Friday, 8 November 2013

BOOK POST: Shemlan and the Big C

Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy is about a man with terminal cancer whose journey into his past  to find the lost love of his life stirs up a hornet's nest that threatens to kill him before the disease does.

I so far have not had, but am fully expecting, the reaction 'But I don't want to read a book about someone dying of cancer.'

I genuinely hadn't given it a moment's thought until I hit the 'go' button on the various publishing platforms I've used. But then I've never really set out to make life easy for myself with this whole book thing.

I can even sympathise with that reaction. I suffered it myself to a certain degree when the book was being conceived.

Jason Hartmoor was born when Barry Cook came to stay with us back in 2008. I posted about his visit on the blog a while afterwards and I do heartily recommend you take a read. Barry had been fighting off cancer for ten years and was desperately ill. I had dreaded the visit - we knew we were going to be playing host to a terminally ill cancer patient and had both steeled ourselves for a pretty hellish three days. We were to be totally blindsided by what happened next.
"I didn't stop laughing, or smiling, for the next 72 hours. Not only were our visitors delightful company, Barry was nothing short of inspirational. Although he'd get the odd twinge of pain in his back and needed to take enzymes to aid his digestion, he was more on top of a disease so chronic that an x-ray of his skeleton showed the cancer was so widespread it was like 'someone had thrown a handful of sticky rice grains at it' than I could ever have imagined. He'd been fighting it for ten years and was still beating it back."
And so was born the Roxanol and enzyme popping Jason Hartmoor. The resemblance ends there, Barry was a charismatic, laughing man with enough charm and twinkle for ten. But I had been building a 'challenged' character and Barry's condition - with its inevitable end - wriggled its way into that character. I think Barry himself crept into Hartmoor every now and then - Jason's lighter, more human moments are probably Barry breaking through.

I've often talked about how authors 'steal' people. This is the ultimate example, stealing a dying man. But blag away I did. My only defence is that it wasn't intentional.

I didn't want to make Hartmoor's condition harrowing or graphic in itself, at least in part because Barry had shown me having cancer doesn't necessarily mean every day is spent recalling your last chemo session or the day you first found out. After ten years, it had settled into a sort of 'business as usual' for him. Hartmoor gets tired: he fatigues easily and has to depend on The Hated Stick more than he would like to - increasingly so as the book progresses. He's frail, his routines are those of a man who depends absolutely on his medication - particularly the painkillers. But his disease has become a fact of life for him, a constant companion he has reached a sort of understanding with.

The constancy of Roxanol, by the way, was the reason I was so taken by the cover image, by Australian artist Gerrard King. But more of that another time...

So I wouldn't let the fact there's a man with cancer at the heart of Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy stop you reading it. In fact, I'd rather like to think it was yet another reason TO read it.

The link's to the right of this post. Do it now before you forget...
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