Skip to content

The Homeless Heart-Throb Book Tour – The Neighbourhood

Crystal Jeans

On the book tour for Crystal Jeans’ new book called ‘The Homeless Heart-Throb’, read about about the neighbourhood that Crystal lived in and the people that inspired the characters.

I was very surprised, upon moving to Pontypridd, that it’s not the shit hole Cardiff people judge it to be. It’s surrounded by lush green hills and its people are so friendly and chatty that it sometimes unnerves me. When I first visited the house to do meter readings, I met my neighbour from three doors away, Ann, an eighty-year-old Shirley Bassey fan. She asked about my ‘partner’ and I, being a coward, played Dodge the Pronoun. Because Pontypridd, that ultimate turkey, voted for Brexit, I assumed it was full of bigots (it might well be).

A few days later, Ann met my ‘partner’ and barely blinked. Maybe she’d become immune? Pontypridd is rammed with lesbians – they are almost as numerous as small blond boys on bikes doing wheelies.
*
My new novel, ‘The Homeless Heart-throb’, is about a street and its inhabitants. A neighbourhood. So let’s talk about neighbours.

Growing up in Mynachdy, my next door neighbour was the Purvoe family. A huge gooseberry bush hung over our garden fence, belonging to the Purvoes, and me and my sister would sneak up and pick the gooseberries, only to find we were being watched from the shadows by the creepy father. We told our mum and she said we should call him Purvoe the Pervert. In all fairness to him, we were stealing his fruit.

On the other side of us was a big multiracial family – a blonde white woman who was on disability (everyone thought she was faking it) and her black husband and 5 or 6 good-looking children. I used to spy on the boys through the garden fence (they were boring). A few doors down lived the man who had, according to rumours, sexually abused his daughter and gone to prison for it.

Mostly what I remember about this cul-de-sac is all the miserable old men. They had an intolerance for children (especially, seemingly, young girls) and my mum was always knocking on their doors to give them a bollocking after they’d called me a hussy or a bitch just for standing too close to their parked vans. These days there are less children out playing, and according to my mother, who still lives there, the young adults of yesteryear have turned into miserable old bastards themselves. Garden fences, once chest height, have been replaced by seven-foot pickets and lined with tall trees.

I am not moralising about the diminishing of community here. I value privacy.

The Homeless Heart-throb

Actually, I probably am moralising about the diminishing of community. It sucks.

From the age of 18 I lived in my nan’s house on Banastre Avenue. On one side lives a Greek family, the matriarch who recently died in a gruesome road accident while holidaying in Crete. I remember her washing line getting caught up in our fir tree and helping her untangle her bra from its spiky branches. I couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed or not. The widower keeps his garden gorgeous and has an aviary full of canaries and lovebirds (my cats once snuck in and killed one). The daughter is sometimes friendly and sometimes cold, and it’s like that in the whole street. The only exceptions are the African family two doors down, who are consistently unfriendly (I long ago stopped smiling at them as we passed in the street, partly because the smile would not be returned, also because I was worried my keenness to display friendliness was some sort of micro-aggression) and the Indian family opposite, who are consistently warm.

Actually, the white man from number one is also friendly, but since he shoots pigeons with an air rifle from his bathroom window, I’d rather he wasn’t.

Next door on the other side there used to live a Portuguese family who similarly ran hot and cold (I am aware that I’m no picnic myself). Once, the woman, an artist, asked us to feed her animals while they went on holiday, and when she got back, we told her the cat had an eye infection and should go to the vet. She looked horrified at the idea. My family assumed that she didn’t care about her cat, and maybe this was a cultural thing. Years later I befriended her and learned she was a lovely hippy – a bongo-drumming, anti-vaccine, kefir-brewing, homeopathic hippy with social anxiety and a distrust of big pharma. Lesson learned.

I based the character of chapter three’s Estela on this woman, lazily changing her nationality to Spanish. I knew nothing about her at this point – she was, fittingly, a blank canvas (fitting because she has artist’s block). I made her a secret opiate user. Then, when reading through early drafts of The Homeless Heart-throb, I realised that most of the characters were drug addicts or alcoholics (write what you know!). To have so many addicts crammed into one tiny street seemed far-fetched. I re-wrote some characters, changing an illicit thrill for Tramadol to a craving for Dr Pepper. But you know what? Who knows? Who fucking knows what our neighbours are getting up to?

