Published: 28/02/2018
ISBN: 9781788037891
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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Mark’s Out of Eleven
by Will Stebbings

It’s September 1960 and Mark Barker has passed his eleven-plus and has followed his brother into Parkside Grammar School for boys. Having two sons at a Grammar School places a huge burden on his working class family and he is already wearing his brother’s hand-me-down blazer, while all around him are wearing brand new uniforms. The Headmaster at Parkside likes to run the school with an iron discipline and frequently punishes miscreants with the cane, putting a tremendous fear into this sensitive young boy. The pupils also fear Mr Tucker, the evil Sports Master who is not aversed to physical violence to instil discipline.

Having been split from his old primary school friends, Mark now seeks to forge new friendships and is reasonably successful, but he is unable to shake off the annoying Jarvis who is forever trying to crack silly jokes and gets Mark into trouble.

When puberty strikes, Mark finds himself discovering new sensations. His encounters with girls are few and far between, but when they occur, it leaves him perturbed and frustrated. However, if encounters with the opposite sex cause him anguish, those with the same sex confuse him even further. His new softly-spoken friend Lenny talks in sexual innuendos and when Mark discovers the truth about Lenny and his friend Toots, he has to tackle his prejudices head on.

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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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