he had made the decision to ignore me. Marge was there, or someone who looked like her. She also stared straight ahead without engaging my attention and I was vividly aware of the need to touch someone. To hold someone’s hand, someone I loved while the city of my birth evaporated.
And there was my mother, in her turquoise headscarf, almost muslin, concealing the jet-black hair of her wondrous youth. All of us, together, in the midst of scattered others, a minute, fragmented, population I didn’t know and would never know, scrutinising a photograph of the apocalypse. The unimaginable blast frozen in time, watching it all vanish into the abyss, with faces of disinterest, the erased stares of the already dead.
I awoke with a jolt which twisted my neck.
I don’t want that again.
I can still see that cloud in my mind’s eye.
I spent that morning considering the blast, its implications, its precursors and its antecedents, but I was unable to unravel what it meant. I put the dream down to the jellies and the recent stress of driving Chloe.
I get off the bed and strip down to my boxers, go to the bathroom and turn on the shower. I luxuriate in the (should have killed him) pounding, superheated jets and I watch (battered him) my shoulders and arms flush and sizzle (cut him up) in the heat. It’s not hot enough (rape Chloe, rapist deserved a kicking, a bad, bad kicking) and I turn it up to eight. It scalds my forehead and I grit my teeth (you’re soft, soft, soft) but it’s no good and I turn it off, towel down.
I lie back on the bed and the phone rings. It’s Chloe and I answer straight away, my heart doing a somersault like some sixteen year old kid with his first crush.
Thank you, Mr Valentine, she says and her voice is like the smoothest marble lathered with all the ointments in the east. The Sultan never had a concubine who talked like Chloe.
S’okay. It’s what you pay me for.
No, I mean for not seriously hurting him. You didn’t just save me but, like, the whole situation. Your quick thinking.
I must be getting diplomatic in my old age.
There is a gap, a slight gap, almost imperceptible and I notice straight away. I wonder whether she’s on her computer. But then she says, you’re not old, and yawns and I know she’s in bed because I can hear her pillows ruffle.
Thanks, I reply. I feel it (you should have fucking battered him)…right at this very moment.
I wanted to tell you that and stuff. You were awesome.
Being complimented is not my thing and I blush slightly. Luckily, I don’t have to answer because she continues.
Shall we go to the Tranquility for a beer? My treat.
Without even thinking I say yeh, sure.
Awesome. We can have a natter about books and stuff.
Great, I reply, not quite believing it, not quite registering what was happening. Disconnected. Dissociating.
I like the Tranquility, she mused. Comfy and nice beer. I had a pint of that Thor’s Hammer Special Edition last week.
That’s lethal, I say.
Tell me about it. I was, like, well out of it after one pint.
It’s point eight.
Eight gravity. Lethal, especially if they’ve had it in the barrel for a while. It develops. Gets stronger.
Chloe ignores that bloke bit and continues.
Kinda quiet too. Good for a quiet chat. I was there last week with a couple of mates from Uni but they’re all away this weekend. Except for Jaden, who is, like, well out of my good books and Brian, who I don’t normally mix with without his partner, Kate. Don’t know him all that well, so I don’t know why I called him one of my mates. Um, besides, I want to know about what books you read. We could sit outside. In the back yard. That would be totally cool.
It would be, I reply.
Yeah, she says. Is seven okay?
I’ll be here. Probably sleep till then.
Me too! I’m sha…tired out. Must get some actual sleep. Laters, mate.
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I was recommended this by my mother, and downloaded and read this on holiday in the Brecon Beacons. My surroundings could not have been more in contrast with the realities that the characters live(d) in, but this only served to enhance my enjoyment of the title. The text reminded me more than once of Martin Amis - particularly aspects of 'Lionel Asbo' - but has its own, gentler feel, in a way you sympathise with the characters - you almost want happy endings for them (in a way I am sure Barry manipulated me to). This is a gritty tale of action, emotion and drama that is 'extra' to the 'ordinary' often produced by self published authors - I did not even realise this was an 'Indie' author. I very much enjoyed this title and will be purchasing his other works in due course.