Tag: Billy Christ

He may have strangled her or there again…

He doesn’t remember what happened… He may have strangled her, or there again, maybe he didn’t…

For a long time he’s been confused between reality and what’s in his head…

This much we know… But who is he..? Who is the man who may have killed the girl… Who is it who may have left her for dead, up in the clearing at the top of the hill overlooking Butler’s Farm? The same clearing teenager Billy considers his own – his place of refuge from the ‘other’ world where adults and teachers, girls and priests cause him so much annoyance.

So who has ruined his special place? Who killed the girl with blonde hair – the same girl who splashed him with cold water and embarrassed him at the fun fair and worse… the girl who kissed him and touched him, well… there…!

Michael Cameron reads the opening of BILLY CHRIST in this short video.

Click  below for a glimpse of Billy’s world…


Mr Golding And Me…

A very long time ago – when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old – (according to my son that would be about the time Dinosaurs walked the Earth, but actually it was when trousers were judged by the width of their flares and hair by how long you could get away with it) – a very, very far sighted English teacher (he was Irish and dangerously mad and would later become a character in my book Billy Christ)  gave us a great novel to read by William Golding. And it wasn’t Lord Of The Flies.

Not that there is anything wrong with Lord Of The Flies -  I mean it is one of the greatest books of the twentieth century (or of any century come to that) but at the time everyone was reading Lord Of The Flies and had been for some years – my older brother had done it for O level and I would do so in my turn a year or two later. What that far-sighted teacher did was introduce us to Golding with his book ‘The Spire’, which in  my opinion is one of the most dramatic, sensual, thought provoking and powerful books ever written.

I was hooked from the very first lines: ‘ He was laughing, chin up, and shaking his head. God the Father was exploding in his face with a glory of sunlight through painted glass….’

What?! I had never read anything so vivid, so powerful. So visual… and later this: ‘The most solid thing was the light. It smashed through the rows of windows in the south aisle, so that they exploded with colour…’

It takes a great, great writer to make light solid and colour become so vivid on the page of a book – to me it was like  film and I was there pressed up against the screen, immersed in that ancient light – light that beat against me, dragged me into the dusty, stained-glass coloured world of the cathedral and thrust me into the recesses of Jocelin’s mind, wrapped me in his vanity, immersed me in his vision and warmed my back by the same angel that warmed his back (an angel I have mildly, and with deep respect resurrected in the story of Billy – mea culpa Mr Golding).

From then on I was obsessed. I read all of Golding’s books in  less than a month or two (he hadn’t written all of his work at this time)  and I decided there and then that English literature was my subject, what  I wanted to do. I was lucky – the passion for words Golding had given me got me a place at Cambridge university but there I rather drifted away from reading literature to pursue another love, that of theatre. But then in my last year I was told I could choose any author to write about – what was known then as ‘the long dissertation’ – a part of the finals to be written over the course of a year and marked for the tripos.

It was an easy choice – my author could only be William Golding. This was 1974. This was in one of the greatest universities in the world, this was where the finest critics of English literature, the greatest professors of their art plied their trade and (this may come as a surprise, it did to me) not one of them wanted to supervise me. My director of studies explained that he and his colleagues considered Golding a ‘minor’ author and wouldn’t I rather write on Dickens (who at least according to Leavis had written one great book) or preferably Chaucer..?

I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t… I wasn’t going to. I was going to write about William Golding and I did so, largely unsupervised and more from passion than with any  academic ability – and as a result I got a lousy mark – I did what you weren’t supposed to do in the English faculty – I had ploughed my own lonely and unappreciated furrow! And as result I was regarded as rather foolish and rather odd – I might as well have chosen to write about Iain Flemming or Enid Blyton and there was a lot of looking down academic noses at this silly and head-strong student and this ‘slight’ author, Golding.

I’d like to think that nine years later when wiser men awarded Golding the Nobel Prize for literature that a few of those old Cambridge establishment-farts felt embarrassed – but, of course,  you can bet your bottom dollar they didn’t – they probably thought the world had gone madder than they had already assumed it was…

I can’t get Mr Golding out of my head. His work haunts me still. I am not ashamed, as I say, to admit  that my new book Billy Christ has a little of his influence. I like to think that one day I might be able to persuade the Golding estate to let me write the project I have always wanted to do  – a musical based on The Spire – don’t laugh, use the word opera if it makes you happier, and I would like to think that one day I will complete my collection of Golding First editions – but Lordy! That Lord Of The Flies costs a bob or two in the fine book markets nowadays.

So thank you Mr Golding – you opened up my imagination, you fired me up for reading and you turned me into a writer, for which I am grateful – and you created a canon of work equal to any in the history of literature at its very best – not bad for a man the university of Cambridge ignored even when he was at his peak. Glad you got the last laugh…




And in my beginning – the writer’s dilema

I’ve been writing about endings and beginnings of books. My new book ‘Billy Christ’ is about a young boy growing-up sometime in the early 1970s in a small English rural community. He’s no ordinary boy in that he has a number of obsessions and a deep and primitive spiritual belief. He’s a ‘wild’ child and an outsider – his world is narrow and mainly confined to the Roman Catholic boys’ school he attends and the clearing in the woods at the top of the hill near where he lives. Compared to his contemporaries he is an innocent, sexually unknowing, naive…

But he is also (unintentionally) amusing and I tried to use humour in the narration to highlight by contrast the bleakness of his world. How do you get all this across in that all important opening page? I guess it’s a question all writers have to address: how do you get the reader into your world, into your characters’ world and into their minds? I  tried the age-old idea of entering Billy’s mind through his diary (or as he call them ‘his memoirs.’)

This is what I did:

“There are two worlds.

Sometimes I think I belong to one world and all the other boys at school and some of the teachers belong to another. I get glimpses of their world but I cannot really understand it, let alone explain it.

In their world they make jokes which they laugh at but I don’t understand, sometimes they snigger behind their hands and then they’ll say things which seem quite ordinary but which make them giggle hysterically, so that the ordinary words they use must mean something else but I don’t know what. Take the drama club. Some of the older boys and some of the boys in my year and even some who are below me and who are not in the drama club look at you funnily when you go to rehearsals and they nudge each other if Father Martin asks you to rehearse privately up in his office.

I once heard Roger Inkman in the 1st year sixth say to another sixth former, ‘Oh, they call it rehearsals? – That’s a new name for it!’ And he put a sort of funny emphasis on ‘new’ and then they both giggled and gave me an ODD look. I didn’t understand that, especially as most boys in my school have been in the drama club at one time or another.

Nor did I understand what Mr Postlethwaite (PE and Games) meant, when I said I could not go to a rugby sevens practise because we had a dress rehearsal for the house drama competition. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Well, you’ll have to learn that rugby and plays just don’t mix. Not where I come from, anyway!’ 

He comes from Plymouth, apparently.

Mr Postlethwaite came along to the folk concerts that we organised to raise money for the school development fund and so did Mr Banks the other games teacher and they brought their wives with them who had blonde hair and wore short skirts and cheesecloth shirts and who looked just like each other.

I read some poems at the Folk Concert that I had written for the occasion. At Games the next day Mr Postlethwaite said, ‘Why the poems? You should leave folk to folk singers.’ Apparently Mr Postlethwaite and Mr Banks belong to a folk club in town above the ‘Fox And Hounds Pub’ and they both have ‘pretty fair’ voices – according to Fred Dymond, who is in the third year sixth because he failed his A-levels first time round and who can, therefore, go to the pub.

So can I ask you what you think of it? Does anyone have a favourite opening to a novel they’d like to share? Let me know.  Share them here.