Sneak Preview – Nae’body’s Hero

The following is a preview from the upcoming novel “Nae’body’s Hero”. Copyright Mark Wilson 2012:

Cover Image for Nae’body’s Hero

Book Description:

Rob Hamilton hails from Lanarkshire and from a messed up family. As a result, he has an unshakable sense of right and wrong and is low on self esteem. Rob also has some very special gifts. If he can stop hiding from them and get his life together he may just be the greatest hero the world will never know. 

Arif Ali is a British medical student. Disillusioned with life in Britain he is now living and studying in Faisalabad, Pakistan.  He and Rob will form an unlikely friendship that will change the course of history.

Annie is an American agent with an undisclosed agency. She could be the worst enemy the friends have or their greatest ally.

…………………

Prologue

The first time it happened I was seven years old. Obviously I knew it had to have been a dream but it really didn’t seem that way at the time. I’d woken in the middle of the night face pressed to a hard, cold surface instead of comfortably against my pillow. At first I assumed that I had fallen out of bed again and landed on my bedroom floor but the contact on my cheek was hard; too hard to be the blue carpet which covered my bedroom floor in those days.

As I slowly came to it dawned on me that the surface was pointed too. There were loads of wee dry, plaster-like prickles pressing into my face, into my whole body actually. It was artex, which made no sense at all. Only the ceiling was artexed. I opened my eyes to see white artex as the realisation hit me that I was pressed to the ceiling.

Realising where I was seemed to break the magic and I clattered heavily onto the blue of my bedroom carpet, grateful for its thickness.

“Robert. You’ve fallen out of bed again. Get back to sleep.” Dad roared from the next room.

I did so and quickly. I didn’t want to anger dad again. I’d been in enough trouble this week. I wasn’t really sure what we’d done but mum and dad had been really annoyed with my twin sister Claire and I repeatedly this last week or two and both seemed tense over something. It was very unlike either of them to be so easily annoyed and tetchy with us.

“Sorry dad.”

“Right Robert. Shush. Sleep.”

Dad was the only one who ever called me Robert and he had many different ways of saying, shouting, laughing or barking my name depending upon how much trouble I was in. When I was a wee boy my dad taught me a rhyme about my name that I’ve never forgot, mostly because it reminds me of him and makes me smile. He’d told me that it was about a boy called William but he thought that it fitted my name better. I could recite it back to him by the age of three, the two of us laughing together as I did so.

Father calls me Robert

Sister calls me Rob

Mother calls me Robbie

 and the fellas call me Bob.

Dad has always called me Robert and I love that mum actually does call me Robbie (she pronounces it Rabbie) but nobody has ever called me Bob. Everyone else, including Claire, calls me Rob (or Rab).

Finally I did sleep once more, drifting off to the thought that it would’ve been really cool if that dream had been real and I really could fly up to the ceiling. That’d be crazy though. No-one can fly.

Chapter One

 1983

Rob

 

Waking from a long deep sleep, with all the usual dreams sleep brought with it, Rob sat up in bed. Leaning back against the old headboard he rubbed his eyes and took in the room. Something seemed……off. Dressed in matching Y-fronts and vest (Spiderman) Rob stepped out of bed and pulled on some jogging bottoms. He took in his rooms’ contents, mentally noting various objects’ positions. Everything seemed fine, nothing out of place. Claire hadn’t been in overnight to cuddle up with him (a twins’ habit they had yet to break which had increased in regularity recently), all his things seemed to be where they belonged, but something just wasn’t how it should be. The house was just too quiet.

Checking his bedside clock Rob noted that it was eight am. Friday morning, mum and dad are normally getting ready for work and pulling us out of bed by now. Surely they haven’t slept in?

The previous night Rob’s parents had both seemed in good spirits. The whole family had watched a film together, chatting their way through most of it with nobody really all that interested in what was happening on the screen. Both mum and dad had tucked them into bed with lots of kisses, cuddles and “I love you-s” exchanged. It’d been great having them back to their old selves after so long of being so tense at home. I’d better go see where they are.

Rob creaked out onto the landing, walking slowly and deliberately just in case he’d been daft and gotten mixed up; maybe it was Saturday. There wasn’t a sound coming from anywhere in the little semi-detached family home. Continuing across the landing he slowly cracked open Claire’s bedroom door. Seeing his sister still asleep he resisted the urge to go wake her up by jumping on her just in case her screams woke their parents and quietly closed her door over. Rob made his way downstairs to the kitchen with some quiet time in mind before the usual burst of activity started.

On autopilot Rob loaded eight slices of bread into the massive family toaster, prepared four cups for hot drinks for everyone. Coffee with milk and two for both mum and dad, tea with one and milk for Claire and black coffee for himself. Wandering through to the downstairs hall, Rob picked up the Daily record which had been lying on the mat. Confirming from the front of the paper that it was indeed Friday and from his wee calculator- watch that it was now 8:15 he decided that he’d better rouse everyone before they lay in so long that they’d be late for work and school. The only sounds in the house were of his own footsteps bending the old stairs as he ascended causing them to creak and groan.

“Mum. Dad. It’s time to get up.” Tom knocked softly on his parents’ bedroom door. He waited a beat and knocked a bit harder.

“Time to get up”, he sing-songed cheerily.

Again nothing came back in reply. He pushed the door open to his parents’ room and to what would be a new beginning. They were both gone.

Rob Hamilton was just like any ten year old boy in Bellshill in the  80s. Football, Kim Wylde and Star Wars occupied his mind. A relentless ball of energy was how most of his friends would describe him. Playing football, rugby, hockey and attending scouts took up most of his time. That and hanging around down Strathclyde park with his friends. On the surface he seemed a happy and contented kid with not a care in the world, in many ways he was, but Rob Hamilton rarely felt that he fit in with the company he kept. Not with his friends (not since Tom left the town) and not in his own home.

