Tuesday 18 September 2018

The Thirty Five Timely and Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County by Mason Ball @MasonBallauthor @unbounders #35Deaths

The dying years of the great depression; John Bischoffberger is a Pennsylvanian doctor adrift in Naples, Maine, struggling with his loss of religious faith and retreating from painful memories of The Great War. As Medical Examiner John must document deaths that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances. Yet as he goes about his work, he begins to suspect that the deaths he is called upon to deal with are in fact far from routine. He becomes convinced that three itinerants are going about the county, killing. An old woman, a little girl, and a thin man are fulfilling some strange and unspoken duty, brutally murdering men, women and children; and the deaths seem to be drawing closer to John: others who may suspect foul play, then acquaintances of his, then perhaps friends, even family members. As the storm clouds of a new world war gather in Europe, and John's rationality slowly unravels, he must find a way to disprove what he has reluctantly come to believe, or to confirm his worst fears and take steps to end the killing spree of the three in the woods, whatever the cost.

The Thirty Five Timely and Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County by Mason Ball was published by Unbound on 3 July 2018.
As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Mason Ball

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A wonderfully dark and nightmarish tale of what happens when the carnival, that is so much more than a carnival, comes to town… Every child in or near their early teens with a vivid imagination should read this and every adult that feels they’ve lost touch with theirs should too; scary, heart-breaking, thrilling, and somehow life-affirming.

The Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The pure richness of prose and the frankly biblical violence of this novel is breath-taking. However, if should be stated that McCarthy does violence better than anyone, never relishing it, never sensationalising, but simply delivering it to the reader in sharp, beautiful language that will make you recoil all the more for it. Narratively speaking it breaks so many rules, makes up some of its own, and yet you just go with it. The only book I’ve ever read twice within a single year.

Concrete Island by JG Ballard
It’s so difficult to choose just one Ballard (he’s a firm favourite in our house), from the dizzying apocalypse of The Drowned World to the wonderful narrative heresy of The Atrocity Exhibition, from the imminent societal collapse of Cocaine Nights and Kingdom Come, to the perverse ‘auto-erotica’ of Crash. There’s a kind of surgical sterility to much of Ballard’s prose that somehow never becomes uninvolving or distant. Concrete Island is such a wonderfully conceived (if brief) tale, both truly strange, like a bad dream, and somehow believable, like a Robinson Crusoe for the post-industrial world.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
I’m not sure I can say anything about this book that hasn’t already been said. So brilliantly conceived, so well written, so terrifying. One of the books that changed my life, both as a prospective writer, and as a human being. If you haven’t already read it, what on Earth have you been doing?!

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
A wonderfully ingenious ghost story, thick with subtext and surprises; as unease-inducing as it is clever. The revelation at the end is not your usual genre ‘shock’ pull-the-rug-from-under-the-reader either (being neither grandiose or heavy handed grand guignol) but is so well handled and delivered with such a light touch that it left me agape.

The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer
Confession time: I tend to struggle with, and therefore avoid, overtly comedic novels. For me, all too often they seem to sacrifice depth or narrative engagement for overwrought, strained humour -though I accept this is probably my issue! This book though is such a wonderful exception. '[A] metaphysical thriller, combining bank robbery and high philosophy' this is both laugh out loud funny, stimulating and involving. The plot is as idiosyncratic and ludicrous and the writing is superbly crafted well-pitched.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell
The harrowing tale of a young boy struggling in a world of poverty, criminality and violence, this slender novel pulls you in slowly and then delivers a gut punch seldom rivalled. A deftly executed book that creeps up on you like a burglar.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As with Nineteen Eighty-Four, if you haven’t already read this, what on Earth have you been doing?! Such a beautiful capturing of childhood that deals so well, in relatively few pages, with such a wide swathe of topics from family to morality, from racism and gender roles, to loss of innocence. As good today as when I read it in school.

IT by Stephen King
King was very much a formative author for me. It’s often fashionable to decry genre fiction (and indeed King himself as a writer) but that’s just misplaced, pompous nonsense. The storytelling here, not to mention the structure and inventiveness over such a sprawling, epic novel, is impeccable -and not a little frightening. There’s also a beautiful melancholy to the ending that I recall genuinely taking me by surprise.

The medical record of Dr John M. Bischoffberger / Now I Will Tell You… The Story of Naples, Maine, Its History and Legends compiled by Robert Jordan Dingley, Naples Historical Society
These two volumes are the backbone of my book The Thirty-Five Timely and Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County, and as such must stand as two of the most important books in my life! Just to read the doctor’s medical records as if they were one narrative is the crux of my story, but reading the accounts of the deaths of so many real people is a truly powerful experience in its own right. Likewise, the strange patchwork nature of Now I Will Tell You… gives a wealth of information and minutiae that I’d imagine exists nowhere else.

Mason Ball - September 2018 

Following his poem Fireworks Fireworks Bang Bang Bang at the age of six, Mason eventually took the whole writing thing a little more seriously, graduating in 2009 from London Metropolitan University, having received first class honours in Creative Writing.

In his second year, he won the Sandra Ashman award for his poem Mother Theresa in the Winner’s Enclosure.

He has subsequently had work published in Succour magazine and Brand magazine.

Mason is currently working on a number of writing projects, as well as developing his next novel.

In addition to this, he writes, co-produces and hosts the award-winning monthly cabaret night The Double R Club (as Benjamin Louche, winner of “Best Host” at the London Cabaret Awards). He also worked as a performer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi.
Mason is a trustee of East London charity Cabaret vs Cancer.
He lives in East London with his wife, a cat called Monkey, and a collection of antique medical equipment.

Find out more at www.masonball.co.uk
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