“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck
To be honest this should read how to start a new blog, as I’m sure I’ve started one like this before. Yes. All writers have been here before: the hinterland between the joy of completing a novel and the niggling sense that it’s time to start another. Life basically becomes a decision between buying a dog, or writing a new novel. Mind you a book doesn’t plead to be walked or fed, although it does rest its head on your lap and look up at you expectantly; wondering when you’re going to do something. I only ever had the ambition to write one book, I thought that would be enough, but it’s strangely addictive.
Unfinished Business was published last month as a continuation of the Life Assistance…
It’s not news that I’m a bookworm, I’ve been reading avidly and collecting books since I was 6. Books always represented escapism and knowledge…but escapism first and foremost.
I’m also in love with language, the way words can be weaved and put together. I studied English, German and Spanish at a high level and taught myself some Italian. Words have always fascinated me, there is something…magical about what I call a “tight line.” In fact I’ve been known to read tight lines several times in a row when I encounter them – I savour them. Yes, I’m one of those people.
Whilst I’ve always been a bookworm, I became a beta reader only (kind of) recently. But I must say it’s been the most amazing experience. To be able to read a chapter or even just a few paragraphs only minutes after they’ve escaped from the writer’s mind and imagination is…well, it’s everything.
I started reading Unfinished Business by Thomas Hocknell back in 2017 and I was gripped from the start. I can be an impatient type – especially when it comes to books I’m enjoying, I’ll read something I really like in one sitting sometimes – but in this particular case I had no choice but to wait as the novel was far from finished when I first got my hands on it. I must have been a bit of a nightmare because there were numerous occasions when I asked Tom if he’d written anything new, (anything at all, even just a few lines?!) because I was dying to know what happened next. I was urging him to write, poor man – as if he didn’t have a life and other things to do!
I won’t even pretend I was an ideal beta reader. For all the: “your characters are well fleshed out, this is a gorgeous line, that scene was breathtaking…etc…” there was also: “this situation doesn’t make sense, you’ve got to add some scenes so the connection between those 2 is more believable because right now I’m not buying it, and what was that? he/she wouldn’t say that…etc”
Actually, that is an ideal beta reader – what I meant was that Tom probably wished at times that I was just a little less demanding.
In any case I’ve been with the novel for quite a while now, all the way to the editing stages and finally publication. It’s coming out in about 10 days and I’ve lost count of the number of times I read it. Which is why it was such an emotional moment when I finally got an actual copy of it last Friday. It might not have been as defining a moment for me as it was for Tom – because, you know, he actually wrote it – but I did feel a little bit like a godparent when a baby comes into the world. It might not be my baby, but I love it all the same and somehow feel responsible for it.
So I read the novel again – in book form for the first time! – this weekend in my garden. I admit without any shame whatsoever that I cried when I turned the last page. I felt very proud to have played even a small tiny part in the creative process.
What kind of a novel is Unfinished Business? I’m fearful to say very much because if I start I will go on and on, and there will inevitably be spoilers (this isn’t meant to be a review as I can’t write them – I invariably say too much)
Let’s refer to the back cover to give you an idea:
“The Life Assistance Agency finds itself at a loss after returning from Europe.
Ben is determined to stay away from anything involving Angels, when the phone rings to invite him to write the biography of a self-deluded singer from defunct rave group Elev-8.
At his mansion in Sussex they meet the singer’s right-hand man, Billy `blind’ Fury, a retired wrestler, and his beautiful secretary Amber. Both of whom have plans for the Life Assistance Agency far beyond writing down half-recalled anecdotes from the early 90s pop charts…”
If I absolutely had to, I would describe it as a thriller…a thriller which involves the hopeless but v. funny duo Ben and Scott whom we last saw in The Life Assistance Agency – let’s note though that Unfinished Business is a stand alone novel, there really is no requirement to have read the first one to enjoy its sequel.