He’d lived in the small town most of his life but was slowly becoming a more detached soul. Rob rarely felt part of what was happening around him and struggled to understand the people in his life. He just felt so different to them. He went through the motions. Joining teams, socialising, school and seemed to be thriving but in truth the only people he’d felt that he really had a place with, who he felt accepted and understood him were his best friend Tom and his sister Claire.

Tom Kinsella had been Rob’s best friend since they attended nursery together. The boys had been as close as brothers, at times even closer than Rob had been to his own twin. Spending long hours days and weeks roaming woodland, building dens and fires, and playing football had developed their friendship. All these things had brought them so close and of course the talking. They were always talking.

They spoke of their families, of where Tom’s dad would be taking him on some adventure always asking Rob along. Rob could confide in Tom, telling of his own parents’ increasingly detached behaviour these past few years. They told each other about their dreams for the future, about how Tom would be a musician, or a writer, or a fireman; maybe all three. Rob just wanted to see the world he didn’t care what job he did to pay for it. A part of Rob just wanted to find somewhere where he felt at home and Tom was the only person who not only understood his desire to roam, but seemed to share it. Both agreed that they would leave their hometown as soon as they were able and made a pact to do so together; to always be best friends. When Tom Kinsella’s father Bobby died and his best friend moved away, Rob was completely lost without him and turned to his sister more often.

Despite being his twin Claire was quite different to Rob. More outgoing, less introspective and much less inclined to be quite as moody as Rob had found himself becoming in the last two years. Claire was one of those people for whom life’s surprises were just another chance to try something new. Claire never flapped, stressed or worried she just went with life, happily taking what came her way and making new friends easily. She and Tom were very alike. The three of them were close and had always been.

They spent most of their time as a threesome chatting, swimming at Bellshill baths, walking down and around Strathclyde Park, sometimes going on the fairground rides or climbing the trees in the woods, but mostly they just talked and laughed. They had a secret place that they’d visit daily either alone or together. They did most of their talking there in a den made of old tree branches they’d made months before and filled with three old tyres for seating. It was in a small bit of woodland behind the butcher’s shop and they’d named it “BHQ” (B for butcher).

Tom, Rob and Claire had found the location for BHQ after following a horrific smell around the back of the shop and discovering a sheep’s head. The two boys had poked at it with sticks for a few minutes examining its face, lolling tongue, milky eyes and rancid, maggot-filled mouth. The thing had started to become putrid. Smelling strangely sweet it had attracted the boys in their morbid curiosity. Claire kept her distance, hugging herself in revulsion, but giving Rob and Tom time to satisfy their interest.

“Let’s go you two, that things’ boggin’.” The boys laughed but quickly moved to join her and walk home together. The next time they visited the sheep was gone but they discovered the location for BHQ and began its construction.

These days, with Tom gone, Claire never came near it she was too busy with her friends, only Rob sought a little solace in their den. The days the three of them spent wasting hours happily together felt like years ago to Rob now and as though they’d happened to another Rob Hamilton.

Rob was happy his sister was so engaged with the world and full of life. He assumed that this meant that she had escaped what he knew he’d inherited from his grandfather and he could feel becoming worse each night, with every surreal dream of events and incidents that couldn’t have happened but his apparently damaged wee brain was trying to convince him had.

The vast reserves of energy he possessed were a result of his not wanting to waste a minute of the time he had in life. He wanted to see as many places, meet as many people and engage in as broad a range of activities as he could before his mental capacity degraded as quickly and completely as he’d been told that his Granda’s had. As these episodes had started to happen in the daytime as well now, when he was wide awake, he knew that his mental health had taken a turn for the worse.

By the time Rob knew his granda the old man was in a residential hospital having long since lost all capacity for reason. As a younger man he’d apparently been huge “built like a brick shit house” his own dad had told Rob. Working as a steelworker, like so many local men, his Granda, at six foot nine inches, not an ounce of fat on him and a tea-total-ler, stuck out like a sore thumb in Lanarkshire the land of the ubiquitous five foot five male. Rob, even at only ten, had taken a stretch in height this past year and was already towering over most of his year group in school. He’d have been happy to have inherited only his build from the old man.

Granda Hamilton had suffered a series of mental breakdowns from his fifties onwards, hallucinating and fantasising events that Rob’s father had told him couldn’t possibly have occurred. Granda had deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t tell what was real from what wasn’t in five short years and been confined to a hospital for his own safety by Rob’s dad. The phrase bi-polar had been used in Rob’s house when discussing his granda.

With his granda always in his mind Rob had vowed to ignore the growing detachment he was feeling and follow his best friends and sisters’ example, throwing himself into as many friendships and experiences as he could regardless of how out of place he may feel.

After finding his parents’ room empty Rob searched the house. He searched every room, every cupboard, drawer, pantry, bathroom and the garden and its shed outside. Rob even clambered up into the small attic. Initially he was looking for his parents but when he decided that they weren’t there to be found he began looking for a note. He didn’t find his parents or a note explaining their absence.

All of their drawers and cupboards still contained all of their belongings. Jewellery and toiletries, shoes and coats, dad’s asthma inhaler, all of it was where it should be. The house was exactly as it had been the night before when they’d all went to bed enjoying the afterglow of a much needed family evening full of affection. Even the car was still outside. The only thing that was missing from the house was them.

They must have had an emergency or something. With no close relatives in the area (apart from their granda) Rob could think of no one to call. Figuring that all would be fine later in the day he woke Claire, explained that their parents had got up and gone out early to work and that they had to get ready and go to school.  When the school day was over and the twins returned home the house still lay empty. It stayed that way for the next day and the day after that.

On Sunday evening Rob called the police. He and Claire left their little house on Liberty Road for the last time that evening. Claire holding a female police officer’s hand, crying for her mum and dad; Rob trailing behind, face of stone, completely certain (as only a child can be) that they had left because of him; because they knew like everyone else did that he wasn’t “right”.  That he didn’t belong.

