As part of our feature on novel-writing by Stephen Dowling we bring you an excerpt from his unpublished novel Can't Stand Up Without the Fear of Falling Down.
A down-on-his-luck writer meets a band in early 1990s London. He becomes the band's mouthpiece and official spokesman as the group become a cult across Europe. But when a song recorded as a practical joke becomes an accidental number one, the divisions that have simmering underneath become more serious.
The apartment building had been built in the 1920s, huge, solid, and with massive windows gazing towards the sea - not that there was much to see today apart from filthy grey mist hanging over the water.
The rest of the building's inhabitants seemed drawn solely from the ranks of privilege; a Tory MP, a lawyer or two, a Middle Eastern businessman, a wealthy elderly woman who walked her dogs every morning with deliberate grace, a young but conservative couple whose cut-glass accents seemed like a foreign tongue to Allan's ears, and a disapproving judge who always seemed to turn up at the front door when Allan was trying to wrestle that week's wine bottles in to the rubbish bin.
The flat had belonged to David's Uncle Fitzroy, a man grown comfortably rich off antiques trading and who had died suddenly of a heart attack early the previous year.
A large black and white portrait photograph of him hung in the corridor between the lounge and the kitchen. Uncle Fitzroy had been snapped in what looked like a Soho cafe 40 years before, dressed impeccably in a slim-fitting suit, fingers wrapped round a cigarette and eyes twinkling amid the enlarged grain of the film.
Fitzroy had been hugely encouraging towards his nephew's musical bent. David's first guitar had been a Christmas gift from the old man when he was 14.
"I'd have rather you bought a drum kit and learned to play like a jazzman, but I know an old man's entreaties would fall on deaf ears, and so they should," the Christmas card had read in Fitzroy's flamboyant script.
"Just please don't break it onstage like that awful man Townshend, or I'll disown you."
Below is a selection of your comments.
This is my favorite of the three. Though a very brief excerpt, I like the style, and want to read more of it.
Rachael, San Francisco, United States
The tiny extract on the previous page felt the most like part of a book so I followed it here. I thought this lived up to the extract's promise. Good job and good luck getting published.
MUCH better than the other two efforts - much more believable, and far better written. The plot seems interesting, and while it's not my usual cup of tea, it is something I might read. I agree that the title is dreadful and may deter readers as it sounds dull - it also needs to be shorter.
Andrew B, Leeds, England
I like the fluidity of the prose. It was a more plausible story than the clowns. This piece resonates in my mind a bit clearer.
Bottom line - I wanted to keep reading. I hope Stephen Dowling finds a publisher so that I can.
Polly Hosier, Bath
Much better than the others - but do you realise that one of the sentences is 83 words long!? I do really like the sound of the premise, actually - it has great potential. But it feels to me like the prose needs to be a whole lot brisker than this. It is good though, quite appealing.
Would be interested in reading more. Comments already submitted mention the impressive scene building, which is doubly impressive given the small number of words used to do this.
I thought this was the best of the three, but it did feel a little rushed, as if Stephen were trying to cram a whole pile of back story into as small a section as possible. Still, there is an eye for detail and a natural feel to it that I liked. The title has got to go, though!
This extract is by far my favourite out of the three. I'd be very keen to read more.
The extract caught my attention. I'd like to read more. His descriptions are good - I'm visualising scenes and characters as I read.
A Hore, Glasgow
Enjoyable, but immediately the use of the word "apartment" made me think this was set in the US. We don't really use that word over in London, that threw me a little.
Great. Of the three, this one grabbed me the most.