Tag Archives: novels

Meeting Inspiration Again – guest post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Meeting My Inspiration Again

By Abbie Johnson Taylor

One sunny spring afternoon, I was resting in my recliner, listening to the drone of lawnmowers and whine of weed whackers as my landscapers did their weekly
chores in my yard. Suddenly, I heard a crash. It was a lawnmower colliding with a parked car in my neighbor’s driveway. I know this only because one of
the landscapers, not knowing me, came to my door, thinking it was my driveway and my car.

According to a policeman who showed up a couple of hours later, the car sustained a lot of damage. I gave him the landscaping company’s phone number, and
he gave me his card, saying he remembered asking me years ago if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. I couldn’t believe it.

In the fall of 2002, I was single and living in an apartment complex subsidized for seniors and people with disabilities. A registered music therapist,
I was working in a nursing home. On a day off, I was walking home after my water exercise class at the YMCA. I’d just jaywalked in front of my building
and  stopped to talk to a neighbor in a wheelchair when she told me there was a policeman behind me. I turned around and there he was, on a bicycle.

Where had he come from? Had he seen me jaywalk? Was I about to get a ticket, my first ever brush with the law?

To my surprise and relief, he asked me if I was having difficulty crossing streets because drivers weren’t stopping. I told him that as long as I used
four-way and other intersections where drivers were required by law to stop, I rarely had a problem. I also explained that I couldn’t see well enough to
get the license plates from offending vehicles. He said he would bring up the issue at roll call and rode away.

Now, I was again flustered, even though I’d done nothing wrong this time. All I could tell him was that our first meeting had inspired my first novel.
I should have given him my card, but I didn’t. He probably thought I was nuts and wished he’d given me that ticket for jaywalking years ago. In any case,
we parted amicably enough.

After I posted about this incident on Facebook, someone asked if the story would continue. That remains to be seen. I may never see that officer again,
but I’ll always have the memory of how our first meeting inspired We Shall Overcome. As for the damaged car next door, my landscaper told me his insurance
would pay for it, so all’s well that ends well.

Bio

Besides We Shall Overcome, Abbie Johnson Taylor has published two poetry collections and a memoir and is working on another novel. Her work has appeared
in Magnets and Ladders, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband
Bill, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. This is the subject of her memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared
for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. To learn more about her and her books, please visit her website at
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.

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Was Squeers Misrepresented By Dickens In Nicholas Nickleby

In his novel, Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens portrays Wackford Squeers (the headmaster) as a sadist with no redeeming features. Squeers was based on the (actual) headmaster of a Yorkshire school named William Shaw who was prosecuted for child cruelty. However, according to a descendant of William Shaw he was, in fact a humane man who was liked by his students and by the community in which his school operated. Dickens therefore does Shaw a great injustice in his portrayal of him in Nicholas Nickleby.
To read the article please visit https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1316931/The-real-Squeers-was-no-Dickens-brute-claims-descendant.html

Benjamin Disraeli

I must confess to nurturing a soft spot for the novelist and politician Benjamin Disraeli https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Disraeli.

The second of the 2 quotes is, I believe correctly attributed to Disraeli. There is, however some dispute regarding the first, with some attributing it to Disraeli, while others attribute this witticism to Moses Hadas. I, personally like to think that Disraeli was responsible for both witticisms, although the consensus of opinion is in favour of Hadas as regards the first one.

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book – I shall waste no time in reading it”.

“A member of Parliament to Disraeli: ‘Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.’

That depends, Sir,’ said Disraeli, ‘whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

Spellbound, by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë is best known for her novel “Wuthering Heights”, which was published in 1847. She did, however also write poetry one of which, “Spellbound”, is a favourite of mine and is reproduced below:

“The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go”.

“Ghosts of Chechnya” By Jenny Ensor

My acquaintance, Jenny Ensor, is looking for funding to turn her novel, “Ghosts Of Chechnya” in to an ebook. The synopsis on Jenny’s Unbound page reads as follows:

“Ghosts of Chechnya explores love and friendship, and the impact of war and terrorism on our lives. Georgie, a young London woman who’s been deeply hurt
in the past, tells the story. It begins in London in early 2005, the year of the bus and Tube bombings.

Georgie meets Russian former conscript soldier Nikolai in a pub after she is uplifted by the impromptu music he plays. Nikolai, newly arrived from Russia,
dreams of becoming a composer but for now survives as a low-waged casual worker.

