All those years ago when I first presented my young boys with a half a grapefruit each for breakfast, I had no idea where it might lead.
They were rejected of course, the grapefruits, I mean. Tom, Sam and Harry basically downed spoons. Too bitter. Too unappetising and on my part, too ambitious.
“We want coco pops, not grapefruit.”
The grapefruit enjoyed a golden decade in the 1970’s when somehow it regularly passed as a starter – until someone invented the prawn cocktail and its time was up.
And rejected also by the Holland boys, but I was undeterred and I persevered. Yellow grapefruits made way for the red variety. I halved them in the normal way, and then smashed and cut the flesh to form a little bowl of juice. With a little sugar as required, my boys relented and they became known as Fruit Bowls; just one of the many quirks of their unusual dad.
And the tradition lives on, albeit via a cold press machine these days and grapefruits have been joined by an array of other fruits and vegetables. But the unusual name remains and is one of the reasons why the title of my new novel, The Fruit Bowl is so important to me as it is published tomorrow.
A story that spans thirty years. An innocuous moment that binds two boys together and will come to save the lives of two men.
This innocuous moment is real. It happened to me in my school playground when I was being bullied by a bigger boy and then rescued by an even bigger boy. My memory might be faltering but some recollections are indelible. I was only 14 but even then at I imagined that it might make a compelling place to begin a drama. This was before I failed English Language O Level but this did not deter me either.
The novel that this incident inspired was first published in 2013 as, A Man’s Life. It was my first stab at self-publishing, after the publisher of my first novels had fired me. Smarting and keen to prove them wrong, I imagined that my novel via Amazon would just find its audience and take flight.
And why I have decided to rekindle what is probably the best story I have written – and with its original title, The Fruit Bowl.
The few readers of A Man’s Life did enjoy it and some were kind enough to say so online. It is never easy to commend one’s own work – so I defer to my favourite quote by a reader called Sharon…
“…I am sitting here a 1.30am feeling a little lost because I have finished this book. You know that sad empty feeling when something great is over.”
Of course, I had intended to launch the book properly. To send out advanced copies to radio stations and TV magazine shows. Newspapers and magazines. On-line book forums and reading clubs… in time to make schedules and book in lots of exposure.
That was the plan, anyway.
And for a raft of reasons – typos, mainly – (seemingly, I am blind), none of this occurred. Not a single advanced copy dispatched. No press release. No interviews booked.
Lucky for me then that I have this blog, carefully curated over 15 years.
Instantly I think of Robert Downey Junior. As Tony Stark in one of Tom’s Spider-Man films – he issued a line that made me howl laughing. Robert likes to ad-lib and this line has the feel of his wit and mischievousness
“Peter, that room is packed with press. Real journalists. No bloggers.”
So the odds are firmly against me then, but this is something I have become accustomed to. Perhaps, appropriate then that The Fruit Bowl is an emotional read and a wrenching book to write.
Tomorrow, I will publish on this website a chat between Tom and I about the novel. Lockdown meant that Tom was in London with not much to do and he had time to read it.
I won’t ruin the interview by revealing that Tom cried reading the book. With sorrow at its opening and then again at the resolution with joy – and the greatest affirmation for me is that he cried more the second time.
Most novels are read on holiday. Indeed, a great book can define a vacation. The long flights, train journeys and time idling by a pool.
So my timing is good, then?
Er… This is 2020. Covid and the lowest take up of vacations since records began.
And so the odds lengthen even further…
And yet, I remain hopeful. So if you can share this post or even come to the book, then thank you. I hope you enjoy it and if it makes you feel happy, like it did Tom, then you might leave a review on this site or elsewhere.