Chapter Two

Arif

Azam Ali hurried through the busy, familiar streets of Battersea, SW London, gently pushing past and apologising to other commuters in his thick London accent as he did so. Normally, on any other day Azam would happily wander along, content to be carried along with the flow of traffic, usually on the journey between his little newsagents and home, a little ground floor, two bedroom rental. Today however was a not a normal day for Azam.

Sure for millions of others it was just Sunday; just another Sunday in the last days of March. Sundays were for relaxing, for reading the papers (in his case selling them) and having Sunday roast. Most places were closed on a Sunday. Maybe it was special for some people, an anniversary, visiting family or church  or whatever but really, what ever happened on a Sunday?

For Azam this Sunday was a very important day indeed and today he wasn’t walking the two blocks to his shop. Today he was taking public transport. Today, on a Sunday, the second generation of Ali to be born in England was on his way to meet his parents.

…………………………………….

Nae’body’s Hero will be published in December 2012.

In the meantime try Bobby’s Boy, Mark Wilson’s Debut novel where Rob makes a brief cameo. Available now as en Ebook or Paperback.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343918174&sr=8-1

Book Review- S.T.R.A.I.G.H.T by Des McAnulty

Des McAnulty has produced  a rare treat with his Novella “Straight”. Scottish authors tend to fall into some pretty distinct categories. Either Irvine Welsh wannabe types or pseudo Brookmyre-ists with none of the wit, or talent of either. Not so in Des’s case.

Des manages to blend some entertaining and genuinely keen observational humour, in the mould  of an early Billy Connelly sketch (full of inventive and insightful knowledge and love of his local people), with some relevant, modern and touching social issues. That he pulls this off without descending into rant or preach mode is to his credit and wouldn’t have happened at the hands of a lesser writer. This skill with “I’ll laugh even though I shouldn’t humour” and too-honest description and understanding of people’s behaviour and motives  from a rookie writer can be seen in the books of John Niven, perhaps my all-time favourite Scottish writer.Des takes human weakness, pride, love, joy, failure and triumph and creates an alternative world that is at once darkly humorous, exciting, frightening, to be pitied and envied and is also utterly believable.

His characters are well defined and allowed to develop, but unhindered by a plodding back-story which  can be too frequently employed by other writers to fill pages with superfluous information.

Rather than spinning and stretching his tale Des has told exactly the story he wanted to with the entertaining concept of reversal of the “norms” of sexuality and not a page to spare. This is a perfect story to have as a novella and a clever decision on McAnulty’s part.
 Where other writers would have been tempted to force too many pages and produce a novel, Des has chosen instead to keep the story pacey, entertaining, and contemporary; page count be damned.
If I had to pick holes (and I am being picky) the book could do with spruce up in formatting (but that’s true of many Indie-published novels my own included before I learned how) and some editing assistance but this takes nothing away from a very funny, clever and engaging story from an author who I’m sure has much more to come.
I would certainly read more of Des’s work (already downloaded his full-length novel) and would recommend Straight to others.

The Raised by Allen Renfro – Review

The Raised by Allen Renfro is one hell of a book. I really struggled with it at first. I struggled to figure out: Who was narrating? Where and when was it set? What was all the tension? Why did I feel so damn itchy and uncomfortable when I read it?

I picked the book up, read for a bit, put it down in…..frustration I suppose. There were so many questions presented in the first few pages. So many threads. Then Renfro started weaving a truly fantastic tale from the seemingly random elements. Essentially, Allen makes a clean and flawless tapestry of a novel from those scraggy threads.

I suppose that with the last few busy years of being a new father spent squeezing in and reading unchallenging escapist type novels I’d grown used to formulaic, easy to read, spoon fed, unimaginative and derivative stories. Allen Renfro’s novel is none of these things. Allen unfolds a wonderfully textured story with all the skill and confidence of a seasoned novelist in the mould of Anne Rice. It seems effortless to the man.

In The Raised we are introduced to one of the most truly fucked-up families in fiction who lie, manipulate, murder and abuse each other throughout the book. The story is told over years and through the viewpoint of several central characters, each impressing their own reactions to and interpretation of shared events. Depsite viewing this converging story from different characters’ POV and from different points in time, the story is never repetitive. Quite a feat when using this sort of mechanism.

Allen is a word-artist. He paints vivid and beautiful scenes with letters splashed on the page with seeming ease, but also with intent and precision. Whilst he describes scenes, settings, rooms and people with great accuracy and feeling, he never labours the point. Some writers have you skipping long monologues when trying to be descriptive. Renfro has such skill (the bastard) that he simply transports you right there to stand shoulder to shoulder with his protagonists.

The real strength that Allen Renfro possesses is in his understanding of and empathy with people and in his ability to convey these complex emotions to the reader. He deals with many complex relationships between his characters with ease, gradually making us hate/love/fear/pity these very real-feeling people. Allen has immense insight into the inner workings of what makes humans tick and an understanding of peoples’ emotions that only someone who had suffered, loved, or lost in some way would be able to identify and convey in the manner he does. In an age of two-dimensional characters littered throughout the literary, and movie media, Allen gives us properly human characters. Ones with many conflicting sides to them, who aren’t perfect, pouting demigods but truly flawed.

This type of book is really not in my usual genre, but on this occaission I was deeply relieved to take the detour and discover that an obviously lovely man is also such a gifted writer.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Raised-ebook/dp/B005SJSXYI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338569714&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/The-Raised-ebook/dp/B005SJSXYI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338569769&sr=1-1

Parallel-The Awakening by Paul A Rice Book Review

This is not a book that I’d normally pick up, being in the genre that it is, but the author seemed a good bloke on twitter so I gave it a bash.

Within 2 chapters, I hated the book. I was confused as to what was happening and felt no real interest in the subject matter, but as I said, I’m in unfamiliar country with this genre and  something kept me reading, (namely the fact that this guy can write)  and boy I’m glad that I did.

