Just had to share this with you all. Today, I received a message from Chris Kennedy, who I met for the first time, a week or so ago, at my book launch. Chris purchased a copy of ‘The Battle of Wood Green’ and, having read the book, sent me some comments earlier today that left me.. well, speechless. He has very kindly given me permission to reproduce some of them (slightly abridged below, for brevity):
“I just finished The Battle of Wood Green today. I absolutely loved it. I read the last 200 pages last night and this morning and couldn’t put it down… The characters are brilliant. They were quite dark and sinister in many ways – self-obsessed, power hungry, intelligent, divisive. Smith was an enigma and I liked that it was difficult to judge his real motives. In fact I was kept guessing and thinking of the possibilities and outcomes throughout the book and never knew exactly how things would pan out, which is why I wanted to get to the end to find out.
I had a love/hate relationship with Liz Muir, not because I didn’t think she was a good character. I thought she was an amazing character. The love/hate thing I think derives from the fact that I could relate to her in many ways. She was a good person, with good motives but had a tendency to self-destruction in her decision making as if she was almost “cursed”, or under a spell. She was impulsive and became caught up in a life that led to her acting in many expedient ways, to buy her time. I really liked the fact that you could almost watch her life spiral out of control and how there was a degree of inevitability as the story progressed. I felt for her in the way that she felt completely suffocated and compromised and was totally powerless to do anything about it. However, perhaps her decision making was subconsciously based on her obsession with Peter Owen and, in a way, she was addicted to the lifestyle of a secret agent (Stockholm Syndrome type thing) even though it brought her much pain and grief.
Dobson was a beast. He certainly added to the darkness and lowest qualities a human can possess.
I really liked the thread of blackmail,and emotional manipulation throughout the book. It provided a sense of hopelessness which had a major impact on the characters actions. I think this made it easier to be empathetic and compassionate towards the characters. I am not only thinking about Muir and Broadbent here, but Owen too, as you could see that he really loved Muir and felt completely betrayed.
I liked how the perception we have of the institutions, Police, Government, MI5 etc as being the all seeing, protectors of the noble interests of society with high standing individuals is taken apart here. (Your characters) are psychopaths, greedy and self-obsessed people who have many personal motives.
I could say a lot more…but overall the characters and the story were gripping and they intertwined really well. Also…it was a good insight into the political climate during the 1970s.”
I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to get feedback like that. As a new and inexperienced writer, I’m never certain that my characters will be understood in the way that I intended them to be. Or, indeed, that they will be real enough to jump out of the page and trigger thoughts and feelings for my readers, as they do for me. It gives me a real buzz to know that for one reader, at least, I have managed something approaching that.
Chris’s thoughts on Liz Muir are especially insightful. Watching Liz’s life spiral out of control, is at the heart of the book, and I just love his suggestion that it was “as if she was almost ‘cursed’, or under a spell“. I hadn’t thought about it quite as a ‘spell’ Chris – Liz tends to see it as ‘destiny’, I think. But perhaps one man’s spell, is another woman’s destiny – either way, you are bang on the money.
Sincere thanks to Chris for taking the time to message me with his thoughts. He absolutely made my day.