Friday, 20 April 2018

 “It held my attention from the very first page to the last.”
“I gave up a night’s sleep to get to the end.”
In February of this year, my novel Fraud was published by Signal Books of Oxford. The action is set in the present day and follows the fortunes of four principle characters – a beautiful, troubled Hollywood actress, a young editor who is also an aspiring writer, a middle-aged unsuccessful author and his solicitor wife. It extends over six years and it is suggested at the outset that the star – Nicola Carson – has some dark secret in her past that is contributing to her ‘troubled’ mental condition. This is the pivot around which the plot revolves.  
In early April, on a warm, sunny evening rare in this dark and inclement spring, Fraud was launched from The Rye Bookshop in Rye, East Sussex, at a gathering of friends and family which brought joy to my heart since I was the centre of attention and received lots of compliments about my book. I was especially fortunate in having my brother-in-law, Nick Snelgar – himself a published author – give a short speech. In it, he invoked the image of the campfire in prehistoric times, with primitive, pre-literate people hanging on the storyteller’s every word. Over the years I’ve been writing, I’ve become more than ever convinced that the story – and the power and beauty of the words in which it is delivered – is the most important aspect of any work of fiction. Of course you have to have vital, well-rounded characters, a sharply-drawn setting and possibly some profound, universal observation about life, but without an arresting story – that constant stimulation of the need to know what happens next – the attention of the audience wanders, whether they be modern readers or hunter-gatherers, and dissatisfaction ensues. The storyteller would not be given supper by the tribe – in fact, he or she might very well become their supper. I was thus delighted to notice, among the numerous readers’ reviews on Amazon, the frequent recurrence of expressions like “page-turner”, “gripping read” and “riveting”. “It held my attention from the very first page to the last,” said one. “I gave up a night’s sleep to get to the end,” said another. That is the highest praise I could have hoped for.
When it comes to characters, I’ve always felt drawn to those who are flawed, whose lives are not easy and whose situations are often determined by misguided decisions or circumstances beyond their control. I am less interested in people who are super-successful and seem to have everything sorted, though I suspect there are far fewer such people around than one might imagine. Scratch beneath the surface of the most super-duper people and you generally find some dark secret or some flaw or failing they’d rather you didn’t know about. Even Nicola Carson, who appears to have everything – beauty, talent, wealth and adulation – is a mess inside.
I’d like to think that, in the course of what is hopefully an arresting, amusing and entertaining story, some ironic observations are made about the nature of modern life – indeed, all life – or, at least, some questions asked. My main concern, however, is that reading Fraud should be an enjoyable and uplifting experience – not a chore or a challenge. There are already enough of those in life!