Paul Rice brings humour, action, heart, pace and honest to God excitement to the reader with this novel. Paul describes scenes with no nonsense, succinct sentences, giving exactly what you need to paint an image of the scene, setting or character in your mind, and not a lick more.

Paul makes the two main characters in this book, Mike and Ken (never thought I’d read a story with an awesome hero called Kenneth in it, don’t they usually collect stamps or something those Kenneth-types?), real and vulnerable and the confusion they share about their predicament helped push me onwards.
The most visible villain of the piece, Red, is one nasty good ol’ boy, who’d be just at home in the gator-filled swamps of wherever, picking his teeth with the rib of an unidentified animal while gloating about what deep shit you were in. Loved this character. the fight scene with Red and Ken was fantastic and reminded me of the great sort of description you’d find in a Try Denning light sabre duel scene.
My only real beef with this book is that I wanted to know more about the characters, as not much of a backstory was supplied. Having said that, doing so may have affected the perfect pace of the book adversely. I’ll look forward, hopefully to meeting these guys again in later books and finding out a bit more about them.
The ending of the book (which I won’t spoil) was perfect, and as anyone who has read my own book will know is right up my street. Paul executes what could be a let down of an ending masterfully, and the tone is just perfect.
In lesser hands a book of this type in this genre would have lost me very quickly, not so with Paul Rice’s wonderfully book.  Sneaks up and grabs you by the gentleman regions.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005FL2I9K/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

 

Excerpt From my Bio – Paddy’s Daddy

Most readers of this blog will be unaware that I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life (from 10 years old). It’s kind of the family business. I wrote a short Autobiography detailing my recovery from depression as a series of short stories, collected as the book “Paddy’s Daddy”. I’ve included an the introduction and Chapter 1 of the title short story. As always, all feedback, questions and comments welcome:

Introduction

 

With the exception of the first story, Paddy’s Daddy, the following stories and articles were written as part of my recovery after twenty five years of moderate and severe depression. They detail exactly how I felt at the time they were written, although in some cases, my views have certainly changed since.

 

I’ve found great comfort and a healthy outlet in writing regularly these past two years since reaching rock-bottom, in terms of my mental health, and seeking treatment. I’ve recently completed my first fictional novel “Bobby’s Boy”, which was released on April 7th 2012, and I’m currently working on three more novels including a Christmas 2012 release for “Nae’body’s Hero”. I promise that those novels have all been edited to a much stricter standard than the series of short stories you hold now.

This book contains all of my favourite stories and the ones which helped empty my cluttered head exactly as they were at the time of writing. They are deliberately unedited and unpolished in any way as reflects the author at the time of writing.

 

Men, in particular, have a hard time admitting that they have a problem with mental illness and that need they need help. They have a harder time still accepting that help. Suicide is a real risk for people who feel that alone. I hope some of you find comfort in my stories and take solace in the knowledge that you’re not the only one to feel the way that you do and in that it is just a moment in time. The clouds will part again at some point with the right help. Life can be good again. You can be yourself once more.

 

Mark Wilson

March 25th 2012

 

 

Paddy’s Daddy

 

1

 

Early Days

 

My earliest memory is of lying in my bed cuddled with my older sister Julie, listening to my mum and dad arguing downstairs. This wasn’t an uncommon thing at all and we had been creeping in and out of each other’s beds to comfort one another for as long as I could recall. No kid likes to listen to their parents argue and our parents could argue and fight like champions. Bangs, crashes, curses and flat, wet thumps of what we presumed were fists reached our ears on nights like these. I never got used to hearing it.

Invariably, in the morning, mum would be found cleaning something up. Coffee stains from walls, food from the carpet. We helped. She hid bruises (I think) behind her hair and made jokes about the mess. She relaxed us somehow every single time. It was normal to us this life. Mum made it normal for us and made it seem like it was nothing. She shielded us from the wrongness of it all. We, the kids, just didn’t know any better. I was three (I think).

 

Years passed and despite these occasions we were a happy family much of the time, so far as I could make out. I certainly didn’t feel like I had a care in the world and expressed my independence and opinion without encouragement and frequently. I had so much fun all of the time and was truly carefree.  Julie was always a little more introspective and took a role as my carer and protector. I did not appreciate her love one little bit. What kid does appreciate love? They just expect it, if they’re lucky. I remember many happy times in those years. I recall trips to the cinema, family seaside visits, racing with dad, visits to my gran’s and cuddles with my mum. We were a happy family once, depending on what mood daddy was in.

Dad had been an alcoholic for as long as I could remember. He was drunk, a lot, and a nasty drunk at that. He was mainly a functioning alcoholic, holding down a job at the steelworks (he was a hard worker actually, never a lazy man) but going on benders for several days at as time then weeks would go past alcohol-free. Always he would turn back to it again at some point in those days. He was also a fighter. My dad didn’t give a damn for anyone’s opinion, needs or wants when drinking. In later years, as I became a man and had rare encounters with dad, invariably he’d be drunk and invariably he’d want to fight me. When sober, he was the most affectionate man I’ve ever known, constantly throwing arm around or a kiss at his children. I began to resent the unpredictability of his moods and eventually stayed away, treating what was genuine affection as guilt-inspired bullshit.

 

When I reached seven and Julie nine, our lives changed forever with our removal from the family home. Mum came to school in the middle of the school day to collect us. With a taxi full of our belongings,  a swinging budgie cage and one confused kid (I knew what was happening and saw it as a big adventure), she drove us to a homeless unit in Wishaw five miles away. It might as well have been another planet to us.

Mum took to her bed for a whole month when we reached the unit. She was going cold turkey, coming off her anti-depressants in one swoop, rather than weaning herself slowly off.  She wanted to draw a line under the life she’d just escaped from and to have every trace and dependency gone I suppose. As a result she was useless to us. I’ve no idea what Julie did in those weeks, I saw her rarely. I was too busy splitting my time between being mum’s therapist and learning how to fight, courtesy of gangs of bullies who didn’t like homeless kids. These lessons came in useful in subsequent years with the many changes of school that came along.

