Back in 2007, I was supposed to be writing ads for an ad agency. Instead, I wrote my first book.
I suppose writing and drawing were the only things I was any good at school. So it wasn’t entirely surprising that I should end up at art college, and subsequently in numerous creative departments of London’s advertising agencies as a copywriter. For more years than I’d happily own up to, I worked as a creative team with my good friend Colin from art college. He was a better draughtsman than yours truly, so he took on the mantle of art director while I juggled with words. After 30 years or so, we divorced amicably. He wanted to spend more time in his studio. And it was the year that he left that I finally wrote my first book. It was a pretty surreal period, as the agency I was working at was going through an enormous worldwide merger with New York’s second-oldest advertising agency Foot Cone & Belding (FCB). The merger took the best part of a year to complete. (Some bright spark described it as the Hindenburg coming to the rescue of the Titanic.) Colin retired from the industry just at the start of the process and I was teamed up with another art director. During that year, the news of the merger spread through the industry and many of the agency’s clients either jumped ship or froze their accounts until they felt confident that the merger was going to work. Work pretty much ground to a halt as a result. And politics between both agencies became quite fractious. In fact, my Creative Director became ostracized and had his accounts taken away.
It took them a whole year to finally make most of the creative department redundant, and by the time I received my marching orders I had already collected the few contents of my office: a few showreels, a folio of laminated press ads, a Collins English dictionary and a typed manuscript entitled Sleeping with the Blackbirds, my first completed work of fiction; much of which had been written in that office while waiting for creative briefs to materialise. The book – a children’s urban fantasy that was inspired by children’s authors like Clive King and Richmal Crompton who I enjoyed as a child, was later published by PenPress, a small independent publisher that eventually went out of business.
Here’s the book blurb:
Eleven-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley has been dealt a pretty raw deal. While hideous parents show him precious little in the way of love and affection, school bullies make his life a misery. So Roy takes comfort in looking after the birds in his garden, and in return the birds hatch a series of ambitious schemes to protect their new friend. As with the best-laid plans, however, these get blown completely off course – and as a result the lives of both Roy and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges are turned upside down – but in a surprisingly good way.
I was thrilled in 2019 when the book was selected by the Indie Author Project for distribution to libraries across the US and Canada.
In 2014 I entered a national short story competition to mark the centenary of the First World War. 23 winning entries including mine were published in an anthology (The Clock Struck War) by Mardibooks. My piece was a fictionalised account of Thomas Highgate’s arrest and execution for desertion at the beginning of the war. He was just 19 years of age.
In 2019 I published my debut thriller The Chair Man that is set in 2005 following the terrorist attack on London’s transport system. Here’s the book blurb:
Michael Hollinghurst is a successful corporate lawyer living a comfortable, suburban life in leafy North West London. But on 7 July 2005, his life is transformed when he steps on a London underground train targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. While most passengers in his carriage are killed, Michael survives the explosion but is confined to a wheelchair. Coming to terms with his predicament and controlling his own feelings of guilt as a survivor conspire to push him in a direction that is out of character and a tad reckless. In a quest to seek retribution, he resorts to embracing the internet and posing as a radical Islamist in order to snare potential perpetrators. Much to his surprise, his shambolic scheme yields results and is brought to the attention of both GCHQ and a terrorist cell. But before long, dark forces begin to gather and close in on him. There is seemingly no way out for Michael Hollinghurst. He has become, quite literally, a sitting target.
(c) Alex Pearl
Visit Alex Pearl’s Amazon page here.