Or, In My Case, The Whinging Defective

In the classic TV series The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter, there’s a scene where the main character, Philip Marlow, is talking with his psychiatrist.

By trade, Marlow is a writer of detective novels which are more hard- than soft-boiled, but his doctor notes that there’s a section about sex in one of his novels which seems out of place; when pressed, Marlow is forced to admit – even if only to himself – that it reflects his own deeper feelings about the subject.

It’s not any kind of insight, I know, that people who make things often reveal a lot about themselves in their work – whether intentionally or otherwise – and so I offer an excerpt from my own writing, so you can play ‘spot the author lurking within the text’.

It’s from a novel called Coming Back To Haunt You (which is unpublished, because it’s unfinished – I was forced to abandon it when I realised it bore a shocking similarity to a film which I genuinely hadn’t seen until I was about a third of the way into writing it).

The novel is about Nick Peters, a seemingly normal chap who suddenly finds himself the target of what looks like a revenge campaign, though he has no idea who’s behind it or why. In the following excerpt, Nick is looking online for any kind of hint as to why he’s now being hounded, and he starts to look for information about people from his past.

He went to friendsreunited, and browsed around it for a while, looking up details of the class he’d been in when he did his GCSEs, and then the class in the sixth form, for A-Levels. There were a few jolts at seeing names he’d long forgotten, and at uploaded photos showing fashions and haircuts which were best forgotten, but there was no-one there who he’d crossed in any way.

He’d never bullied anyone, or been bullied, never gone head-to-head with anyone in sports clubs or chess or debating or public speaking, and never denied anyone a prize or an award through a sudden show of academic ability; he’d never broken anyone’s heart – or even dented or vaguely bent one, as far as he knew – dished out a black eye or a brutal insult, never scratched a pencil case or broken a pair of glasses; he’d never stolen from anyone, never cheated in an exam or forged a signature on a permission slip or school report; he’d never gone to school drunk or high, even on the last day of his final term when all the A-levels were done and his college place almost certain.

[…] he trawled through the screens of names from the past, photos of buildings which he thought he’d forgotten but still occasionally dreamt of, and read reminiscences about teachers and end-of-year plays and school trips which made it sound as if these funny happenings had been the everyday and usual, and attending lessons or hurrying to hand in coursework on time or copying homework at lunchtime or revising or turning over an exam paper or hearing the words “Stop writing now, please” – all these things had been the exception, the distraction from the whole process of being a teenager, and he had the horrible feeling inside that he’d wasted the best years of his life, that all the best parties with the prettiest most fanciable girls had been taking place somewhere else, and that he wasn’t invited, never had been invited, and certainly hadn’t been missed.

Further comment seems unnecessary, really; I feel oddly exposed by that chunk of text.

Thinking about it, it may be for the best that it didn’t make it into print (though I’d imagine an editor would probably have asked me if this section couldn’t have been pruned, if not removed entirely).

Anyway: hmm.


So, Like One Other, Then


Cover Design Aside, I’m Currently Reading – And Enjoying – The First Of These Three Books


  1. Oh Lordy, John! Nick Peters is me! I mean, I'm him! I've never read anything that so succinctly sums up my school life! Just waiting for someone to start hounding me now. It'll make a change from being ignored!

  2. Oh, I think he's all too many of us… well, people I knew and hung round with, anyway. The TV show The Inbetweeners captures that feeling of being on gthe fringes rather well, I feel.

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