Should I continue?

Many years ago I wrote a novel, what I think of as my first ‘proper’ novels; it was called ‘A Strong Hand From Above’ and it was what I guess you’d call a thriller. A young woman who has been estranged from her family for several years returns home. Home is a farm, now a garden centre,  where her stepfather lived, and where her two step-bothers still work. The whole story is about their inheritance, them falling out, attempts on the life of the main character, and her eventual kidnap…

It isn’t very well written, but when I read it I find that I do become immersed in it, and even though I know what the plot is, I still find it fairly gripping. The point is – is it gripping enough, good enough, to be rewritten and for me to publish as one of my books… or would it be not worth the effort? Hmmm… so many other things to write… dilemma… what to do…

here is the beginning:

Sometimes I’m so stupidly stubborn that I end up suffering for it… take mobile phones… I have a prejudice against them and I’ve never had one. I’ve given all sorts of flippant responses to people who as for my number… if I need to get in touch with someone I can ring them on a landline, if I have a phone people will be able to find me, I don’t want to be drawn into being one of those people who spend their whole life staring at a small screen and bumping into things, I don’t want to be a slave to technology…
Occasionally it has been awkward or inconvenient, but it has never been disastrous, being out of contact with the world, until Albert died… and the world I was out of contact with fell apart…

It was the worst possible weather to arrive home and miss a funeral by a day… twenty-four hours…
I’d been sitting at a little café in Eze, happily sketching away, and a couple had asked if I minded them sharing my table, well, of course I didn’t…
They sat with their glasses of wine, she was writing postcards, he was looking at something on his tablet.
“Albert Greer’s funeral tomorrow, I’d have gone if we’d been home,” he said to the woman.
I jerked upright.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, this must sound very rude, but did you say Albert Greer?”
“Yes, you know, the garden centre… he died a couple of weeks ago… did you know him?”
Know him? Did I know him?…
“He’s my stepfather… was my stepfather…”
People are so kind; the news is full of horror and cruelty and evil, which is why I never listen to it or read it, and yet in reality most people are kind. The couple… and to my shame I didn’t even find out their names, came with me back to the little pension where I was staying to collect my things, and then drove me to Nice Côte d’Azur airport, making sure I had enough money for the first flight back to the UK, coming with me into the airport to make sure I could get on a plane…
I was just about to go through to departures when I realised I hadn’t properly thanked them and did not even have first names. I turned and they made urgent waving movements with their hands and I turned and walked on.

Everything seemed to take forever, even though the flight was in early, and I got the connection to take me into the city and I had no trouble getting to the station – it was quicker going by train than waiting for a flight to the airport at Strand; the first morning train got in before the first flight left …
As I sat on the train I wished I’d bought a phone. I’d rung from a call-box at the airport whenever it was I was there, I was losing track of time, and an unknown woman answered just saying Stefan was out and so were the family, and then she rang off without even a perfunctory goodbye. I was too tired and fraught at the time, I just wanted to get there, to get home…
I was sitting next to a plump woman in a hajib and I suddenly jerked awake and lifted my head from her comfortable shoulder. I apologised but she laughed and was so nice, suddenly a tear trickled down my cheek… I dashed it away… if I started crying now I wouldn’t be able to stop.
Before I knew it she had poured me a drink of sweet milky tea in a bright pink and yellow plastic cup and I was eating something a little like a samosa and babbling out what had happened…
I had become estranged from my family, my step-father and my two step-brothers, I hadn’t seen any of them for a couple of years except once when my younger step-brother and Albert had turned up on my doorstep in Manchester…
I had been away from home for more years than I should have been… and now, now Albert was dead… I hadn’t even known he was ill…
The woman told me that she lived with her husband and children in England, but her parents and sisters were in Bangladesh… she missed them terribly but at least they could phone and Skype…
Skype is a mystery thing to me – I know the principal of it but I’m so technophobic that I’ve no idea how it works… and phoning… I’m not a great one for phones… Stefan used to ring me occasionally on my land line at the studio…
She got off at Castair and insisted on leaving me a bag of food, more samosas, some fruit and some sweet cakes…
How kind, people are so kind… She waved at me through the window as the train pulled out of the station… I hadn’t asked her name either…

Telling All The Truth…

The first novel I ever completed, and I can’t remember the title, something about ghosts and screens or mirrors, was quite short and it was about a young early twenty-something’s passion for a much older man who went on to marry her mother! As I was a young early twenty something myself, I expect I thought it was deep and rather daring (not by the standards of today, of course) but now I read it and it’s gauche and rather embarrassing to acknowledge as my work… except that some of it is quite well written, and when I’m not writing about love and passion, some of it is not too bad. The characters are all stereotypes, as if I didn’t trust myself to write about real people, or realistic people! I can’t imagine ever being able to do anything to it to make it readable for anyone else… and even the plot no longer appeals.

The second novel I completed, ‘The Man in the Sun’ was much longer and was about a group of young people who met on holiday in the south of France, in Menton; a glamorous brother and sister, a young Anglo-Chinese woman and an English lad who was working in a café and pretending to be Italian. They returned to the brother and sister’s home in the west of England. It was a farm, and the night they arrived the farmhouse and surrounding land was flooded, and they were cut off for several days in the house with the father, uncle and the housekeeper. That was pretty much the whole cast of characters with the addition of the English/Italian waiter’s sister who arrived unannounced and flirted with pretty much everyone. There was a murder, but that all fizzled out without being very interesting or exciting, and the denouement was when the uncle was revealed to be the father of the young man… complicated? A bit, but not enough to be interesting. It wasn’t quite as embarrassing as the first, and again there were some quite readable passages as well as many more toe-curling parts! Again, I don’t think there is much to salvage from it!

My third novel was ‘Telling All The truth’; and was my best so far. It was better written, tighter, with more believable characters and a fairly intriguing premise.  Susie, the cousin of the main character, Viv, rings her to say she has just shot and killed her fiancé (Susie’s fiancé) Viv rushes round to Susie’s flat to find the police have arrived (who Susie has also called) and that a body has been found up on the moors, although not where Susie has described. The body is the fiancé and he has been shot. Susie is arrested and Viv is left puzzled because the one thing about Susie is that she always, always tells the truth, doesn’t even tell a white lie to save someone’s feelings. So if she has told the truth about killing the fiancé, why has she lied about where it happened? This story has more characters, Viv’s best friend, an annoying policeman who fancies Viv, his superior who warns him off, the murdered man’s two strange cousins,  and a stranger who is found slumped in Viv’s porch overcome with pneumonia. There is humour, there are a couple of exciting chases through the back streets of Manchester, there are a variety of scenes and settings and although it is a bit raw and rough round the edges, I can see that with a bit of work it could be knocked into something presentable… maybe… or maybe not!