Julian, a close friend of Georgie’s, admits he loves her and warns her to keep away from the Russian. But despite the concerns of both her father and Julian,
Georgie can’t resist Nikolai. He tells her of his experiences while serving in the Russian army, and seems haunted by a Chechen woman who showed him a
simple act of kindness, blaming himself for her death.

Georgie guesses that Nikolai is hiding something from her. She wonders if he will ever heal from the psychological wounds that war has inflicted. His music
– and their increasing closeness – seem to be the only things that keep him going.

Then London is shaken by terrorism. In the emerging climate of fear, Georgie’s father condemns Nikolai; Georgie must ask herself who the Russian really
is. Also, how well does she really know Julian, who can’t seem to let her go? As a net of shadowy threats tightens, Georgie must find out who she can trust
and who she should fear, before it’s too late.

This gripping, debate-provoking novel asks at how well we can ever know anyone; it also deals with reconciliation, forgiveness and the folly and suffering
of war. I strongly believe in this project and hope very much that you will decide to offer your support”.
For Jenny’s Unbound page please visit https://unbound.co.uk/books/ghosts-of-chechnya.

Albatross – A Guest Post By Jeff Grant

I am delighted to publish the below guest post by my dear friend, Jeff Grant. I have known Jeff for some 10-11 years and have looked forward to the publication of his novel “Albatross”, which is now available as a paperback or a Kindle download. Do please check out Jeff’s book.

Kevin

‘Albatross’
the idea

One evening six years ago, in a bar in Buenos Aires in Argentina, I sat chatting with my son Alastair, a teacher of English in that city. The conversation drifted to the subject of my father. I had never known him – not in any real sense. He and my mother separated when I was less than three years old. I never saw him or heard from him after that. The only conscious memory I have of him is as a participant in a family argument. Even then, all I am aware of is a tall male figure whose face is way above my head.
As I grew older, my natural curiosity about him developed. My mother however, would never talk about him. But some instinct which I sense is unerring, tells me that most of the real love and care that I received in those very early days, I received at the hands of that man. His departure from my life was, consequently, devastating.
In my twenties and thirties, I made various attempts to find him. But I discovered very little. My all-demanding career as a director of TV and cinema commercials in London gave me no real time for anything else. Only much later, when I’d met my present partner, Anita, did concrete details start to surface. Anita had worked for a long time in adoption and was adept at finding things out via the internet. It was a sad day when we came across the evidence that my father had died in the mid 1980’s.
We also discovered around the same time that I had a half-sister in the north of England. She sent me a photograph of my father. Until that moment I had no idea what he looked like. It was a strange, almost spooky, first view. I look so much like him. But in his eyes – and it was the same in many of the photographs I was subsequently to see of him – there was a wistfulness, a sadness. Rightly or wrongly, I attributed that look in part at least, to what I feel sure must have been a permanent facet of his existence after he and my mother split – that of having been separated, for the remainder of his days, from one half of his own self.
As Alastair and I discussed all this, it became obvious that that permanent separation must have had a profound effect on my father – on the way he led his life, on his later relationships, on how he viewed himself and his future; and that the older he grew, the more painful the whole thing must have become. Did it ever prompt him to try and get in touch with me? I’ve no idea. What I do know is that had he done so at any time while I was still living in the family home, I would never have been told. And I guess that in any case, a time eventually comes when, in order to be able to lead a reasonably peaceable and balanced life of your own, you have to do your very best to blank that sort of thing right out of your memory. Forget it; make it seem like it never happened. But of course you can’t; and it did. So to his dying day my poor father must have been living a monumental lie.

And so the idea for ‘Albatross’ was born. In the few days I had left in Buenos Aires I made some notes on whatever ideas came to me in that time – structure, characters etc. Then back in London I started to write it. It took me five years.
I cannot work to a structured plan. I have an overall idea of where and in what direction I want the story to go. But the details of place, character, twists of the plot etc. come to me only as I work. Which I do every morning for at least three hours. It’s occasionally longer, but I’ve found by experience that three hours at the keyboard is enough. However well things are going, my concentration and creativity almost always start to fade after that. And if things aren’t going well and ideas are not coming to me – which, I’m pleased to say is rare – I’ll nevertheless sit there until the three hours are up. It’s like being at a football match. You may be a goal down – but until the final whistle, you can never be sure the equalizer won’t come!

