I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for From The Shadows by Neil White. From The Shadows is the first book in Neil’s brand new series to feature Dan Grant and Jayne Brett. As an ex-teacher I was interested to see that Neil had an unconventional educational route to his present career and writing so to commemorate From The Shadows I asked him to write a letter to his 19 year old self. Luckily he agreed to do so!
From The Shadows was published by Bonnier Zaffre on 9th March and is available for purchase here.
From The Shadows
He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .
Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.
When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.
But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.
Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .
A Letter to the Past
A Guest Post by Neil White
I’m writing to you from the future.
I know it’s not easy being nineteen and uncertain of where your life is heading, but let’s look at how you got there. Yeah, I’ll start with the brickbats, because it’s the mess you created.
School was fun, or so you thought, but you never spotted when it was supposed to become about work. Doing well in tests and exams is great fun when you’re small, but didn’t you notice that the workload got harder? That your friends stopped going out as much?
I get that the town you were living in, Bridlington, doesn’t offer much hope in the eighties, that industry was light and offered mainly summer work, but hadn’t you noticed that other people were looking beyond the town boundaries?
So there you are, living in your bedsit in your small seaside town that you’d called home since you were twelve. How do you think that is going to work out, as you spend all day either playing records or tinkering with your Lambretta, even though your mechanical skills aren’t good? You tell yourself that you’re not giving into “the man”, that you’re staying somehow pure by not succumbing to the nine-to-five, sticking your middle finger up to Thatcher by refusing to bend for the bosses.
Is that really how you see it? When I peer into your life, I see someone who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from but is prepared to blow all his dole money on a weekend binge of booze and fags, all the while dodging the TV detector van, knowing which cupboard the monochrome monstrosity will be thrown into, before cadging and scraping his way to the next dole cheque.
Go away, I say, leave the town. But where to, you say.
That’s the problem, Neil. You look for the reasons why you can’t rather than the ways in which you can. You read books on France and listens to tales of young men who travelled overseas to pick grapes or work in resorts in Greece. You could set off but you don’t. Instead, you spend your time dreaming, losing yourself in music and books.
Why not try to capture your dreams instead?
Do you remember the old typewriter you found in your bedsit when you first moved in, and how you typed out random things, the delight at seeing your thoughts in print, as if it somehow made them more real? Explore that more. You could write. Other people do.
I could look back and say not to worry, it all works out. You’ll end up as a lawyer and a writer, and you can spend your middle-age patting yourself on the back, but is that really what you want? Didn’t you always see more adventure in your life?
You’ve got a lot of fun ahead though. You’ll spend too much money on that Lambretta. You’ll buy a Vespa and spend weekends on seaside scooter rallies, but be careful. You’ll get up to things that could derail your legal career if found out, because you’ve got to have a clean record to be a lawyer. Nothing too bad, just the scrapes you get into when things get a little too wild. I’m not going to explain them here, of course, this letter might get discovered, but just keep an eye out. When you see the blue helmets, play nice.
You’ll learn a few lessons along the way too.
Take that chip off your shoulder, for a start. You’re not some kind of working class hero, Thatcher’s victim. That feeling will fall away. You’ll go to university and meet people of all backgrounds, and you’ll realise straight away that we’re all just the same. All we want to do is have a little fun and find a way of paying the bills.
How will it turn out for you? I can’t say, because I’m at my end of the journey but it’s the one that I took.
What if you follow my advice and make more of your life? I don’t mean materially, but spiritually. See the world, meet great people. I got lucky and made a few choices that worked out okay. It might work out even better for you.
I went to university but chose a law degree, for no other reason than it sounded interesting. I hadn’t realised back then that it was a one-track journey into a proper grown-up career. And I stayed in the north-west rather than returning to the small seaside town you live in, where the winds blow too harsh in winter, which meant that I bounced around a couple of defence firms before I fluked my way into the prosecution. I was happy there.
I started writing. That must sound weird for you, knowing that if you keep on writing and pushing you might end up with something printed in a proper book, in a proper bookshop. Of course, there won’t be as many around in the future, but it’s still fun to see.
What do I make of your life though? Honestly? A bit of a waste really. I yearn for it sometimes, when a Youtube journey might take me into the old ska classics and I think about buying another Vespa, perhaps one of the vintage ones I always fancied, but those thoughts pass.
Youtube? It’s on the internet, which is where you look at a screen and explore the whole world. It’s crazy but it will change everything. The world will become a smaller place, a more exciting place, sometimes a more frightening place, but there’s plenty to see.
You want my advice? Pack your bag, put your records in storage, and hit the road. Have an adventure. I opted for the shirt and tie, and then the word processor, but that was my own adventure. I don’t know if it’s the best one I could have had, but it’s been a blast so far.
About Neil White
Neil White was born and brought up in West Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but returned to education in his twenties, when he studied for a law degree. He started writing in 1994 and, despite his huge writing success, is still a criminal lawyer by day and a crime writer by night.