Published: 02/01/2014
ISBN: 9781783062102
Format: Paperback



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I was born at an early age in the market town of King's Lynn in Norfolk; the third of four children. In the 1950's, I attended the Roseberry Avenue Primary School in Gaywood before passing the 11-plus... read more

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Further Off the Mark
by Will Stebbings

Further Off the Mark is the amusing sequel to Off the Mark, the humourous novel set in 1960s Norfolk

In this latest book, we rejoin Mark Barker, now aged nineteen and moving on from his youthful awkwardness, but still seeking to expand on his paltry experience of girls of the opposite sex. He pursues a variety of young women, including the lovely Sandy who shares his love of soul music; as does her equally attractive and flirtatious mother, causing Mark much anguish and confusion, but as with most of his encounters, he often confuses love with lust!

As he tries to establish a new career, Mark makes enemies; wrecking his chances of advancement, but there is a consolation in his new attractive female assistant, Della. However, nothing with Mark goes according to plan so after all this time will he manage to get further off the mark?

The novel is set in Norfolk in the late sixties and is a nostalgic journey to a simpler time when a ‘discotheque evening’ was a new concept and when unreliable cars could be coaxed into action by jumping up and down on their door sills!

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Mark’s Out of Eleven is my fourth novel. After dabbling with a contemporary comedy / thriller in the shape of Tess Of The Dormobiles, I have gone back to my favourite character in Mark Barker; this one being a prequel to Off the Mark and Further Off The Mark. Like those first two novels, the latest is also set in the 1960s.
Writing a prequel sets a different challenge to an author. In any other work of fiction, the writer can take his work wherever he or she chooses, but a prequel is constrained to a certain extent by what has been previously written, so it would not have been likely that Mark would have been kidnapped by aliens or zombies. In any case, I have yet to encounter a zombie in Norfolk.
We also know that he had little experience of girls, so there was never going to be any sex in Mark’s Out of Eleven, but I was able to include a few instances of his awakening interest in girls.
In Off the Mark, Mark is shown as severely lacking in self-confidence. I decided that I would use the prequel to demonstrate how this might have come about. After all, no one is born lacking in confidence. A child’s experiences invariably generate this aspect of a youth’s character. Mark was forced to wear spectacles at an early age and soon earned the nickname ‘Four Eyes,’ but perhaps the biggest contributory factor to his unfortunate demeanour was his having to attend school with patches in his trousers. This may not have been too bad at a small primary school, but at a comparatively elite Grammar School, this was bound to be traumatic.
Mark’s family were by no means poverty stricken, but they never had enough money for luxuries such as holidays and cars. Not only did most of his fellow pupils enjoy these things, but many had parents who could afford to pay for them to board at the school. That was always likely to invoke an inferiority complex in one less fortunate.
This would not have been an unusual situation at that time when most towns and cities would have at least one Grammar School and every eleven year-old had an equal chance of passing a scholarship, regardless of their background.

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Author profile in Rutland & Stamford Mercury, January 2014

Having thoroughly enjoyed "Off The Mark" I was anticipating this sequel, "Further Off The Mark", obtained an early copy, and am delighted to say I think it excellent, just as nostalgic, and that the author and publishers have conspired to produce an even more readable volume. I hope there are more developments in Mr Stebbings' mind? I recommend it to anyone, but particularly those who love Norfolk, and/or of a certain age to relate to the times described. Compliments again to Will Stebbings.

by Mike Morris


 

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