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Boy A [Paperback]

Jonathan Trigell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Review

'Creepy and involving... From the beginning, Trigell weaves a sense of drama and a disturbing feeling of inevitability' -- Independent

'Trigell masterfully builds sympathy for Jack' -- Entertainment Weekly

`A fine and moving debut novel... Harrowing at times, this compulsively readable novel is more optimistic than it sounds... a rare treat' -- Independent

`A frankly amazing achievement from young Mr Trigell' -- FHM

From the Publisher

"'Boy A' won the Waverton Award for best first novel of 2004; the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, for best book in the commonwealth by an author under 35; and The World Book Day Prize 2008 for the most discussion worthy novel by a living writer."

About the Author

Jonathan Trigell was born in 1974 and has lived in Hertfordshire, Manchester, Derby and Stone. In 2002 he completed an MA in creative writing at Manchester University. He has been a TV extra, an outdoor pursuits instructor and a door to door salesman; plus has worked right across the winter sports industry, from mopping floors and washing dishes to journalism and organising major events. His first novel, Boy A, won the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for best work by an author under 35, and also the Waverton Award, for best first novel of 2004. Jonathan now lives in Chamonix, where he is writing his third novel, Genesis.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Boy A by Jonathan Trigell

Leadtext: A is for Apple. A bad apple.

He's seen noses broken over less: the fag butts on the pavement have been carelessly tossed, five drags left in them.

Jack's his name. He chose it himself. Few people choose their own names. He's seen a lot try, adopting hard or suave AKA's, but those snide-nicks never stick. Jack picked his name from a book, The Big Book of Boys' Names, a good place to start. Normal but cool, that's why he likes it. Jack of all trades, Jack of hearts, Jack the lad, Jack in the box, car Jack, union Jack, bowling Jack, lumber Jack, steeple Jack, Cracker Jack. Always the childish pursues him: denied his own childhood, denier of another. Also Jack the Ripper, he didn't spot that until later.

Beside him walks Terry. As they've walked together a thousand times, though always before in corridors; never in the splendour of this new unroofed world. Even with Terry there, Jack's nervous. For all the promise of the sun and the baby blue sky he's cold. Terry smiles at him and he can see the excitement there, he tries to look calm and happy. Maybe this is Terry's moment, not his. Terry's spent fifteen years working for this, waiting to see Jack striding down a sunny street.

Terry knew Jack when he wasn't called that. Terry knows his birth name, the name he shed. Now lying like a sloughed snake skin, in a file, in a cabinet, in a vinyl tiled office in Solihull. Terry met Jack when he was called simply A, a letter for his name. Child A, a court name, to distinguish from a second child, B. Friend, accomplice, instigator, nemesis perhaps to Jack; now dead, no matter. Found hanged in his cell, suicide presumed. 'Good Riddance', said The Sun, and a Nation cheered. Jack felt nothing but a numbness when he heard the news. He alone now knew what had happened that day, and that even he knew less with each week that passed. But he also felt a fear that his cover was blown, and considered a spell with the Fraggles, seeking sanctuary with the sick.

Jack's feet feel light in the box-fresh, bright white trainers that Terry gave him to wear. They cushion and bounce him, lift him up. Terry says that his son wears them, that they're the height of fashion. Jack's seen the new lads coming in with them for a while now, but he's still pleased with them. They've set the seal on his day. New and radiant and airy, that's how it feels; there's so much space around him. He could run in any direction in his new Nikes and nothing would stop him. He knows he could outrun Terry easily. Terry's old enough to be his dad. He looks at him; the soft smoke curls in his grey sideburns, gentle eyes, brown like his sierra. Jack used to wish he was his dad, used to think that none of it would have happened if he had been. He could never outrun Terry, because he'd stop when called. Jack could never let Terry down.

"How're you feeling, son?" Terry asks. "What do you think of the wide world?"

"I dunno." He always feels childish around Terry. A chance to let down barriers and bravado. "It's big."

He realises 'wide world' is not just an expression. Streets are broad, houses high, horizons unimaginably vast, even corner shops are commodious. Big dens of pop and videos, fags and beer. The trees are greener close up, the walls are redder, the windows more see-through. He wants to tell Terry all of this, and more. He wants to tell him how great wheely bins are, how every house should have a name like the one back there did, how telephone wires drape like bunting. He wants to shake Terry's hand with thanks and hug him with excitement and have Terry hold him tight to quell the fear.

