First Novel. Royle's seventh novel.

First Novel. Royle’s seventh novel.

“I am sitting, alone, in my shared office at the university.”

There is something quite remarkable about a first novel. And I can actually speak from experience on this topic as I’ve just had my first book published. (There’s a link at the bottom of this review if you want to check it out.) It is, after all, the first time that an author speaks to the world and shares his or her thoughts, feelings and ideas with the world at large. This is just one of the topics up for discussion in Royle’s novel, First Novel.

This is the story of Paul Kinder, a creative writing tutor in Manchester who wrote one book many years ago that sold poorly and now spends his time teaching, trying to work on a second book, and picking up women to have sex with in his car. Although somewhat anti-social, he attends a friend’s barbeque and meets a man called Lewis, another writer with a firm hatred of pilots due to some darkness in his past.

Paul struggles with his students, his job and his own mind as the story goes on. It is interspered with excerpts from novels written by his students, some of them perhaps hitting a little closer to home than he would like to admit. He also struggles to make decisions, many pages dedicated to “either/or” scenarios, and he also acknowledges he sometimes finds it hard to tell the difference between opposites – on or off, light or dark … dead or alive.

At this point, trying to explain the rest of the story is fairly futile and would only spoil it. Not much happens, really, for a long time in the novel. It’s slow to get into, yet oddly gripping. Kinder has an obsession with writers’ first novels, as well as looking at pictures in magazines of their houses to see if he can find a copy of his own book on any of their shelves. Minuscule actions are described in intense detail, such as in the first few pages when he dismantles a Kindle down to its component parts. So while the book starts off slow, and there are many pages where very little seems to happen, by the end you are entirely gripped and pulled along by the story as it becomes almost a thriller; the downward spiral of a broken man.

The plot shifts about in time and space – as well as through different layers of fiction – and builds up a history of Kinder, throwing together fact and fiction in a rather pleasing way. The tales told could all be real, and maybe they are. Not the darker aspects, one hopes, but one never knows. The book does get darker as it progresses, and is rather twisted, but the payoff is excellent and there’s no question that it’s been a wild ride that was well worth stepping onto. It’s chilling, haunting and all those words that cause goosebumps to erupt on your flesh.

Either you’ll like it, or you won’t, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you will.

If you’d like to read my first novel, The Atomic Blood-Stained Bus (and, frankly, why wouldn’t you?) then head on over to Amazon where it’s available now for all ebook platforms.