A Boy Called Audrey
Pictures from an Exhumation, Book One
'A Boy Called Audrey' is the ultimate fruit of some experimental jottings I played around with briefly four or five years ago, and which I as quickly dropped when they simply refused to gel, to 'come together'. The first, which I saw as my opening chapter, was an account of a meeting which played a key rôle in my life, and changed it fundamentally. The other was a general picture of the milieu and the society I came to inhabit in gay Glasgow in the 1960s. Both remain, much revised and rethought, in the published book. The first forms the basis of Chapter Four, 'What's Your Name?', while the second, much extended, became Chapter Eighteen, 'Standing on the Corner'.
But it wasn't until late 2014, with 'The Naked Doctor' virtually completed, that I returned to these sketches. I had now written and finished one book. Was there a chance that a re-reading of my earlier drafts would re-ignite my interest, and might I now be able to see a way to progress them into some kind of usable material? I was aware that this would be a very different and more challenging project. 'The Naked Doctor' was fiction. 'Forever Audrey' (the original title) would be fact. More than that, it would be the Facts of Life. The facts of my own life.
The first thing I realised was that what I had originally planned as the opening simply would not do as it stood. More prefatory material was needed, more background, if the reader was to understand the story, if he was to understand me. I wrote Chapter Three, 'Saturday Night at the Movies', very quickly, and changed it little thereafter. An incident from my early teenage years, one which has provoked cries of 'No! You didn't really do that?' when I have recounted it, formed the basis of Chapter Two, 'The Great Pretender'.
Chapters five and six came easily, although I began to have some qualms about the explicit nature of some of my material. But I felt strongly that, if this were to be the story of my early years, it had to go into some areas that I might have preferred to leave unexplored. More, it had to present them unvarnished and without excuses. I had already decided that detailed descriptions of intimate activities were not going to feature. Though the book deals with sexual orientation, the mechanics are, in my view, largely irrelevant. But there remained a couple of incidents that simply wouldn't make sense without at least a nod in that direction. For the same reasons, I resolved not to soften the language at all. That is the way the people I knew spoke. How could I present my characters convincingly and faithfully, if I bowdlerised their speech patterns and censored the subjects of their conversations?
I started on what is now the second part, 'Audrey Regnant'. This flowed fairly easily right up to the end, where the final chapter gave me endless trouble. That was because I knew where it was heading, and I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to go there. I feared that I wouldn't be able to do justice to a love story.
And sure enough, I hit a brick wall. The memories I was reviving were painful, in the light of events that were still to come. This reminder of a period when my behaviour was far from admirable made me highly uncomfortable, and for a while I thought I might jettison the entire project. But over time I came to appreciate that I owed the person about whom I was writing something. And that this was all I could give him; to tell his story, and to try to show him as the entirely admirable person he was.
It was not till this point that what is now the present first chapter of the book was added. I had already retreated from my original starting point twice, in search of the source. I came to understand that I actually had to go back to the beginning.
Around the same time I read somewhere that books written entirely in the present tense are part of a modern trend. A literary mode to be deplored as merely 'fashionable', and to be avoided at all costs. I had not been aware of this 'rule' when I wrote 'A Boy Called Audrey'. That was just the way that felt right. I tried recasting one or two chapters in the past tense to see how that worked. It didn't. At least, it didn't for me. Moral - there are no rules.
So here it is. I am proud of this one. It may be Good, it may be Bad. It may simply be Indifferent. But whatever it is, it's True. And it's true, too, to the memory of those I knew and the events I lived through. The people and the times that made me the person I am.
Published by BigAudBooks ©2015 ISBN: 9781517535735 372 pages
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