Mum had been abused over and over again as a child, physically and mentally by a violent and controlling father and sexually by a relative. She’d been broken again and again and was easily controlled by the vindictive, violent bully that my father became when he was drinking. In recent months, she had sought solace (and love I suppose) in the arms of a work colleague, but made a point of stressing to me and Julie that this man was not the reason that she had left our dad. As if we needed to be told that. I knew all of this because mum told me all of it. She needed to talk to, someone to confide in . I’d rather not have known.

Despite all I knew about him, and mum made sure that Julie and I heard everything bad she could remember about our father, I still loved and missed my dad enormously. I called him every day from a little phone box,  a mile  or so from the homeless unit, using five and ten pence pieces that I’d scavenged from the ground outside the local pubs. I talked to dad for hours some days, avoiding his many questions about where we were and who mum was with. I also ignored his assertions of what a hoor my mother was, mumbling “uh huh” to placate him then asking questions of my own to change the subject. If he was drunk when I called, I’d hang up and call back the next day. I sat on the little shelf, highup from the floor, in that phone box so often and for so long that it became the most comfortable 6×9 sheet of metal in the world.

Thankfully, we moved out of that unit and into somewhere back in our hometown within a five month period.

 

Mum continued to lean on her children for years and mum and dad both ramped up their efforts to turn both Julie and I against the other parent and ultimately each other. Despite this, I was happy in our new place had made a new best friend in Mark O’Donnell (a shared interest in comics is important when you’re seven, and still important when you’re thirty-seven) and was popular in school. It didn’t last. Several months after a visit to London, to see mum’s sister Irene and her new husband John, we got ourselves a new step-dad. I went into my mum’s bedroom in our little flat in the “Jewel Scheme” to find some toy or other. As I entered the room a familiar looking guy with a moustache dived under the covers, hiding from me. I ran through to the living room to tell my mum that a man who looked like my uncle john was in the flat. She laughed.  Uncle John became our step-dad and the largest factor in destroying my self-esteem and splitting up our little family of three for good.

Mum and John had a baby not long after, Joanne. Our new family moved to a small village in South Lanarkshire. I settled well there eventually. Julie hated it. Lots of events happened in our house in those days; destruction of personal items, arguments, beatings, and humiliations. Eventually Julie went back to Bellshill to live with my dad and his new wife Liz.  Far away from everything I knew and after losing my sister, my protector,  I changed completely in those years.

The cocky little shite of a boy I’d been was gradually replaced by a quiet, introspective, circumspect bag of nerves whose self-esteem was crushed into nothing under the heel of a step-father who seemed determined to ignore me and mock me in equal doses. Mum turned a blind eye.  All of her fight had long since left her. A man like my step-father who was “nice” to her was a god-send, I think, for her.  I kept my head down, my mouth shut and stayed in my room. I gained weight and lost confidence daily. I avoided contact with people as often as I could. I spent days in my room. Looking back, it’s clear that this was the beginning of my depression.

Strangely enough I wasn’t all that bothered or surprised by the blackness that now followed me everywhere. After hearing of the suicides, incestuous rapes, abusive patriarchs and severe manic depressives in my mother’s family for half my life, I just sort of accepted that I’d carry some sort of mental illness in my genes. I decided that the best I could do was self-diagnose and self-treat for as long as I could.  I managed to live a life using this strategy for the next twenty-five years.

You can read more by by purchasing Paddy’s Daddy on Amazon for only 77p at present.

Book Review – Deadfolk by Charlie Williams

This book annoyed me so much in the first couple of chapters that I put it down and didn’t return to it until I was hard up for a read a few weeks later.

The narrative (first person by Blake the main character) seemed like a constant stream of consciousness rather than a proper story, but once I got over that and slipped into the thought process and constant colloquialisms, I started to enjoy the story.

The thing that made this book enjoyable for me overall, despite some elements I couldn’t like, including the main character, was the excellent supporting cast that the author uses to effectively flesh out and humanise a pretty poor Main character in Blake. These supporting characters brought the book alive for me.

The main character and the overall story reminds me a little of Irvine Welsh’s “Filth” but a bit less interesting. I might revisit Blake and Mangle in future, and would definitely give a different type of story from the author a go as his writing is funny, touching and engaging at times. I think that Charlie Williams is capable of producing a lot better quality novel than this and look forward to reading it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0047O2S6E/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

 

Book Review – Thrift by Phil Church

Teacher writing a book, oh god not another one, except this guys actually got something fresh and insightful to add to the usual parade of “aren’t kids so funny” and “isn’t this a cringeworthy situation” books that teachers and ex-teachers tend to shite out.
Two things made this book enjoyable for me:
Firstly; Phil Chruch’s characters reflect The reality of some schools wonderfully. Ineptitude, poverty, alcoholism, failure, apathy, the need to appear interested/functional/competent. These things make his characters come alive in a way that most writers fail to do when basing a novel in their workplace.
Secondly; Phil can write. He doesn’t try to ingratiate his characters with the reader he has no real hero in this book, in fact I didn’t like any of them, instead he presents us with a very funny, very human cast and story, filled with great examples of  triumph (when maybe failure would be just), failings, the ability and desire to BS through a tricky spot,  and a good solid look at the life of a school through the eyes of the worlds worst teacher.
I agree with another reviewer’s assertion that the book was more a diary of events than a plot-driven story, but really, it’s kind of obvious from the product description that this would be the case.
I’d like to see Phil stretch his legs a bit on his next project and graduate from school. He has the skill and insight to write about something a bit further outside his comfort zone and I for one will happily spend money on  his next novel.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005L9VJYQ/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

 

Book Review – High Stakes by Joel Betancourt

Let me start by saying that I don’t generally buy horror books or short story collections. I picked up this collection on a whim after swapping a few comments with the author on WordPress (nice guy). I avoid these kind of tales because I have enough in the way of dark places in my mind that I actively avoid and don’t need to introduce others’ foibles into an already overcrowded place.  Short stories also usually irritate me as I just get comfortable with the concept or characters then they end and I have to start over again