But he only says: "It's big."

They pass a skip painted dazzling sunflower yellow. Jack remembers skips as full of shit and bricks, but this one's empty except for a cocoa armchair. He wonders if only Stonelee skips were full of shit; but the flies wafting above the chair must believe it's on its way.

It was Terry who suggested they walk the last few terraced streets to Jack's new home. Their driver is waiting outside, in a biro blue Camry, with a stick-on taxi sign. The letters of its number plate spell 'PAX'. Jack thinks this is a good omen, like they used to say when they were kids. Before 'the incident', as his assigned psychologist called it. Pax meant you made up, that the past was forgotten, a truce and amnesty declared, begin afresh.

The Camry is the third car that Jack and Terry have been in today, weaving a false trail, even though apparently unfollowed. The press knows that he's being released, even the liberal papers called for a working committee. The Sun said 'Tell The Public Where He's Going And Let Them Sort Him Out'. Terry says they're just being sensationalist, that most people believe he's served his time. Terry reminds him that they haven't got a photo taken since puberty. That he's a special case, not going on the offenders register, untraceable. Even Jack didn't know where he was going until an hour ago.

"It's a City," is all Terry would let on. "Plenty of new faces around, specially with all the students, no one'll notice you, and no one'd think to look anyway."

Terry explained there may have been better situations than this one, more controlled environments for Jack to move into. But they went for anonymity, and for speed. If Jack had stayed in prison while extended plans and preparations went on, there might have been a change of heart, a change of Home Secretary. He could easily have ended up inside for another ten years.

The car is outside tan-bricked number ten. Two suitcases in its boot contain a manufactured life. The life belonging to Jack Burridge. Jack Burridge has just finished the last of several short stints for taking and driving away. His Uncle Terry has found him a room and a job. Jack Burridge has no connection to the fuss in the papers. Jack Burridge feels like a caterpillar, about to embark upon a second life, a phase he didn't know, didn't even dare hope, existed.

The driver is a policeman, special protection squad. He's a professional, if he's disgusted his thoughts don't show. He nods granite-faced to Terry, who leads Jack up to the door with a broad-leafed hand on his back. Jack feels like his legs will collapse but for the strength pouring into him from those fingers. Terry is his parole contact, his only true friend, and now his uncle. He might just as well be God. Once, as a boy, though he can't now remember it, Jack thought that he might be. Terry's hand is the hand of redemption certainly, the hand that reached out to save a drowning child, the hand that raps three times on a door that's painted a garish granny-smith green.

"Hiya," says Terry with artificial exuberance to the woman that opens the door. "This is my nephew, Jack . Jack, this is Mrs Whalley," he pronounces it like 'Wall'.

She says, "Kelly," as she shakes Jack's hand, her own a little too slim for her fullish form. Legacy perhaps of a slighter youth. Not that she's old, somewhere in a make-up blur of thirties two to five. Her eyes, blue themselves, are shadowed in a brighter tone, so that the blue inside them looks like green. They flick unconsciously to Jack's crotch as she asks them in.

"You must excuse the mess," she says, though none is in evidence. "I'm working nights this week, I've only just got up, really."

The lounge they sit in is small but seemly: pink walls, pine polished floor, framed pictures of parents and holidays; and a large print of a famously obscure couple kissing in Paris.

"Cup of tea, Jack?" Kelly asks.

He looks hesitant.

"Lovely," Terry answers for them both.

Kelly gets busy in an interconnected kitchen while Jack and Terry get the cases from the car. The policeman-taxi drives away. Two more are watching from the windows of a guesthouse over the road. Terry will also stay there tonight. Just in case. Though Jack has a panic button, state of the art, disguised as a pager, that goes straight through to Terry at any time. Cuts to the protection squad if Terry doesn't take it. He should never be out of reach of safety.

Kelly knows none of this, only that she has a new lodger. She probably thinks he looks young, for the twenty-two she's been told; though really he is two years older. His skin is doughish pale, and she'd be right if she thinks there's a kind of awe and innocence in the way he looks around him.