‘Albatross’
the book

‘Albatross’ – subtitled ‘The scent of honeysuckle’ – is the story of a man’s search for his only child, a son he abandoned when the boy was just three and the marriage with his mother over. The man concerned is Barnaby Marechal – born Bernat Gyorgy Horvat-Marshall of Hungarian mother and English father. A successful and popular back-bench politician, he is regarded by the public generally as a likeable maverick. But his long-abandoned son is a subject that in all his adult life, he has spoken about to no-one, not even to his present wife, Ellen. The older he gets, the more he is plagued by shame, guilt and regret. The time comes when he finds it difficult to concentrate on his work. He is convinced he has transgressed against some fundamental law of nature.
Returning one day from a speaking engagement in the north of England, his train pulls into an intermediate station in the Midlands. Suddenly, without any conscious forethought, he finds himself getting off and standing on the platform watching the train disappear from sight as it continues on its way to London without him.
He books into a run-down hotel. A night of turmoil brings a sort of clarity – he has to do all he can to find his son; there will be no rest for him without that. If it means giving up all else, including his career and even his marriage to Ellen – then that’s how it will have to be. The alternative – a slow psychological meltdown under the burden of an intolerable moral debt – is unthinkable.
The story proceeds in a number of strands and sub-strands, all of which, it is soon apparent, are ultimately convergent – the search itself, his early married life, his often dubious exploits in the years immediately following his divorce, his wealthy family background, his childhood and teenage years, his troubled relations with an alcoholic mother and workaholic father.
The search begins in Halifax and ends in the infamous Tenere Desert in the central Sahara of Niger. In between, it ranges across the UK, from rural Lincolnshire where Matthew was brought up with his mother and her second husband, to London’s Soho and the world of films and TV advertising, back to Lincolnshire where he meets and has a brief but life-altering sexual fling with the strange and unknowable Celeste Johannson. He meets the boy’s bizarre stepfather, now himself divorced, and who regards Barnaby as the source of all that went wrong in his own marriage. It takes him to a lonely house by the sea where he meets up again with Stella, Matthew’s mother, living a solitary life with just two dogs for company.
But Matthew, it turns out, has had good reason to disappear, and all trails go cold. Weary and despairing, Barnaby gives up his quest and moves to the north-east of England planning to live a life of quiet retirement. He buys a motorhome and plans an extensive holiday for himself in Scotland. He is about to set out early one morning when, on an old mobile phone he has resurrected and charged-up for this trip, a voicemail from a young woman in London tells him she thinks she knows where his son is.
After meeting with the woman, a vodka-addicted pop-singer from Eastern Europe named Katalin Varga, followed by a late night interview with the chain-smoking, wary-eyed Kit in a pub in London’s Soho – a confrontation which frightens the life out of him – Barnaby finds himself en route for the desert town of Agadez in Niger.
In a five-man expedition led by a Tuareg guide, he sets out across the desert on the trail of a red Suzuki pick-up, the vehicle in which Matthew – if indeed it is him – is reputed to have been travelling when Katalin Varga last heard from him. The boy’s purpose in Niger remains a mystery. But the signs are ominous – this is drug country. The shock and disorientation of his surroundings force Barnaby so far out of his comfort zone that he struggles to retain intact his mental faculties. When the red Suzuki is finally spotted, abandoned on the dunes of the Tenere Desert in temperatures nudging 55C, Barnaby, all warnings, all caution gone, sets out across the sand towards it like a man on Clacton beach in summer.

To find out what, if anything or anybody, he finds there, I’m afraid I’m going to refer you to the book itself! It’s available on Amazon as a paper-back and Kindle here –
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Albatross-scent-honeysuckle-Jeff-Grant/dp/0993332803/ref=sr_1_44?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444485269&sr=1-44&keywords=albatross

I shall also be starting up my blog once again very soon at –

https://besonian.wordpress.com/

It’s a blog I’ve been forced through pressures of time and work to suspend for a long time – and I shall be posting extracts from the book on it. Those extracts will be chronological as far as the book’s concerned – though the book itself does not always follow a chronological order.
But however much of the book you read, and wherever you read it – I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be interested in your views.

Quote Of The Day

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies

on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity”.

(Middlemarch Chapter XX, http://www.victorianlondon.org/etexts/eliot/middlemarch-0020.shtml).