So Unfinished Business is a thriller…with a little bit of fantasy, wit and humour, with a love story and deep observations about life, a thriller that’s also incredibly well-written with enough tight lines to satisfy the most demanding literature lovers. Tom consistently blows my mind – and my mind is not at all easily blown – because of his fluency with language, the ease with which he writes perfectly gorgeous sentences that are scattered throughout his manuscript like sparkling stars in an already stunning purple summer sky.
Oh, look at that, I’m so in awe of his talent I’m getting lyrical myself!
In all seriousness, what I love about his writing is how he switches between…let’s say self-deprecatory wit and…poetic prose…seemingly effortlessly. I’ll be sitting there smiling at a humorous line when suddenly a little jewel of a sentence comes along to take my breath away. Or there’s a tense scene with guns and immediately afterwards a magnificent description of a pier…or something.
It’s like: just when you thought you were reading a book that’s actually really funny,and rather exciting too, the author hits you with the reminder that he can actually write, and write bloody well too.
Did I digress? I probably did a little…so, revenons à nos moutons as the French say…
To conclude, Unfinished Business is very much along the lines of what P. G. Wodehouse might have written if he was around today – Unfinished Business is P. G. Wodehouse with guns and car chases.
Ultimately, Unfinished Business is a bloody good story – it’s pure blissful escapism…which is the main reason I started reading in the first place.
PS: I loved The Life Assistance Agency – Tom’s first book – but I can confidently say that he’s managed to write a second novel that’s better than his first. And yes, it’s ok for me to write this as I’ve already told him…several times – he can’t have minded because he still thanked me in the acknowledgements.
Never judge a book by its cover – What you should think.
Always judge a book by its cover – What people really think.
This is one of those blogs on which I upload the picture before I’ve written anything. I’m probably too delighted to put words together or something, but after a few years of tapping away like a mice doing home improvements the new book is ready. Not only that but it has a cover. Unfinished Business, the stand-alone sequel to the Life Assistance Agency, to provide its full title, is ready for the world that is not necessarily ready for it.
The cover is amazing, which I can comfortably claim because I had nothing to do with it. It is courtesy of http://www.nicandlou.com whom also did the first one, so there’s that all important continuity familiar to dog breeders and Star Wars fanatics.
Yep, that’s me shamelessly plugging The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell, because people should read more & they should support indie authors/publishers. There are far too many talented writers languishing in obscurity while the press & critics keep raving about J. K. Rowling as if she actually needs anymore publicity.
It’s a great read and this is not just me promoting a friend: gripping story, witty, writing that’s actually brilliant at times, and last but not least, it’s genre defying. Tom is the most original writer I’ve encountered in years – and originality is priceless because it’s so damn rare. If you’re looking for something different to read, give this book a try – I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy it. Plus, get in there before the sequel comes out next year 🙂
Some time ago I was asked to write about myself and how I started writing the WHSmith Fresh talent novel, The Life Assistance Agency.
I started the Life Assistance Agency many years ago. It was initially called the Karma Account, which considered how our deeds might determine our destiny, and this led me to consider how hard this must be for people who are immortal, and particularly laborious once they found themselves into the 200th year.
Not knowing any immortals to ask, I had to make one up. Or rather I didn’t. I forget how I first encountered Dr. Dee, the Elizabethan alchemist of the late 1580s, but I’m glad I did. He had pursued angels, so it wasn’t a huge leap to him chasing immortality.
He seemed a good starting point, particularly in the absence of any others. Actually, Damon Albarn and a few other writers were drawn to Dee at a…
It was recently said I look like a writer, which I tried to pretend wasn’t shorthand for appearing socially inept, malnourished and skint. They then asked me what genre my novel is.
It’s a regular question, and in light of people invariably asking the same things upon hearing that you are a writer, it would be a good idea to have well-prepared answers, which makes my lack of them even more inexplicable.
The most common is, ‘Are you published?” like it’s something that inevitable happens to every writer. Of course you want to grab them by the lapels and scream ‘D’you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get published?’ It’s not something you choose as an option at A-level . If I was published I would be (even more) unbearable, and you’d not be able to enter my house due to piles of unsold copies of the novel…