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.
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 to take me to King Edward VII Grammar School for boys, where I never progressed beyond GCE 'O' levels. I wouldn't say I had a tough upbringing, but money was always tight for my parents and winters always seemed hard.
My early working career saw me performing a variety of office-based roles which were basically what was available at the time, whilst I pursued an ambition to be successful as a songwriter. After receiving countless rejection letters, I did eventually manage to get some songs published, but none of them were commercially successful.
After marrying my wife Yvonne in 1977, we moved first to Swaffham, then later to the village of Little Melton, just outside Norwich. During this period, I finally established a career of sorts, revolving around a computerised payroll system called Unipay. The same career path saw me later relocate to the village of Ketton in Rutland, where we have lived since 1983.
I have 2 grown-up sons. The eldest, David, is married and now lives in Sheffield. The youngest, John, lives with his wife in Bingham, near Nottingham. He is a talented Jazz musician and composer, who, I'm sure, is destined to fulfil the ambitions I once had for myself.