My next door neighbour in Pontypridd is an oldish couple who look, according to my partner, like a Roald Dahl version of Santa Claus and Mrs Claus. Ann has become Glam Ann, because of her fabulous sense of style. On the right is a family – mum, dad, teenagers. I know nothing about these people. They have yet to give up their secrets, I to give up mine. Perhaps it’s just as well their garden fence is obscured by hedges.

You can buy ‘The Heartless Heart Throb’ from Amazon.

A Perfect Cornish Summer Book Tour – Extract

A Perfect Cornish SummerToday on the book tour for Phillipa Ashley’s latest book called ‘A Perfect Cornish Summer’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the summery tale.

‘I just hope Porthmellow will be good enough for him. If not, it’s tough,’ said Sam. A raindrop ran down her nose. Time was racing by and she had to finish the posters and get to work in Stargazey Pie. ‘There’s no rest for the wicked, eh?’

Chloe nodded. ‘Then I must have been very wicked indeed.’ She tugged her hood forward as the rain came down harder. ‘I must admit the festival is a much greater demand that I expected. No one has any idea of how much work is involved. I’ve run events but none as big as this. Even though we’re all volunteers, it’s still serious stuff.’

‘I don’t think I’ve really thanked you for joining the committee, by the way,’ Sam said. ‘I don’t know what we’d do without you and the other volunteers.’

‘Oh, I wanted to get involved. I can’t bear to sit around doing nothing and it’s been a great way to meet new people.’ Chloe’s eyes lit up at the praise.

Sam agreed. The festival had helped Sam make new friends too and cement relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Chloe had said she’d chosen Porthmellow because of the happy holidays she, her daughter, Hannah, and her ex had spent in the area, and the fact that Porthmellow was still was a real community where people lived and worked year-round, not simply full of holiday homes or deserted in the off-season. Even so, Sam thought it must have been hard for Chloe to move so far from home, especially as Hannah was in her first year at uni in Bristol. Chloe clearly adored her daughter, but Sam had yet to meet her. Sam thought, not for the first time, that Chloe must have been quite a young mother to have a daughter at uni. She didn’t look a day over thirty-five.

‘Thanks, Chloe. Will Hannah be coming to the festival?’

Chloe hesitated. ‘I don’t know. I doubt it. She’ll have exams, I expect, and she said something about wanting to go travelling afterwards. I’d be way too busy to see much of her anyway.’

‘I guess so,’ said Sam, detecting an edge of disappointment in Chloe’s voice. Perhaps she shouldn’t have asked. Hannah had shown no signs of making an appearance in Porthmellow since Chloe had arrived eight months ago, so perhaps it was a source of family tension. Sam certainly knew all about that.

You can buy ‘A Perfect Cornish Summer’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Envy Book Tour – Extract

EnvyOn the book tour for Amanda Robson’s addictive new thriller called ‘Envy’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the thrilling story.

I end up doubled up at the park gate.

About to vomit. Heart pumping. Chest aching. Feeling light-headed, as if I am about to faint. When I have recovered a little I amble home.

The musty smell of my flat crawls into my bones and cradles my nostrils as I limp towards the shower. I turn the water on and wrap myself in a towel whilst I wait for it to warm up. The plumbing grunts and creaks, like an old man climbing stairs.

The water runs brown before it turns clear.

I test the water with my fingers. It still feels like ice. I am tempted not to bother, to just get dressed without a shower, but that is the start of a sort of slovenliness that I don’t want to be guilty of.

I wait another five minutes and then I step into the shower. The water is hot and satisfying now. It pummels my body and the more it presses against me, the more I relax. I soap myself with the lavender shower gel that Mouse bought me last Christmas. I start by lathering my generous thighs. Not taut and firm like yours yet, Faye, still dimpled with cellulite; down, down, towards my tree-trunk calves and broad ankles.

I massage and rub. It feels so soothing. So liberating. Upwards, upwards. Fingers circulating around my gelatinous breasts, my rolls of stomach fat. Fingers soaping into skin crevices. One day, Faye, if I keep working hard, my fat will dissolve, and I will be toned and slim like you.

Showered and dressed. Jeans and a jumper. Grey duffel coat that I have had for twenty years, and a black beanie hat. I step out into a cold sunny morning and wait at the bus stop across the road from your house. Every time a bus comes I ignore it.

