A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge

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A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An interesting turn of events after a man suffers a financial crash. While some of the writing is a bit on the laboured side the plotting is strong and the book is recommended for at least a look.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 234 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Pundyhouse Publishing
ISBN: 978-1905599974

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Nick is in trouble. Having gone completely in hock to the bank with his struggling industrial plant, he has mortgaged the house to the hilt, sworn all his financial security away, and just about ruined any plans for any spending money for the next few years. Unless, that is, the bank looks favourably on his latest figures, and will leave him alone to battle his way through the stagnant marketplace he is in.

Of course they don't, and he has to go home to his wife and teenage son with no money, no job, no property to his name, no future, and just a few bottles of plonk desperately bought on what is roughly his last valid credit card.

Maureen can tide things through a little with her teacher's income, but with a lot of the funds coming in going out just to keep the bank from repossessing their rural Scottish house, eventually the family have a stash of red bills and final demands - if nothing else it counts as free fire spills, as they can't do much else with them.

Evidently, the marriage suffers, and so too, in increasingly alarming ways, does the mindset of Nick. One minute he's apologetic and grovelling, the next spiteful and vengeful against his son getting through life on a free. One moment he has a wizard plan to secure some income, one moment he has... well, that would be telling.

The book then is strongly about Nick's character, which is where the writing comes in. I think Bill Liversidge goes a little over the top when it comes to showing just how bleak things are (the phrase 'taking blood from a stone' is used at least four times), and equally flamboyant, forceful and unforgiving when showing Nick's point of view and internal monologues. It's quite a relief the chapter where he tells Maureen everything is up the spout remains unwritten.

However I might be doing our author a disservice here, for it certainly sets up the character as novel, unsympathetic, and perhaps heightens our senses when the ultimate scheme comes along - one quite laughable, quite ridiculous, quite horrible in execution. At the same time I could imagine some readers getting too much of an earful of Nick, and not getting as far as the crux of the book.

There has to be a plot that drives the complete transformation of Nick, and this one is certainly well done - all the ups and downs come at just the right time, and are never OTT in themselves. Even the more extreme are justified - but I'm not including the last chapter in that statement, for there the jury is still out.

It is very interesting to remember the 'about me' for the author, where he states the emotional crash Nick suffers is true to his own experience. I think I know where reality ends and fiction begins, and I hope it's before page 172.

There are a few problems with the book - the proof-reading is quite tiresomely poor - several pages after someone first says something it is "the first time he had heard her speak", and one character is either called Peter, Sandy or Robbie and I don't know which. I think for all that it is a character piece about a strongly-written average man in below (or beyond) average circumstances, there needed to be more character coming from the minor parts to level things out and add a little more colour.

That said the focus of the book is very strong, and the style certainly did not put me off, especially when the meaty turns came into force. I'm not sure why the author chose this book as his first complete self-published effort - if to purge the memories of what inspired it, then I give my sympathy and congratulations for turning them away from potential gloom, murk and dourness into lively and well-constructed fiction; if as an exercise into a changing character, then well done but don't let it become your one trick; if purely down as mercenary publishing or vanity, then either way I wish him success.

This is not a long read - five hours, perhaps, that sail past with an assured ease. We at the bookbag recommend the volume, and hope it sells well, and would like to thank the author for sending us a copy to sample.

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Buy A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge at Amazon.com.


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Bill Liversidge said:

As the author I just want to say thank you for a very fair, honest and insightful review. The shortcomings you highlight are certainly mine alone but hopefully I can learn from your observations and the next book will be better as a result.

Once again, many thanks,

Bill Liversidge