Backstories written by Simon Van der Velde, publisher Smoke and Mirrors Press, is available NOW in ebook, kindleunlimited, audiobook and paperback format. THE EBOOK IS CURRENTLY ON A KINDLE COUNTDOWN DEAL PRICE OF 99p, perfect time to top-up your ereader for a summer of reading.
Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ – is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.
These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.
I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.
These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.
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.
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I am so pleased to be able to share an excerpt of the book with you all.
I’m wheelin my bike along the sidewalk, watchin all the white faces, watchin me. This
pinched kinda woman gives me a glare and then her man bumps me onto the road. I shrug
like it don’t bother me none, but I can’t help thinkin Daddy was right. Only a damn fool goes
up west of Walnut Street.
Maybe I should turn right around, but I wanna see the show, and anyway, that’s when
I see this skinny Asian kid across the street. Kinda high-yella, with this confused sorta look,
like my little brother, Rudy. I watch him lean his bike up against the wall, and then I watch it
fall down. I smile, course I do.
The bike’s battered to hell, and I can see why. Kid’s maybe eighth grade, same as
me, but he’s one of those clumsy, spidery type of kids that can’t hardly work their own hands.
Takes him forever to pick the thing up, and it falls straight over like he can’t even see the
slope on the sidewalk. In the end I do it for him, and lean my midnight blue Columbia Five
Star right alongside his piece of shit.
It’s obvious we’re both going to the auto show, just like it’s obvious neither of us
belongs up here, so we sort of tag along together. Bad idea. I know it as soon as he starts
talkin. See Joe, that’s his name, is one of those kids knows every damn thing about
everythin, and he’s gotta tell you.
First thing we see in the hall is this brand new ’55 Chevy Bel Air, up on the stand.
‘Great look, great life,’ the girl says, near bursting out of her sharp Chevy uniform.
‘Great ass, great tits,’ I whisper, but Joe don’t even crack a smile.
‘That’s nothin,’ he says, in his squeaky know-it-all voice, ‘up in Pittsburgh with my
Uncle, I saw this Mercedes-Benz, come all the way from Europe. Had these crazy wing
doors, looked like some kinda pterodactyl or somethin. Car like that do 150 easy, leave the
old Bel Air chokin on dust.’2
I guess he could be kind of interestin, if he’d just shut up sometime, but he never
does. Not for three hours straight. Gets on my nerves more than Rudy, if that’s even
‘Uhuh,’ I tell him. ‘Sure thing,’ with Momma’s voice in my head, like always, tellin
me I gotta be kind, and Daddy’s, like always too, tellin me I’m one prize fool for going so far
west, and a bigger one for hangin with this weird Asian kid.
Turns out Daddy was right.
Come sundown I’m ready to cut Joe loose, or maybe kill him, whatever Momma says.
‘Gettin late,’ I say, steppin out into the street and doin this big old yawn.
I hardly notice these two trashy white boys, baseball caps low, eyes dartin. You can
see the way they move they’re gettin ready for somethin, but you know, I’m thinkin about
how to get rid of Joe and I don’t get what’s happenin till it’s too late. They make a big deal
of starin at the poster for the show, then they’re on our bikes and pedalin down the hill like
the gun just gone in the Kentucky Derby.
‘Hey, stop,’ I shout like a dope, but of course they don’t.
I get to the corner in time to see a flash of red cap turnin up this alley. I follow them,
to the entrance at least. Maybe I am a prize fool, but I ain’t runnin down no blind alley, not
after what happen in Mississippi.
I take a good look. Alley’s a dead-end, high brick walls all around. There’s a couple of
doors, but they’re shut tight and the fire escape’s pulled way up high. There’s a load of trash
cans too, and crates and shit scattered all around, but there sure as hell ain’t no way out. It’s
a trap …
Thank you to the author for sharing this excerpt. This collection of short stories sounds so unique and I am looking forward to discovering the hidden characters within.
About the Author
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, labourer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as travelling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters and insights 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 Short story Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost
Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, Nicola, their labradoodle, Barney and two tyrannical children.