She moves her uniform from the back of the sofa to let Terry sit down. It is a sensible nurse navy, not the short curvy white worn by strippers and schoolboy fantasies.

"Thank you," says Jack, as he takes the tea from her. Not a trace of the broad accent of his youth remains. Long years spent trying to fit in at Brentwood then Feltham have removed every taint. He sounds more rough South East than anything. Jack Burridge comes from Luton.

The tea is too sweet, which makes it extravagant somehow, and Jack savours it.

"Which hospital do you work at?" asks Terry.

Kelly's reply vaguely washes over Jack's ears, but he watches her face: round, kind, wilful, helpful.

Then she asks him a question, something about the weather or the journey. It takes a moment for the words to achieve significance in a mind still reeling in new sensation. Sensing his stumbling, she red... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A is for Apple. A bad apple.
He’s seen noses broken over less: the fag butts on the pavement have been carelessly tossed, five drags left in them.

Jack's his name. He chose it himself. Few people choose their own names. He's seen a lot try, adopting hard or suave AKA's, but those snide-nicks never stick. Jack picked his name from a book, The Big Book of Boys’ Names, a good place to start. Normal but cool, that's why he likes it. Jack of all trades, Jack of hearts, Jack the lad, Jack in the box, car Jack, union Jack, bowling Jack, lumber Jack, steeple Jack, Cracker Jack. Always the childish pursues him: denied his own childhood, denier of another. Also Jack the Ripper, he didn't spot that until later.

Beside him walks Terry. As they've walked together a thousand times, though always before in corridors; never in the splendour of this new unroofed world. Even with Terry there, Jack's nervous. For all the promise of the sun and the baby blue sky he's cold. Terry smiles at him and he can see the excitement there, he tries to look calm and happy. Maybe this is Terry's moment, not his. Terry's spent fifteen years working for this, waiting to see Jack striding down a sunny street.

Terry knew Jack when he wasn't called that. Terry knows his birth name, the name he shed. Now lying like a sloughed snake skin, in a file, in a cabinet, in a vinyl tiled office in Solihull. Terry met Jack when he was called simply A, a letter for his name. Child A, a court name, to distinguish from a second child, B. Friend, accomplice, instigator, nemesis perhaps to Jack; now dead, no matter. Found hanged in cell, suicide presumed. 'Good Riddance', said The Sun, and a Nation cheered. Jack felt nothing but a numbness when he heard the news. He alone now knew what had happened that day, and that even he knew less with each week that passed. But he also felt a fear that his cover was blown, and considered a spell with the Fraggles, seeking sanctuary with the sick.

Jack's feet feel light in the box-fresh, bright white trainers that Terry gave him to wear. They cushion and bounce him, lift him up. Terry says that his son wears them, that they're the height of fashion. Jack's seen the new lads coming in with them for a while now, but he's still pleased with them. They've set the seal on his day. New and radiant and airy, that's how it feels; there's so much space around him. He could run in any direction in his new Nikes and nothing would stop him. He knows he could outrun Terry easily. Terry's old enough to be his dad. He looks at him; the soft smoke curls in his grey sideburns, gentle eyes, brown like his sierra. Jack used to wish he was his dad, used to think that none of it would have happened if he had been. He could never outrun Terry, because he'd stop when called. Jack could never let Terry down.

"How're you feeling, son?" Terry asks. "What do you think of the wide world?"

"I dunno." He always feels childish around Terry. A chance to let down barriers and bravado. "It's big."

He realises 'wide world' is not just an expression. Streets are broad, houses high, horizons unimaginably vast, even corner shops are commodious. Big dens of pop and videos, fags and beer. The trees are greener close up, the walls are redder, the windows more see-through. He wants to tell Terry all of this, and more. He wants to tell him how great wheely bins are, how every house should have a name like the one back there did, how telephone wires drape like bunting. He wants to shake Terry's hand with thanks and hug him with excitement and have Terry hold him tight to quell the fear.

But he only says: "It's big."

They pass a skip painted dazzling sunflower yellow. Jack remembers skips as full of shit and bricks, but this one's empty except for a cocoa armchair. He wonders if only Stonelee skips were full of shit; but the flies wafting above the chair must believe it's on its way. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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