Inspired by the transcendent creativity of Bowie and the seamless lyrical genius of Steve Harley, the fourteen-year-old aircraft spotter, angler and Brentford fan struggles to reconcile his Christian grounding with his visceral desire to control the streets of his Middlesex town by exploiting events as they unfold. Weaving humility with swaggering braggadocio he rides the age and reaches for the stars. It seems that nothing can stop him and his gang, nor thwart their ambition. But time is waiting in the wings.
"The Best Year Of Our Lives has been a work in progress for a whole forty years, a real labour of love. Set in 1976, the year of that glorious summer, I have unashamedly drawn inspiration from my own adolescence which was fresh in the memory when I began to put it together, and have tried to synthesise my own real-life experience with a storyline which I’m sure will resonate with those who look back with fondness to their own formative years, particularly in my own age group but also hopefully in others.
"Essentially it is about a group of young people who are trying to carve a niche for themselves on the streets of the Middlesex town in which they live. As with most teenagers the world in which they are growing up is the only world that really exists, and the things which are important to them at their point in life are the only things that are really happening. Adults exist in their world almost as ornaments and the things which inform and motivate them are of little consequence; the only politics which matter are those of the youth club and of the street corner on which they hang out.
"The lead character is an ordinary young man who has aspirations to be top dog in the neighbourhood, but not the physical presence to make it happen by fear alone. To compensate for his own limitations he builds a movement which operates under the cover of a benign inner circle of younger friends, male and female, but through which he moves to outsmart and outpace the crude gangs with their limited, parochial estate-based loyalties and their predictable modus operandi.
"At the same time there is a spirituality about the lead character and his closest friends which is real and genuine and fuels a mission which, though undefined, allows them to feel vindicated in their quest. Their goal is not just to conquer for conquest’s sake, but to civilise and to impose their superior values upon the unbelievers for the greater good of all.
"Their relationship with one another and the way in which that is repeatedly empowered by their dislike of certain others delivers a sometimes chilling lesson on the symbiosis of love and hate, of good and evil, and the dividing lines between the two are seldom completely clear. The story begs the question as to whether success is achieved by being ultimately in the right, or just by the sheer power of the will.
Some of my reviewers have enjoyed the book at face value and have been happy to treat it as a simple story in its own right and as a pleasant reminisce, and I’m cool with that. I like to think it works on more than one level. But what is most important to me is that I have finally put into words the thing I have waited forty years to say, although I’m still not quite sure what that is."
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