Backstories by Simon Van der Velde #bookreview @SimonVdVwriter

Backstories is a fascinating collection of short stories about famous or infamous people. There are 14 stories in all and include people from way back in history as well as more contemporary figures. The twist is that you have to work out who the people featured in the stories are from clues written into the narrative. You can read a bit about the author’s inspiration in the article below entitled My Backstories Quest.

This collection is so cleverly written. Each one takes inspiration from significant events or pivotal moments which did happen in the person’s life and weaves a fictionalised story around it. Some you can guess fairly early on, others it’s almost the last word before you know who it’s about. I felt a small sense of triumph if I got it right and a sense of ‘ah that’s who it’s about’ if I hadn’t guessed until the end. I think I worked them all out when reading apart from one story (Wicked Child) where I thought I knew who it was until the very end and then it had me stumped! I did a bit of googling and did eventually figure out who it was. I’m not going to say who any of them are of course, that would rather spoil the fun. However, in the book you will find musicians, dictators, rebels and some rather nasty individuals too.

This is the kind of book that makes you think about how one small event or opportunity can change the course of someone’s life and indeed in some cases have repercussions for so many. Split second decisions or the way someone reacts can quite literally send them on a different path and we may never have known about them. Quite often, I found myself wanting to find out more about these characters and their younger lives and went away to look them up. The way the author captured the emotions, thoughts and humanity (sometimes inhumanity) of his chosen subjects was expertly done.

Backstories is a really well written collection of stories and clearly well researched too. It’s a book I’ll read again as I think knowing who each story is about will make me read with deeper understanding. I’m pleased to see that the author is planning a second collection of Backstories and will look forward to reading them too.

My thanks to the author for kindly sending an e-copy of the book for review. Backstories is published by Smoke and Mirrors Press and available to order here: Backstories

From the back of the book

CAN YOU FIND THE FAMOUS PERSON HIDDEN IN EVERY STORY?

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

‘Oh, how I enjoyed these stories. A highly original and beautifully crafted collection that explodes into the reader’s consciousness like fireworks’ – Kate Horsley, award-winning author of The American Girl.

‘Tightly written, technically accomplished, light-footed, wryly ironic and genuinely affecting. Excellent stuff’ – Professor Graham Mort, Director of The Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research and winner of both the Bridport Prize and The Edge Hill Prize.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

Backstories is published by Smoke & Mirrors Press.

MY BACKSTORIES QUEST

“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes?” The Stranglers 1977

I was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which is why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question.

I’m not interested in simplistic tabloid truths. They clung on too long, drank too much, lost their looks and their charm and generally reminded us that we’re all getting older. That’s not what I want from my heroes.

What I want is to find the spark, to dig down into their pain, their passions and their imperfections, and show you our heroes as they truly are.

So join me on my quest. Let’s bypass the obvious, the tedious,and the dull. Brave the deeper, darker paths where the treasures can be found, and together we’ll uncover the fears and doubts that made our heroes what they were and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way.

Whatever happened to all of the heroes?

They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.

About the author

Simon Van Der Velde

Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.

Simon’s website is: https://www.simonvandervelde.com/


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