Yeah, I’m not easily pleased I know.
As I read these stories I found myself continuously uneasy and creeped out, which I suppose is the point of horror stories. I didn’t like a lot of the characters but was sucked into their stories quickly. I had too many questions, most of which I didn’t fully want to know the answers to. All of these effects are what i usually experience reading horror books, which is why i dont.
The author of this book however has a way of fleshing out his characters and making their humanity shine in inhuman situations. Joel’s descriptions are vivd, engaging and make you care, love, hate, and fear his characters. He understands precisely what makes people connect with characters.. Their strengths, weaknesses, desires, faults and virtues…He exposes them quickly and with an artist’s rendering to lay bare characters that we as the reader only have a short but creepy/sad/fearful encounter with.

The author of this collection has left me wanting more from him, has creeped me out and stoked a little of my interest in the genre by giving real, flawed characters to read about. Only Jonathan Mayeberry has managed this for me in the horror genre before now.
Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007Z9KNE2/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

Free Chapter from my Debut Novel: Bobby’s Boy

The following excerpt is from Chapter 16 of “Bobby’s Boy” by Mark Wilson  Copyright: Mark Wilson 2012: Tom Kinsella, my main character, has returned home to Scotland and Bellshill for a visit after being on tour with an American rock band. He has his new best friend Donny, an American who needs a break from his bandmate Davey, in tow. you can find a link to the book on Amazon at the top of the page and after the excerpt below.

ALL FEEDBACK APPRECIATED AND WELCOMED

16

Back Home

The tour recommenced and proceeded at a pace that the people involved had expected, but found themselves unprepared for nonetheless. Daily life consisted of pack-up, travel, un-pack, play, pack-up, travel, and repeat. Continuing across the States until the end of January, they then flew to London which would be the starting point of the European Leg, taking them through February and so many countries that they all began to lose track of where they were in a haze of performance, drink, drugs, sex and more travel.

By the time the tour had come to Glasgow, playing King Tut’s at the end of February, Tom had filled dozens of notebooks with material from the tour. He could leave the job that very day and have more than enough with which to write several books. Most of which, in recent weeks, documented the dire downward spiral of Donny and Davey’s working and personal relationship.

The former friends had all but divorced each other, save for the forty five minutes they spent on stage together nightly. Davey constantly complained about Donny when he wasn’t there and verbally attacked him whenever they were in a room together. The jealousy and paranoia emanating from Davey could be felt by everyone, and as he was forcing factions between everyone on the tour.

Frequently Davey could be found in dark corners of the tour bus or venue, whispering bile about Donny into the ears of another of Donny’s, soon to become, former friends. The problem was that it was working. Donny started to cut more and more of a solitary figure backstage and on the tour-bus.

Whatever Davey was saying, it hadn’t reached Tom’s ears so far, but he had overheard Jody shouting at Davey the previous night. “Go fuck yourself man, who gives a flying fuck about that? You’re shooting yourself in the damn foot boy. Donny’s the talent in your fuckin band and you’re forcing him to dump you guys. Wise up you fucking child.”

Obviously Jody had cracked in response to Davey’s attempts at spreading his poison further. Jody did have a point. What exactly did Davey think it would achieve alienating his friend like this? It’d end the tour lifestyle he loved so much for sure.

The guys couldn’t stand to be in the same room together at all anymore by the time the tour reached Glasgow’s King Tut’s. Donny asked if he could have a bit of a timeout at Tom’s home.

“No problem man”, Tom had told him. “But you’ll have to put up with my uncle Alec bending your ear and talking shite about music to you non-stop.” Donny looked at him with wet eyes full of gratitude. “That sounds great Tom. Thanks bro.”

Tom arrived at Alec’s house the day before the King Tut’s gig with Donny in tow. Anal Seepage weren’t joining RATM on stage for the next few shows, so they had three days to themselves before they’d have to catch a flight to San Diego for the next leg of the North American tour.

“What do you think Davey and Mikey are doing?”

“Probably the usual, coke, whiskey and sluts, but who gives a fuck what they’re doing”, Donny sighed.

Tom reckoned that Bellshill must have been a total culture shock to his American friend. They’d taken a taxi from Glasgow city centre, passing through some wild parts of Lanarkshire. Donny’s face had remained impassive, head down, eyes on the carpet of the taxi.

When they reached Bellshill and Community Road, Tom fished his key out of his bag to open the door. Before he put the key in the lock the door swung open, revealing Alec. “Hullo boys, in ye’ come”, Alec roared at them, giving his nephew a punch on the shoulder as he passed. “You’re putting the beef on Tommy, look at the fucking size of ye. Right, in and get the kettle on. Cup ay tea…….half a cup, son.”

Alec turned his attention to Donny, who was still standing in the doorway. “Fuckin hell son, cheer up”, Alec roared before delivering a slap to his shoulder that nearly knocked him back out the door.

Donny relaxed instantly in response to Alec’s easy friendliness, and despite the apparent gruffness of his friend’s Uncle, smiled broadly at him. “Yessir.”

Alec turned to Tom, “Sir? Jist like on the telly. Should’ve fucking had you calling me sir all these years baw-jaws.”

Tom rolled his eyes, “Right ye are Alec, ye’ve more chance of me calling ye Jesus.”

Donny watched the exchange, and the hugs between the two men, one he called his friend and the other he’d only just met. He felt instantly at home. Donny closed the door in response to Alec’s “Yer letting the fuckin heat out.” Donny gave a silent thank you for this respite, and for the first time in months, felt safe and wanted.

Tom and Donny made fine use of their short time off from tour, visiting Tom’s friends, places he loved (mostly music venues and cinemas) and relaxing in local bars. Donny stuck out like a sore thumb in Bellshill with his height, accent and, now once again, cheery, disposition. To be fair, Tom felt that he himself was just as mis-matched at times in Bellshill, but was relieved to be home for a few days.

