An Evening with Joseph Knox

I’m fairly new to the work of Joseph Knox, my ex purchased me a copy of his debut novel ‘Sirens’ back in March (which is the nicest thing my ex ever did but I digress) The main thing that pulled me in was the fact that it was set in Manchester, my birthplace and home. Being able to perfectly visualise the surroundings made it easier to read, combine this with the fact all the chapters were named after Joy Division songs, albums or EP’s and instantly I was hooked.

Joseph wove a story full of complex characters, drama and dark imagery. At the centre of the story is Aidan Waits, perhaps one of the most intriguing characters I have come across in literature in recent years. I tore through Siren’s pretty quickly and moved onto his next book ‘The Smiling Man’ which pulled me in from the blurb on the back alone. So to have the opportunity to hear the man himself discuss his new release ‘The Sleepwalker’ wasn’t something I wanted to miss.

On a rainy evening in Manchester I sat and watched the unassuming Joseph Knox talk about his latest novel and the way he struggled with getting it out there. He spoke about how at times he felt like walking away from it. It’s commendable the dedication he shows to his craft, it took him 10 years to get ‘Sirens’ finished and published. He was working full time and only had time to write the book in the evening and weekends. Many people would have given up, he didn’t and thank goodness he didn’t!

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It was clear to see when he was talking the amount of thought and passion he puts into his work, proclaiming that he has a fear of repeating himself or churning out something with a constantly familiar story line. He refuses to do it. He talked about how with other detective books, you usually learn so much about the main protagonist within the first few chapters, but with Aidan Waits you don’t and that is part of the intrigue and my love for the character. Two books in and I still only know a few details about him, he’s a character that leaves you wondering. As Joseph said Aidan “plays his cards very close to his chest” which is an incredible skill for a writer to have, to be able to lure people in without giving away too much. It’s no mean feat, but Joseph manages it. I could be ignorant and say he does it with ease, but that would be an insult to the apparent hard work and planning he puts into his novels.

Joseph quashed the rumour that he’s a Mancunian; he was born in Staffordshire but always had a romantic relationship with Manchester, moving and working here when he was a little older. This is something that, for me, comes across in his second book ‘The Smiling Man’ the way Aidan views the city in the hot summer months through almost romantic lenses. I was born and bred in Manchester but it made me feel moved to hear the love and respect that Joseph has for this city, and the way he felt that it was the perfect setting for his crime noir books and the even more complex character of Aidan Waits.

But it is when Joseph talked about the way the City has changed in the past ten years and the spice epidemic amongst the homeless and the people in Strangeways and the way it’s impacted upon the most vulnerable of people in our society that I was truly moved. Joseph talked about how when doing research for ‘The Sleepwalker’ he came across a Government website that was faulty, he saw the amount of mothers/fathers emailing Strangeways expressing concern about their sons who are currently incarcerated seeming suicidal or becoming addicted to spice. They were reaching out asking for help or an explanation and were given none. The very people becoming addicted to the drug seen more as an unseemly thing that should be overlooked as opposed to helped. He talked about how spice is taken because for people living on the street or in prison it passes 8 hours as quick as the click of a finger. Admittedly very tempting for those people and not something others should be so quick to judge. Joseph physically teared up at this and said he was hoping that his new book could give those people an answer they deserve. It’s refreshing to hear someone in Joseph’s position using his skills to highlight and shine a light onto something so prevalent in our society and is seemingly going ignored by the powers that be.

Joseph talked about a 4th novel, but one that is not necessarily crime fiction and not part of the Aidan Waits series. Joseph said with Aidan being so complex and having a dark past, it was important for him to have a break from the character and I’m inclined to agree. I am yet to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ but the early reviews I have read have talked about how this book is his best one yet with some unbelievable moments. As much as I love Aidan Waits, I feel that Joseph has enough skill to pen something other than crime fiction, and know it would still be an equally compelling read.

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It was a fantastic evening, from a very humble, wonderful and talented author. I cannot wait to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ and cannot wait to see what else Joseph has in store with his writing career. This guy’s going places and I implore you to check out his work. You will not be disappointed.  I will be posting a review of his new book on the blog once I’ve read it.

Happy reading folks.

G.
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My Top 5 Books of 2013 – Book 3

This book was published in 2012, but I had a backlog of books to read first, so I didn’t read it until last year. Whence why it’s on my 2013 list.

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.

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I grew up reading the Harry Potter books. The first book came out when I was 11 and it stayed with me into my 20’s. I escaped into that world, connected with the characters, laughed with joy and cried many, many tears when my beloved characters died. I honestly believe that JK Rowling inspired a whole new generation of children to love literature all over again, she even inspired the same passion in adults. So when the Harry Potter books came to an end, I wondered, what next?

When the news emerged that Jo would be writing an adult book that was as faraway from Harry Potter as possible, a lot of fans were in uproar, they were angry, sad and confused, they wanted to know why she wasn’t writing sequels or prequels, although these have been teased over the years. To be honest, I never understood the backlash, I thought it was great that she was going to write something different, her capabilities to bring people and places to life had been enjoyed for years, so I had no doubt at all she could write a story that captivated people. And that’s exactly what she did with The Casual Vacancy.

This book focuses around the death of Barry Fairbrother and the idyllic town of Pagford. Barry’s death means there is a seat on the Parish Council; this acts as a catalyst for a war that resonates through the town, with people battling to win his place and the power that comes with it. But don’t read this blurb and think it’s all about bake offs, posters and campaigns, what we have here is an unflinching look at society. Behind the scenic beauty of Pagford we see crumbling marriages, a division of class, drug abuse and teenage sex. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The characters are all well formed and believable, some are grotesque, some humorous and some are so brave yet tragic that your heart breaks for them. It does take a while for the plot of the story to be revealed, as Jo spends some time investing in the characters and the relationships and frictions between them, but stick with it. As the story develops, so does the drama. There’s a sense of tension that builds up in the final part of the book as events unfold. The ending is seeped in tragedy and will leave you breathless. A brutal book that covers taboos often ignored, but very much apparent, in modern day society. JK Rowling did it once again; she made me fall in love with her ability as an author and confirmed my fan girl status. I have nothing but love and admiration for her. This book further adds to her hype and displays why she is one of the finest writers of our time, and rightfully so.

Read this if you’re a Harry Potter fan who isn’t ignorant, fans of drama will love this as well as those who like a fictional, but so well written it could be factual, look at the human condition and modern day Britain. It may even help you realise not to be so quick as to judge others, a fine book.