Your front door opens and your Zac Efron of a husband steps out carrying a suitcase. A weekend bag. He waves his car keys. Lights flash. The boot opens. He flings the suitcase inside and drives off.

You can buy ‘Envy’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

You can also read my review of ‘Envy’ here.

Keep Her Close Book Tour – Extract

Keep Her Close ‘Keep Her Close’ is the latest book by MJ Ford. On the book for MJ Ford’s new book called ‘Keep Her Close’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the thrilling tale.

Oriel College was nestled in the cobbled streets between the High Street and Christ Church College. Not Jo’s natural milieu by any means, though she couldn’t help but admire the gothic architecture of the entranceway, and the resplendent, perfectly mown quadrangle of grass inside, still coated on the shaded side with the silvery remains of a lingering frost. A sign read ‘Open to visitors’ – term had ended a week or so before, so the majority of students would have left. The city itself was noticeably quieter, enjoying a brief lull before the panic of Christmas shopping really set in.

PC Andrea Williams was waiting just to one side of the quad. As ever, the constable’s height made Jo give her a second glance. She was at least six-two, possibly the tallest woman Jo had ever met in the flesh, and her dreadlocks gave her the appearance of being a couple of inches taller still. Dimitriou called her Andre the Giant, which only he found funny, and which had earned him a verbal warning when Stratton heard him say it. Dimitriou protested that Heidi had once called him George Michael’s less talented, uglier sibling, on the basis of their shared Greek heritage, and the fact that he had murdered a rendition of ‘Club Tropicana’ on a work karaoke night.

‘And I dare you to say it to Andrea’s face,’ Heidi had added. Jo would have liked to see that, because she knew that Williams had been an accomplished judoka before joining the force, only missing out on the national team through injury. She could probably have tossed Dimitriou’s gangly frame from one side of a holding cell to the other.

I’ve just finished the book and really enjoyed the gripping story, check my review here.

You can buy ‘Keep Her Close’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Age Of Adventure Book Tour – Extract

The Age Of AdventureOn the book tour for Judy Leigh’s new book called ‘The Age Of Adventure’, sit back and tuck into an extract from the seaside story.

I sat with Nanny Basham in a corner while she’d cradled a bottle of brandy and sobbed, telling me about Dad and Mum and Wilf, the good times I’d heard about a hundred times before. Terry grumbled afterwards that he’d never had respect for Adie. That was something we agreed on. Adie Carrick was only out for himself. Bonnie was just a trophy, his in-laws just an opportunity to show how magnanimous he was.

Demi went to a private school, where she was demure in a grey blazer and tartan skirt. Jade was popular at the local comprehensive; it was a good school and she was sporty and bright, but Adie insisted on making comparisons. ‘You get what you pay for in this life.’

I always replied, ‘I’m not having my child at school with kids whose parents are politicians and gangsters.’

I’ll never forget how he looked at me. Eyes like bullets. Then Terry moved out. We’d been arguing a lot. I’d been doing the arguing; Terry retreated into himself: he met Rabbity Alison and the rest is history. I became Georgie Turner again, not Georgie Wood. After Terry left me, Adie squeezed my arm one day when I was making coffee in Bonnie’s kitchen, his lips against my ear. ‘If you need any money, Georgie, just say. We’re family, and family sticks.’ But I walked away, stared through the window at the patio and the swimming pool complex, and promised myself I’d manage just fine without his charity.

Meanwhile, Bonnie stayed in the background smiling sadly; years passed and she became quieter, more timid. Then she found lipstick on his collar, not her shade, and suggestive messages on his phone. A year later, there was a lacy G-string in his car. He claimed he knew nothing about it, then he suddenly remembered he’d lent the car to a friend the night before. I’d have left Adie for that, but Bonnie swore it was a one-time incident, she’d been neglecting him, it’d never happen again: he loved her.

Of course, Adie simpered, playing the part of the trustworthy brother-in-law; he told me that now I was by myself, now my man had left me, he’d keep an eye out for me, or lend me money. As he turned away, I pointed down my throat with two fingers and thought I’d rather roll naked in the gutter. I’m not afraid of Adie Carrick. I’ve never liked him or the way he treats my good-natured sister. I have suspicions about the property he buys and sells, and the money he makes, which seems to slide through his fingers like poker chips.

You can buy ‘The Age Of Adventure’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.