Familiar faces came and went from their table in the lounge of Franklyn’s Bar where the boys had virtually camped out for the remainder of their first day in town after touring round Lanarkshire and Glasgow. Alec had spread the word that Tom was in town, and a steady stream of old friends had appeared throughout the day to hear his stories and share their own. It was great to hear how everyone was doing, and did Tom’s spirit good to catch up with these people he hadn’t realised that he’d missed so much.

Bellshill seemed smaller than ever to him now, but it still refreshed his tired soul and regenerated him in the same way that it had all those years ago when he returned here from Blackwood to live with Alec. Tom hadn’t appreciated quite how tired he’d been until he found himself relaxing in the company of people who’d known him his whole life, and he them. His people, who asked nothing of him, but to just be himself.

Donny coped well with the accent and the dialogue, joining conversations easily and making the pub roar with laughter when repeating Scots phrases like “Haw, fanny-baws” or “Ye want yer hole?” at the request of some of the guys. He spat these words out in a kind of half-American/Jamaican/Irish bastard-ism of the intended phrase that was irresistibly funny, and the requests kept on coming for an hour or more. Tom watched his friends with pride. The locals, so welcoming to a foreigner just as he’d expected of them and Donny, engaging with everyone happily and more relaxed than Tom had seen him in months. This visit had been a good idea and had lifted the spirits of both him and Donny.

Over the next couple of days Tom found, despite invitations to go here or there with him and Cathy that Donny seemed content to give them their space and spend a bit of time with Alec, who had taken to Donny with gusto, and vice versa. The two men talked incessantly about music, movies and pop-culture and appeared to have known each other for years. Once again, Tom was proud of how readily his Uncle had accepted a new face in his life, as he had done also with Cathy.

Alec genuinely enjoyed the company of someone new who had something to say for himself. The older man was clearly invigorated by the chance to converse with someone who appreciated the same things as he did, but viewed them from a different era and perspective.

Tom returned home late on their last evening in Scotland, dropped into his chair with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, sighing as he relaxed into the familiarity of the chair, room and conversation. He quickly caught up with the ongoing discussion on great movie villains between Alec and Donny, both men a bit drunk by now.

Donny reckoned that Robert Mitchum’s Max Cady in the original Cape Fear was the most fearsome. Donny described Mitchum skillfully terrifying the life out of the audience in his stalking, ‘rapey-but charming’ demeanor.

Alec told him to get fucked. “Robert Mitchum was a scary big cunt right enough Donny, but your man Anthony Hopkins pishes all over him. Understated, creepy, highly intelligent, truly chilling auld monster, so Hannibal Lecter was son.”

Tom laughed at the look on Donny’s face. He reckoned that Donny caught about seventy percent of what Alec had said, which wasn’t bad where Alec was concerned.

“You’re both wrong”, Tom told them.

“Is that right smart-arse? Let’s hear it then, golden-baws. What half-arsed, shitey comic-book pish made you shit your frilly knickers? Fucking daft Vader, I suppose?”

Donny continued to wipe his tears of laughter away, while Tom leaned back into his chair and took a long slow drag on his Marlborough, enjoying making Alec wait.

“Na, Vader’s a prick, here’s the guy I’d fear.” He leaned into his uncle, waiting again until Alec leaned to him too. Tom lowered his voice, before continuing.

“I’ve never seen a properly scary villain who ticked all the boxes for me, but if I made a movie, here’s what he’d be…..Completely fucking normal, wimp-ish even, with slicked down black hair in a side-parting, overly- large and sad-looking  oval eyes, wee, thin pencil moustache, and always dressed in golf clothes. He’d look a bit like an accountant from the fifties.”

“Get tae fuck”, interrupted Alec, “he’s supposed tae be a scary bastard. A terrifying predator, no your auld English teacher fae school. Mind that cunt wi’ the ears on him Tommy?”

Tom laughed hard, and then leaned back in to continue. “He’d be a quiet man Alec, but with means. He’d shy away from crowds, but find release in torturing small animals. This guy wouldn’t be swimming about, shirt off like that big fanny Mitchum, and he wouldn’t be a pensioner in a fucking dug’s muzzle, spouting half-arsed philosophical shite about rolling birds to some lassie daft enough to entertain his pish. This guy would be still as a lake, always calm, never ruffled or excited or displaying any emotion.”

Alec snorted out a derisory plume of smoke from his nostrils. “Sounds like a right boring bastard, that’ll pull in the crowds having a fucking mannequin for the bad guy. Oh look, he’s sitting there doing fuck-all.”

Tom ignored him and Donny’s laughing. Donny was having trouble sitting up.

“My guy’s the kind of sick freak who only feels his blood stir when people die on a massive scale. He’s the guy that’d be watching earthquakes or tsunamis killing millions on TV, masturbating with a boxing glove and a handful of thinly sliced deli-meat, screaming the mantra “take it you fucking slags” as his soundtrack to death.

Alec looked at his nephew, one eyebrow raised. “You’re no fuckin right in the heid, scared of a fuckin librarian”. He shook his head and changed the subject. “So, what time are you boys away tomorrow then?” He already knew, but Tom suspected it was a good excuse for him to get off to bed under the guise of “I’ll no keep you two up, then.”

Donny beat him to it, “We’re going down to Manchester on Tom’s bike first thing, and he’s leaving it at his friends’ house.”

Alec laughed loudly. “If you’re getting on the back of his bike son, you better make sure you’ve some clean fucking pants waiting for ye’ at the other end.”

Donny got up from the couch laughing, and made it to the door before turning his head back to the room. ”You guys are so lucky to have each other, I’m off to bed, see you in the morning. Thanks Alec.”

“What’s he thanking you for uncle Alec?” Tom asked as Donny’s footsteps retreated upstairs.

