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  • barrylitherland

Dark Skies and Fireflies - reflections on the origins of my latest work.

In 1965, when I was fourteen, my parents’ marriage, which had been teetering on the edge for some time, finally plummeted into the murky depths. When it fell, it hit ever jutting rock on the way down, until it exploded on impact with the hard ground. Only the bodies remained.

I know this because I stood on the cliff top as my mother and father fell – arguing all the way – and I was there at the base, a witness to their end. Despite all the evidence of gradual disintegration – the rows, the endless bitching, the to and fro of attack and counter-attack, over and over again, day after day after day, I never imagined it would come to this.

Dad was having an affair. It had been going on for months. Someone at work.

I was cold, empty, bleached dry. I remember that. Even though many of the details of those days have disappeared from my memory, the feelings are as clear as limestone rocks in a mountain stream.

Of course, at the time, caught up in a whirlpool of events, I wasn’t aware of the effect the following months had on me. It has taken years – decades – for that to become clear. Now, at an advancing age, I can chart their destructive effect. I am what I am at least in part because of those days. I am not what I might have been as a consequence of what happened.

In many of my novels, children are the peripheral victims – the collateral damage – of events in an adult world – or of the actions of adults themselves. In ‘Turbulence’, set during an imagined period of racial conflict, the protagonist is pursued by enemies bent on his destruction. His two young daughters are caught on a tidal wave over which they can have no control. Only the actions of their father can ultimately rescue them. Whether they can be rescued without long-term harm is a question that cannot be answered, but it must be thought about.

Children also feature centrally in ‘Breakers’, a paranormal mystery set in the North West Highlands of Scotland, and in ‘The Trophy Room’ where the awful vulnerability of children trapped by events in an adult world are only resolved by the intervention of compassionate and empowered adults. Again, the question of long-term damage is left hanging.

In my two novels for children – the’ Jenny Stories’ - the young characters, directed by Jenny, who claims to be the author of the narrative, are given the power to direct and control events in an adult world. They are a joyous celebration of fictional ‘child power.’

Much of this thematic thread is accidental, even peripheral to the central narrative of my books. I did not set out to evoke, let alone discuss, these preoccupations. They simply emerged as the writing progressed. It was only in retrospect that the underlying themes became apparent.

A year ago, shortly after completing the third of my ‘Phil Tyler Thrillers’ I decided that it was time to embark on a work of literary fiction which gave more space and time to reflect on my twin themes - The impact of early trauma on the course of life, and the powerlessness and vulnerability of the young when adults are so caught up in their own lives that they lose sight of what is happening to their children.

My new novel, ‘Dark Skies and Fireflies’ has been edited and I will be considering publication during 2022. It is a powerful and emotional book, unlike anything I’ve written before, and I am immensely proud of it. I’m also scared of it. It brings many smiles, my editor tells me, but she says she was also reduced to tears on several occasions. The ending plants a thought in the mind of the reader which will linger long after the past page has been turned – or so she tells me.

I hope so.

I have yet to decide on publication but, in the next few months, I will reach out to readers who might like ARC copies.

More information to follow.

And now, a photo of someone else blowing their own trumpet. Back to Blackpool Zoo again

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