Tuesday 20 May 2014

The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J B Morrison

Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he's just been run over by a milk float. 
It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he's broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead. Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid cold callers continually knocking on his door. 
Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank's extra ordinary life. She reminds him that there is a world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages. 
Frank and Kelly's story is sad and funny, moving, familiar, uplifting. It is a small and perfect look at a life neither remarkable nor disastrous, but completely extraordinary nonetheless. 

The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Aged 81 by J B Morrison is published by Pan Macmillan on 5 June 2014.

A first floor flat with possibly the only steps in the village. Tinned spaghetti, junk mail, cold-callers, charity shop pens and a cat called Bill. Those are the things that make up Frank's life. He does venture out; to Fullwind Food & Wine,  where he stocks up on spaghetti and cat food, the local charity shop to add to his collection of china animals and  DVDs, and on the bus to the big Sainsburys. Frank never actually gets as far as Sainsburys though, he gets off at Greyflick House and visits his friend; ex punk and star of the picture postcard Smelly John.

Frank is a widower, his wife Sheila died some time ago. His only daughter, Beth, lives in America with her husband and daughter. Frank's days are long, starting when he hears the first plane of the morning fly over the village, and ending as darkness falls again. Frank doesn't do much during the day, although he makes sure that he know what the date is.

A nasty incident with a milk float leaves Frank in need of a little extra care. Despite his determination that no 'Robin Williams in a dress' is going to start giving him a bath, his world is soon turned upside down by Kelly Christmas.  Kelly has a very straight fringe, is unable to park her little blue car and somehow gets herself right under his skin. In fact Frank doesn't know what he's going to do when he's better, and Kelly will no longer visit. And so, Frank embarks on a scheme to raise the funds to pay Kelly himself.

The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Aged 81 had me laughing out loud so many times. It's one of those books with some great one-liners and I found myself reading these out to my husband all the way through the book. The novel raises some really interesting questions and also reminded me of things that I've often pondered myself. Why do we assume that everyone in a retirement home wants to listen to 1940s sing-a-long songs? Will we suddenly stop listening to the music we love as middle-aged people and turn to the music of our own grandparents?  As someone who has been to see both The Who and Black Sabbath, live in concert this year, and looked around the audience, and noted the age of the majority of the fans; I'm hoping that I'll spend my retirement years still blasting out a bit of AC/DC and some old-school punk.

Frank's story is not only very funny, it's touching and warm too. J B Morrison has a way with words that draws the reader in so completely, and Frank becomes the centre of your world. With characters that are perfectly formed, such as the wonderful Smelly John, and the obnoxious Albert Flowers, this is a moving and uplifting tale that made me laugh and also made me feel a little sad.

The cover blurb compares this to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, unlike most people, I really didn't like Harold Fry. I found it overly sweet and a little too 'moral' for me. Give me Frank Derrick any day - he's really more my kind of guy.

Huge thanks to Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Born in London ages ago to his two parents, Frank and Jenny, J.B. Morrison is a musician and already the author of two novels -Storage Stories and Driving Jarvis HamGoodnight Jim Bob is an autobiographical account of his ten years as singer with punk-pop band Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. That was when he was called Jim Bob. Like in The Waltons. With Carter USM Jim Bob had 14 top 40 singles and a number one album. He played all over the world, headlined Glastonbury and was sued by The Rolling Stones. He’s also made a ton of solo albums and written the screenplay for a film. Plus he was in a musical, in 2010 at the Edinburgh Fringe. Is there no end to his talents? Yes. Everything not mentioned here. Don't ask him to put up a shelf or cook you dinner. The shelf will fall off the wall and you won't like the food. J.B. Morrison has just finished his third novel.

For more information about the author, visit the website www.jim-bob.co.uk
On Twitter @mrjimbob   and   @Mr JBMorrison

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  1. I recently read 'Lost and Found' by Tom Winter, which was wonderful, so this sounds right up my street. I'll be adding it to my 'to-read' list :)

  2. Jim Bob and Carter are amazing, saw them at Brixton Academy in 2012. I had no idea he was an author as well. Must look out for this one.