Book Review: The Wacky Man

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The Wacky Man, by Lyn G. Farrell, recounts in painful, vivid detail the childhood of Amanda, whose vicious father took out his anger and frustrations on his children with a cruelty it is hard to comprehend. The story opens with Amanda talking to her ‘new shrink’, trying to piece together the fractured memories of her past. It is a past filled with fear, yet the bruises she carried were as nothing compared to the emotional damage endured. The beatings she suffered hurt from the outside in. The barrage of words which bombarded her both at home and at school cut from the inside where they festered, damaging the goodness that should have been nurtured.

Amanda’s father, Seamus, came from Ireland where he had a large and sprawling family, many of whom never accepted his English wife, Barbara. He worked in a factory and was regarded as hard working and jovial, seen to be providing a good home for his wife and twin sons. He put up with the banter about his background, taking home the resentment he felt at how he was treated by his peers.

Barbara also resented how her life had turned out. She rarely intervened when her husband beat their young children in the name of discipline. They lived a life on edge, always fearful of Seamus’s violent reaction to the slightest provocation.

As the youngest child, Amanda was born into a family already suffering. She was a noisy, demanding baby but started off wanting to please. She absorbed her father’s cruel taunts, his kicks and fists. Her mother appeared impotent, often drugged up on medication. Despite references to social services, nobody seemed willing to act in the best interests of the children.

The unfolding story is told from Amanda’s point of view but never descends to the style of a popular misery memoir. It is a first hand account of an abused child, their thoughts and feelings, dreams that morph into nightmare. Each incident is recalled as a snapshot from a troubled life, the detail told in a manner that is factually shocking but never gratuitous.

Amanda’s treatment over the fifteen years narrated leaves her damaged beyond anything imaginable. It is hard to see how it could be allowed to happen, yet this too is explained. When the father owns the house and provides the only income how is a woman to leave with three young kids and survive? In the competitive environment that is school, children are inherently cruel to one another. When kindly teachers try to help a pupil who is physically violent and abusive, who turns on them for reasons they cannot comprehend, how much can they practically do? Amanda saw many psychologists but struggled to tell them what they needed to know. Adults and children talk different languages.

It is hard to avoid blaming the wider family for not doing more but perhaps this was a product of the times. These were staunch Catholics, church going people who would frown upon marriage breakdown. What went on behind closed doors was rarely regarded as any business of those outside.

The extent of the damage being wrought was not understood. A story such as this can help counter such ignorance by laying out in raw and harrowing detail the full effect of childhood abuse, emotional as well as physical.

A searing, challenging tale written not to engender mawkish sympathy but rather to promote understanding. This is a stunning, agonising debut from a talented writer.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Legend Press.

Q&A with Legend Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Lottie from Legend Press to my blog. Legend was set up ten years ago and became one of the fastest-growing independent publishers. They proudly proclaim their passion for championing both new and high-profile authors, and for ensuring that the book remains a product of beauty, enjoyment and fulfillment.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this press who, in 2011, were shortlisted for the Bookseller Independent Publisher of the Year.

1. Why did you decide to set up Legend Press?

Legend Press was founded ten years ago by Tom Chalmers who owns Legend Times Group.

2. What sort of books do you want to publish?

We publish literary fiction, commercial crime and women’s fiction. We also have a non-fiction imprint, Paperbooks and a business book imprint, Legend Business.

3. How do you go about finding and signing authors?

The majority of our authors are submitted to us by their agents. We do also take unsolicited submissions and obviously receive foreign submissions from around the world.

4. Is your experience of marketing what you expected when you started out?

The way in which we market has evolved over the years as social media is playing a greater role in how consumers interact with both authors and publishing houses.

5. There are a good number of small, independent publishers out there publishing some great works. Do you consider yourself different and, if so, how?

We work hard to ensure our books remain a product of beauty. We care deeply about the titles that we publish so each one has to stand out and they are selected to be part of our list for a reason. Publishing is a very competitive marketplace so when we take our list to international book fairs we have to feel confident that we can compete. We had two books longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year which was a fantastic achievement. Our authors are also invited to literary festivals such as Cheltenham, Bath and Edinburgh which always means there is a great atmosphere when they meet fans of their books.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

This depends completely on who you are selling to. Each title on our list is completely original but that’s not to say that brands don’t work. Our crime authors for instance, write very original crime stories yet their second, third and fourth books are packaged commercially so they can hold their own in high street shops and supermarkets.

7. Ebook or hard copy – what do your buyers want?

Again this depends on the customer – all of our titles are published in both ebook and paperback formats simultaneously so everyone is catered for.

8. Do you consider Legend Press niche or mainstream?

We are mainstream, our books are stocked by all the major retailers both in the UK and abroad. The cover designs are special, we choose effects that will ensure the customer enjoys holding our books and it makes our titles pop out at customers from the bookshelf. But in terms of sales and marketing, we have a very commercial, mainstream list.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

We always welcome our authors input and we invite them to give suggestions on how they would like the end result to look, but the majority of the work in regards to taking the book from a manuscript to the shops is done in-house.

10. Plans for the future?

Our list is growing year on year as is our staff numbers. We’re very excited to see what 2016 brings and can’t wait to share with everyone what we have in store.

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Thank you to Lottie for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about this press, including details of their books, on their website by clicking here: Legend Press • Legend Times Group

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Legend Press (@Legend_Press)

untouchable  fractured

Look out for my reviews of both of the above books, coming soon!

If you are an independent publisher and would like to be included in this series please check out my introductory post: Shout Out to Independent Publishers