“Och, nothing really, I’ll tell you later son…..You gonny tell me what happened with Cathy tonight?”

Fucking Alec, he always knew.

“Aye, I’d like that, if that’s ok?”

“Fire away son.”

Tom explained that in the last few days he and Cathy had been a bit “off” with each other. They’d argued several times on the phone over the last few weeks and, rather than sorting it out in person, seeing each other had seemed to amplify the problem. Tom embarrassedly explained to Alec that he’d been having a hard time hearing about all the people in Cathy’s life. Guys in particular. He felt that she was moving further and further away from him and every time she spoke about coffee with this one, or study with that one, Tom would go into a silent sulk, followed by questions, then accusations.

He couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut, or stop torturing himself with mental images of what he imagined her to be up to with God knows who, so far away from him. It’s not something he had ever suffered from before, jealousy, but it had him in it’s grip firmly now. Worse still, it had brought along its mates, mistrust and paranoia, to join the party. It didn’t matter how many times he told himself to shut the fuck up, told himself that she would never, had never, that she loved him. His mouth just had to ask, to accuse. He knew that his actions sooner or later would either make his fears a reality when Cathy got fed up and decided to do what she was being accused of, or those same baseless accusations would result in her kicking him into touch. He couldn’t lose her, but couldn’t stop himself from thinking those twisted things. His brain wouldn’t obey him, betraying him instead with an unwanted slideshow of his worst fears.

Alec listened impassively. No comments like, “ya stupid wee arsehole” or “for fuck’s sake, Tommy” escaped his lips. Rather, he stood up, held his nephew close for a few moments and gently told him “Tom, you need to find out what’s making you behave like this, deal with it and stop acting so possessively towards her. She’s not a girl you want tae lose. And Tom….. do it soon. Cathy won’t put up with your shite for long. And nor should she.”

Tom’s tear-filled eyes looked at his uncle. He asked him” How Alec? I’m desperate to, but I don’t know how.”

Alec sighed, “I don’t know either son.”

You can buy Bobby’s Boy on Amazon UK here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1335641028&sr=1-1

or in the US here:

http://www.amazon.com/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=lp_B007OIGYJW_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335641130&sr=1-1

Irvine Welsh and Snow Patrol F@cked It Up

I’m just so excited about the stage we have reached in terms of the music and literature industry in Britain right now. We’re about to hit a bubble where a massive explosion of new, exciting, meaningful and mind-blowingly energetic music and novels are about to emerge; clearing out the bland pish we are currently drowning in. Even the odd meaningful movie with a heart is sneaking through. Chronicle for example.

Don’t believe me? I’m a man in the know.

All my life, I’ve had a peculiar “affliction”. The technical name for it is synesthesia. Essentially it means that sounds in general, and music in particular, appear in my mind’s eye as colours. These are very specific and distinct to what each song or voice is conveying emotionally for me. As well as this, I love books and movies also. Imagine the soundtrack to a movie enhanced by flowing, swaying and splashing colours to accompany the music and words. Imagine the colour that flows from the words on a page when spoken aloud.

Now, how does this give me insight into the shifting landscape of our music and book industry? Well, for about 5 years now the British music industry in particular has been a very beige place to be in. The seemingly endless conveyer belt of X-Factor puppets and reformation of man-bands and Buble’s of the world have left the music scene dry, boring and colour-less. Where’s the excitement? Where are the songs and albums that you can identify with, laugh with, be outraged with, or that make you want to go f@cking nuts? Which particular artists are going to define the teen of today? The Script? The Wanted? JLS? Take-That? Nothing wrong with any of these acts, certainly there’s a lot worse around, but to my ears (and eyes) it’s music to chat to; music to have “ isn’t this civilised?” dinner parties to; but mostly, music to ignore.

Just look at Snow Patrol. This group actually produced some decent and innovative songs in their early days. Now? They’re slaves to their record company’s demands for formulaic coffee table soft rock ballads. They’ve gone from being a battered old VW van, full of charisma, tales to tell and character to becoming a 5 star safety rated Renault Megane. Don’t get me started on those bastards, Nickleback!

This Snow Patrol record is shite

The literary world is just as bad and just as beige. Irvine Welsh came along and redefined everything for me about how a book could be formatted and written, or a tale told. Trainspotting was a revelation; Glue was arguably his finest moment. Everything else? A copy of a copy. Each piece written to emulate what made his early work so vibrant, but never quite recapturing the hunger and passion of those works. Irv, please, don’t keep writing what you think the audience wants; rather give us your best, straight from your black heart. I miss Juice Terry, Begbie and the boys, but don’t trot them out like well-worn slippers for a tired re-enactment or two, put some good old-fashioned Welsh spunk in their stories or don’t bother yer arse.

I could list all day the formulaic strategy that writers have adopted and name and shame those c@nts, but why bother? You know how you are; Grisham, Cornwell, Patterson, Harris, Ludlum and your pals. The comparison between these “industries” is obvious to anyone who loves music, books and movies. The “big 6” have told us who and what we “want” to read for long enough.

Just as music is emerging (hopefully soon) from an age where the bean-counters and committees decide and dictate what we listen to, read or watch, so too is the literary world. Self-publishing without a doubt will bring its problems: poorly written, poorly edited or written to a formula John Locke-type “novels” etc. However with that comes the freedom of being able to publish the stories we want to tell when we want to tell them. To be able to write and distribute the very best words straight from our hearts to (hopefully) our audience. Fine times are ahead indeed.

Here’s the Brucie-Bonus though. Every so often when music or film or literature gets to its lowest point a monster of a group or completely new sound, or a new voice, director, writer or visionary comes along and inspires change of immense proportions. Guys like John Niven are starting to emerge and that suits me just fine Times of austerity and poverty also historically produce musicians, writers and artists who are hungry for change and have a message to force into the public consciousness.. Times are very tough at present.

Revolution is on its way, praise the Lord.

Good times are a comin’.

My debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” is available now on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335467068&sr=1-1