Heavens to Betsy. I have the book in my hot little hands. All the way from our lovely printers in Poland – Say hi, Walter!
The book took a long time to write, but as ever, the voice of the main character, Ben, came galloping at me, insisting I write down his words. He didn’t give up and here it is.
I wanted to write about a boy – from his point of view – partly because I have a lot of boys and young men in my life (three stepsons and two sons) so their voices and their anxieties and joys and fears have been a part of my auditory landscape for many years. I wanted Ben to echo some of that – wanted him to feel authentic – truthful – real. And that’s hard. When you’re not a boy.
But what he feels, and what happens to him, I know a little bit about.
The story starts a few months after Ben found his father’s body in his car in the garage, with the engine running. His father was a scientist – top secret, highly classified projects he couldn’t talk about. And it starts to look as though maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t how they called it – wasn’t suicide at all. That it was something else – something much more sinister, much darker.
Now you’re wondering how I know. I know because some of it happened to me. When I was a young woman my father killed himself. He sat in the car with the engine running and the garage doors closed. My younger brother found him.
He was a scientist. He had been working on top-secret MOD ‘Star Wars’ projects and he died in January 1987. From the early 1980’s, dozens of scientists and technicians working on such highly classified programmes were reported as having died under controversial and unusual circumstances. My father’s case is described in one report (http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/06/the-mystery-of-the-marconi-deaths/) as ‘particularly disturbing’. Just a few weeks before he was found dead, his car violently and inexplicably lurched across the road and spun into a ditch.
He was lucky to survive but the experience terrified him. I saw him at Christmas, just before he died and he was a changed man.
There were many, many others who died – often in very violent and disturbing ways, and they are the subject of much debate online. A book was written about the deaths, called ‘Open Verdict’ by Tony Collins.
The Coroner in one of the cases, Donald Hawkins, commented on the ‘extraordinary number of odd deaths’ in the defence industry: ‘As James Bond would say – this is beyond coincidence.’
The book goes in a completely different direction from my own story and that of my father’s but I wanted to start in a place that felt absolutely and completely real – that’s grounded in fact.