Hello! Am delighted to be sharing with you an extract from my second novel THE MAGNIFICENT SONS, which is out on hardback August 6 2020. You can find links to the ebook and preorder details for the print copy here.
What’s it about?
At twenty-nine, Jake D’Arcy has finally got his life just right. Job with prospects: check. Steady girlfriend: check. Keeping his exhausting, boisterous family at bay: check. So why isn’t he happier?
When his confident, much-adored younger brother Trick comes out as gay to a rapturous response, Jake realises he has questions about his own repressed bisexuality, and that he can’t wait any longer to find his answers.
As Trick begins to struggle with navigating the murky waters of adult relationships, Jake must confront himself and those closest to him. He’s beginning to believe his own life could be magnificent, if he can be brave enough to make it happen . . . Anyway, here goes:
The hallway smelled like food; last night’s dinner, maybe, with a little of this morning’s breakfast thrown in. Gravy and fry-ups. Jake followed Evan down the hall into a cramped, untidy breakfast room, with a small kitchen off the back. There was washing-up piled on the side, and half-filled mugs of tea left on a rickety-looking table in the middle of the room, salt and pepper, ketchup, a creased newspaper. Jake imagined his mum’s face if she could’ve seen it; she’d never left the house with a cup unwashed in the sink, let alone out on the table for all to see.
‘This way,’ Evan said softly, even though he’d said nobody would be in. ‘Do you know how to skin up?’
Through another door and they were in the lounge. The TV was old, Jake noticed – older than Granddad’s. It was wide enough at the top to accommodate a small lamp and some loose change. The room smelled of cigarettes.
‘We can smoke in here,’ Evan whispered, reading Jake’s mind.
‘Cool.’ Jake tried not to stare. Evan riffled in the drawer of a huge sideboard that dominated one wall. There were birthday cards on the shelves. Happy 18th Birthday, some said; others had crude jokes on them. He remembered Evan’s 18th, three months earlier, though he hadn’t been invited to the party. There was a strict rule in Jake’s house – birthday cards came down within a week. Bad luck or something.
Evan handed him a box. ‘Here, it’s all in there. I’ll put some tunes on.’
Jake, of course, did not know how to roll a joint. He trembled as he sat on the sofa and opened the box. He’d seen people do this. On TV. On the school bus sometimes. He licked a cigarette paper and joined it to another. He felt very grown up. Almost a ‘geezer’, like his dad. ‘You keep this, uh, gear down here?’ he asked in amazement. ‘Where anyone could find it?’
Evan looked up from the pile of records he was sorting through and laughed. ‘You only find something if you look for it. Nobody ever does.’
Jake was messing up the joint. He scattered tobacco like he was garnishing a pizza and hoped for the best. ‘Won’t the smell . . . ?’
‘Oh, it’s fine. Nobody will know.’ Jake saw Evan select a record. ‘Yes.’
‘Vinyl,’ said Jake, as nonchalantly as possible. ‘Retro.’
Evan laughed. ‘My brother broke the CD player and I can’t afford an iPod. Not retro, just . . . y’know. All there is. My dad’s old-school.’
Jake had seen Evan’s dad. Always smoking. He was American, had longish hair. He’d nod at Jake sometimes. Knew his dad, probably. Everyone knew Jake’s dad.
Jake couldn’t believe he was here. Too many coincidences had brought him to that room, the box, and the joint he was making a mess of. He’d never been sent to the supervision room before, but forgetting his homework for the third time in a row had been the final straw for his French teacher.
‘You’re not taking French A level seriously,’ she’d hissed, after hauling him out into the corridor.
‘I am, miss,’ he’d protested, before killing off another distant relative as an excuse. But Madame Jones had a good memory, and thus he was banished to supervision – basically, the holding pen for pupils not naughty enough for detention – along with two girls caught fighting in the toilets, Darren Loughton, who lived in supervision, and Evan Kolowski.
Evan had joined Jake’s school late in Year 10. They’d not spoken much. He knew Evan was brought up in the States but his parents had suddenly come ‘home’. After they’d been liberated from supervision, they’d chatted on the bus and Evan had invited Jake back to his for a smoke. Jake had been gobsmacked. Though the novelty of an American in the class had long worn off, Evan still maintained a loyal fan base. He was tall, handsome. Girls loved him, because he had ‘good chat’, and many of the boys had a begrudging respect for him – probably because he was good at basketball – although there were the predictable racist comments from some of the white boys whose dads had bulldog tattoos, permanent angry sunburn and spent all day in the Red Lantern. One jibe too many that day had pushed Evan over the edge and its culprit had accidentally fallen on to the end of Evan’s fist. Naturally, Evan had been the only one to get punished, and had found himself in supervision. They smoked Jake’s badly constructed joint without comment before Evan got up to change the record.
‘This one! “Second Hand News” is an amazing fucking song,’ he whooped.
Jake chuckled at the way he’d pronounced ‘news’. Nooooz. ‘Who’s it by?’ he asked as sharp, angry guitar strumming started up.
Evan stared back in mock horror. ‘Fleetwood Mac. My dad loves them.’
Jake couldn’t hide his surprise. ‘Are you into this?’
Evan frowned. ‘What, you think cuz I’m American and have a black mom that I’m exclusively into hip-hop?’ he drawled. ‘Niiice stereotyping, bud.’
‘No! I . . . oh God, no, sorry.’
Evan grinned. ‘I’m fucking with you, Jake. My mom is from Croydon – she’s into Janet Jackson and Madonna. But she likes Snoop too, okay? This is not a test.’ He began to dance.
Jake watched him gyrate, pointing to the sky in time with the beat and giving serious rock-star face throughout the chorus. He was mouthing the words kind of suggestively, Jake thought, as he gazed on in wonder.
‘Come on, Jakey, get up!’ But Jake stayed where he was, mesmerised, confused by the strange heat slowly working its way to every part of his body.
Evan was a good dancer, clicking his fingers and winking as his body twisted. As the song crashed to its finale, Evan slid to the ground and crawled over to Jake, shaking his head wildly. Jake heard the crackle and low rumble of the vinyl under the stylus.
The next track, ‘Dreams’, started up. By the end of it, when the crackling returned, they were kissing.
THE MAGNIFICENT SONS is out on hardback on 6 August. Preorder.
Illustration of Jake and Evan by Ian Nicholson. Book cover illustration by Jack Smyth.