Almost two years ago this weekend my wife and I, rather nervously, drove into a small Devon village on our way to visit a family that I had only met through Going Postal but who had invited us, sight unseen, to spend a weekend with them. We didn’t know quite what to expect, as, I’m sure, neither did they. We needn’t have worried, The de Pavilly’s (1642 Again) are a smashing family with a lovely home which is situated in a beautiful part of the country. They couldn’t have been more accommodating, “light touch” hosting I think you’d maybe call it. They fed and watered us as if we were long lost relatives while, at the same time, allowing us time and freedom to explore the area and enjoy the beauty of the Devon Coast, some of which we walked, some of which we drove to and some of which we travelled through by tram.
I was able to spend some time talking to Jon, we share many common interests, even though we are very different people. One of the things we both enjoy is writing. I had, by this time, been contributing on a regular basis to Going Postal, as had Jon and we were both enjoying it. The opportunity to have work published, including some of the semi-autobiographical “Colin Cross” pieces, had rekindled my ambition to write a book, in the form of a number of short stories, recounting the life and times of a boy growing to adulthood through the 50’s, 60’s & early 70’s. This is where we get to the nub, Jon informed me that he had in fact written a novel, working title “The Hidden Path” which he had considered publishing, although it was still in draft form and had been seen by only one or two people. I don’t know what possessed me but I told Jon that if he didn’t mind a virtual stranger taking a look I would be happy to read it and, if I felt I could, help him to get it ready for publication, if that was his ultimate goal. As we talked he told me that the basic idea for this novel had been with him for a very long time, and the first line, reproduced below, had been running around his head for over 20 years, although he had first put pen to paper in January 2016 and here I was, with a draft copy in my hands, 18 months later, something I found quite remarkable;
“The man about to die pulled the green framed glass door shut and glanced furtively up and down the street before locking the door and placing the key in his jacket pocket”.
Jon obviously had seen something in me that he felt he could trust and, true to his word, he forwarded “The Hidden Path” in two word documents for me to read. To say I was pleased to be shown this level of trust was as nothing when, after a couple of e mails and phone calls, in which I made a couple of suggestions, Jon asked me, if I could spare the time, would I mind casting a critical eye over grammar, spelling, narrative and dialogue layout etc. I had never done anything like it before, but I like to think I have a good eye for that kind of thing and, accordingly, I said I’d give it a go.
I won’t go into what happened over the next six months or so, but, after a lot of time and effort Jon felt able to commence the serialisation in December 2017 and last week to see the release onto general sale of “The Unseen Path” by J.D. de Pavilly, a first novel that I am proud to have been a very small part of. Let me say at this point that I had nothing to do with the plot, the characters, or the interactions thereof. I was merely a sounding board who corrected the odd spelling mistake and occasionally, in our fairly frequent phone calls, made some suggestions as to how a section of dialogue or narrative might scan better for the reader. Although some of these suggestions were acted upon, most weren’t.
When I first started to read the story of Andy Bowson, Sally, Sam, Henry and all the other characters my own efforts came sharply into focus. I was looking at the raw version of what to me seemed to be a novel of real depth, written by someone with a great skill for research and a massive talent for character development and storytelling. It wouldn’t be fair on new readers to reveal too much of the occasionally complex plot, or to describe either the character interactions or some of the realistically hard hitting descriptions of what happens when terrorism comes to your door, only to be met with anti-terrorism of equal, if not greater, ferocity.
Add into this a heady mix of political intrigue, a hidden world that combines archaic religious symbol, mysticism and deep spiritual belief and believable sub plots emanating from all parts of the globe and you have, without being sycophantic, an almost epic tale, albeit one that doesn’t leave the reader struggling to have belief in what is happening, even during the periods in the book that are spent in the “other worldly” Pocket.
Some of you may well have read the serialisation of the novel on this very blog, believe me, it doesn’t lose anything from a further visit. I’m going to Greece for the first week of October (if we’re still allowed to visit Europe by then), the one book I will be taking with me is “The Unseen Path”. I do know that Jon is seriously contemplating a follow up, which I look forward to reading (and possibly working on), if I am asked to. If you want to buy a copy and haven’t done so yet it’s available from Amazon but why not support your local book shop and ask them to order a copy in for you, it’s published by Matador.
© Colin Cross 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file