- About the Author
- On Active Service
John was a personal friend of mine, and although he published his book a year ago, I have to admit, rather guiltily that I have only just found time to read it. I feel especially guilty, in fact, because John offered to allow me to read his “unpublished manuscript” about a year before he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and subsequently died. What an opportunity missed.
The book starts shakily. As a writer myself I know how hard it is to start a story. The first few chapters would have been better simply alluded to, or kept to himself as background information about his character. However all this changes once John starts writing about Ian, who is clearly himself. I could hear John’s voice in every sentence, as though he was sitting talking to me, telling me all about his early days as a medical student and junior doctor and I was absolutely swept along on his journey. Here he is at his best, remembering his past, involving the reader so intimately that we feel as if we were there. How I wish he were still alive so I could ask him exactly how much of it was true and how much elaborated on for the sake of a good story.
The other part I enjoyed was Dr.Bellini’s trial, which I have since found out is also based on true events. I could hardly tear myself away from this, staying up until after midnight one night to find out what happened.
In these clearly factual sections John writes with authority, with a clear voice and sure step. When he ventures into fiction, he falters. The writing becomes stilted, the story dull and I had to force myself through some chapters, merely reading it to find out what happened.
The dialogue throughout the novel is unnatural, except where it is clearly rendered from memory and I wonder why John felt he had to write it as a novel. Why didn’t he just write it as his autobiography? It would have made a much better book.
Overall, though, this is a good book for a first novel, a story John wanted to tell, a story that will interest others, and I would recommend it.
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.