History And Other Set Pieces
During a sunny afternoon, over tea and some delicious salad and bacon sandwiches, the author offered some further insight into the central historical theme which runs through his fascinating novel The Last Defender.
INT: I suppose the story would not have been quite the same without its dramatic excursion into history?
DK: It wouldn't have had the impact I was looking for, that's for sure. To have diluted it would not have conveyed the intensity of an all-encompassing struggle.
INT: Which the various characters become part of?
DK: Yes. The great, accumulating backdrop of history is always one of struggle. Brokehill is no different. The struggles of its past are firmly linked to its present. Sp the issues they present are hard to be ignored.
INT: History is not something to be casually dismissed, then?
DK: Universally, I think it should be a teacher and comforter, The rats, like their master, a product of the past, slowly get to recognise that they are an ongoing part of it. You cannot resist history when you are a part of it However, it's reassuring to know that others felt the same way as we do, having the same hopes, the same fears, and that if something has stood the test of time it will probably be worth defending.
INT: But why the English Civil War?
DK: It has been called a beginning without an end. A war which seems to exist forever as a permanent stain on the psyche of the four countries that were involved in it. Yet, though its outcome was a muddled, unworkable change, it most certainly did lay the foundation for greater advancements later on. But I learned hardly anything about this at school, all I managed to appreciate coming via Richard Harris' anguished resonance as Cromwell in the film of the same name.
INT: Does all that really matter to us day?
DK: Whether they realised it or not, the convulsions caused by the war involved everyone. Some very fundamental issues on freedom were aired as a kind of defiant challenge to the old order of things. And certainly, change was needed. Everything was in drift. I firmly believe that without the advent of the Civil War, messy though it was in the short term, Britain would never have become the world power she later did. The lessons gradually learned from that wretched period prove this to be an incontrovertible fact.
INT: So why is change the enemy of Brokehill?
DK: You can only go so far in the Utopian dream. Change is only desirable when it's fully realisable and for the good of all. Anything else will just leave us disappointed, stuck with the same frustrating problems from the past. But, hey, this is a book designed to lift your hopes up, not kill them. Whatever age you may be.
INT: Is any real change brought about, then?
DK: Like ambition, hopes and fears, people can change. You can smooth out a way forward. It's not perfect, but it's your small contribution to what's wanted. Some, though, never make those changes. They (smiling) know who they are.
INT: The animal characters seem consistently human in their emotions. What are your thoughts on that?
DK: Like their human counterparts, they're drawn into this issue of freedom. Since man has always attempted to dominated man to his injury, there is really nothing allegorically new here. Pressures do find you out, though, with the usual differing perspectives and responses. But they all remain true enough to type, as creatures of their own kind, to make their actions either painful or amusing, as the case may be. Seeing, as they say, is believing.
INT: Going astray or going it alone is another aspect which comes out strongly in the book. The lesson here? Teamwork?
DK: Absolutely. Look, during the Civil War many individuals chopped and changed sides as the need arose. You should be true to yourself and the team. How else can you survive?
INT: You said you had a vision of your own, some kind of a lesson for those who died?
DK: Oh, did I? Well, 85,000 died fighting in a Civil War that seemed futile by the end. In another world you could fill Wembley Stadium almost to capacity with them. A world where the rats of Brokehill could return to put on a show. Football can be very educational in more ways than you care to think. Heart. Same game. Another place.
INT: (Laughing) With the cats as the opposition again?
DK: Maybe some Spanish cats. We all know now what they might be capable of on a decent expanse of turf. Or would they? I wonder ... I wonder.
July 25th 2010
PS: Rumour has it that there are several titles to Beatles songs to be found in the book, but the author declined to answer directly on this point. His recommendation was to simply read the story, if any seriously interesting secrets are to be found.
Alone, with a wooden dog staring down in oversight, the room where all the writing is conjured up is a coldish one. A lot of notes are scribbled on the backs of daily newspapers. Now there's an awkward pile waiting - for the sequel to begin.
A Sequel To win The Heart
The life of any sequel, be it book, play or film, requires some life extracted from the original, yet one that is different. One which adds to the characterization as well as story line; one which offers a fresh angle to the overall tempo and span of the world its author.has created for his audience. It must be believable and it should aim to be as good as the first work. In this, I like to think I've mad e a brave attempt with 'The Fast Forward'.
A new attempt of thievery requires new tactics and, therefore, new characters with their own ideas on how to go about it. The history of Brokehill Manor moves forward, providing more information for its recipients to enable them to survive in a changing world around them.
New situations provide a means of showing extended qualities in characters where previously we thought they had already !revealed their all. So, to my readership I say only : 'Read on! And may the best man win!' Well, something li
ke that, anyway.
I do hope you enjoy it, even as I did in writing it' There is no plan to turn Brokehill into a trilogy, by the way.
Derek Keen Dec 2013