Tuesday 5 February 2019

Jake's Progress by David Simmonds @DavidRSimmonds3 Blog Tour #JakesProgress

A darkly comic coming-of-age tale: it's 1968, and Jake Nash is leaving his London home to start a new career as a journalist in the South Wales valleys, leaving behind the flickering flame of a fading romance. But as he struggles to find his feet in his chosen profession, his dreams of becoming an ace reporter are bedevilled by encounters with inept freedom fighters, a sinister Minister with murder in mind and the distracting allure of a very attractive reporter.

Jake's Progress by David Simmonds was published in February 2018
As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to bring you an extract from the book today;

Jake has been invited to observe the first night ‘exercise’ of the newly-formed Glamorgan Liberation Front - in reality, four local men with varying  degrees of commitment.  He has been told to rendezvous with them at midnight at a disused colliery.

The Ford Popular didn’t like rough roads. Its tired suspension had protested all the way up to the colliery since Jake had left the main road and it was with some relief that he turned into the colliery yard. He swung the car round to face the way it had come and turned off the lights.
It was, he thought, rather spooky – the looming pit wheel, the silent buildings, the darkness.  He shivered slightly, then his eye was caught by the flash of a torch in the far corner of the yard.  He sat still.  A few seconds later, there was another, slightly longer flash.  Jake got out of the car, swallowed hard and walked slowly towards the point from which it had come.
 ‘Stop there’, said a voice from the darkness about ten feet in front of him.  It had something of the tone of the gruff voice on the phone, but not quite.  Again Jake thought it seemed a little false. He could make out the shape of someone standing beside one of the shed walls.
‘I am the Commandant of the Glamorgan Liberation Front, and you are Mr Nash, I assume.’
‘Yes’, said Jake, trying to keep his voice steady.
‘Please confirm that you and your superiors have agreed to our conditions, that no authorities have been informed of this exercise and that you have not been accompanied tonight by any other person.  If any of these is not the case, please say so now and your presence here can be terminated.’
Jake didn’t like the sound of ‘terminated’ one bit.  He drew a deep breath.
‘That’s all correct.’
There was a short silence.
‘Turn around, Mr Nash.’
Jake turned slowly, his boots crunching in the muddy gravel. He’d seen a good many films in which these words were the last a hapless victim heard on this earth. Oh God, he thought, something like real fear growing inside him, is this where it all ends?
‘I’m going to blindfold you for our mutual security. Don’t be alarmed.’
Jake heard the footsteps approaching him, and then couldn’t help cringing slightly as a cloth was placed over his eyes and tied behind his head.  A firm hand grasped his upper arm.
‘Come with me.’
They walked together, Jake stumbling in potholes and ruts at first, but the hand gently pushed and pulled his arm, apparently steering him around the worst of the obstacles.  Then they stopped and the hand disappeared.
Standing blindly in the darkness, Jake heard the sound of other voices speaking quietly and then a vehicle door being opened.  There was someone rummaging around inside the vehicle, then the hand was back on his arm.
‘Come on.’
They moved off again.  Jake was wondering how long this could last when they stopped again, the hand let go of his arm, and the blindfold removed.  Jake blinked.
As his eyes got used to the darkness again he saw he was standing in a semi-circle of four men, one short and wiry, another tall and slim, two of medium height and rather tubby. They all wore balaclava helmets that obscured their faces, the slim one with a scarf over his mouth and nose. They were dressed in what looked like a variety of army surplus clothes that doubled, to judge by their well-worn appearance, as work wear. Three of them were carrying what seemed to be weapons, although to Jake’s inexperienced eye they didn’t seem very sophisticated.
The men regarded him in silence for a while.
‘What part of Wales are you from, butt?’ said a chunky one finally.
Jake cleared his throat. No point in bluffing.
‘Actually, I’m from St Albans, in Hertfordshire. England.’
There was a silence.  Three pairs of eyes turned towards a short, wiry man; his eyes refused to meet them.
‘Oh bloody wonderful’, said the tall slim one eventually. The scarf partially muffled his voice, but the sarcasm was unmistakable.   ‘Here we are starting a movement to overthrow English hegemony in Wales, a movement to rid ourselves of English tyranny, and we’ve invited a bloody Englishman along to tell the world about it.  Couldn’t really have a better start, could we?’
The silence thickened.   Jake cleared his throat again.
‘Look, I am English, but I have Welsh ancestors and I’ve lived in Aberystwyth for three years.’ He didn’t add ‘as a student’, guessing immediately and probably accurately that this wouldn’t add to his credibility.
‘I can appreciate your desire for independence and self-determination.  And more importantly I’m a professional journalist.’ 
Again, and for the same reason, he thought it better not to add ‘of three weeks standing.’ But he was getting into his stride now.
‘As such, I’m here to give a true and faithful account of what happens here tonight.  And I will do.’
The four continued to look at him in silence. Eventually the tall slim one spoke again.
‘Well he’s all we’ve got, and this isn’t exactly the kind of thing you want to postpone and readvertise.  Let’s give him a go.’
He looked at the thin wiry one, who looked in turn at the two chunky men.  One shrugged, the other said ‘Aye, go on then.’
The wiry one turned back to Jake.
‘Right, you’re on.  But remember, this is a small community. I don’t know where you live.  But I could bloody soon find out. Right, into file. Let’s go.’
He stooped, and picking up a tin box on the ground, led them away. They’d taken only a couple of paces when the figure in front of Jake half turned and leaning round him, whispered loudly ‘Oh, Steffo, what’s heg–‘
‘QUIET!!’ hissed the smaller figure at the front of the file, fiercely.  ‘No talking, Number Three.’  There was a heavy emphasis on the last two words.
‘Sorry, Cap- Number One.’
And for a while, the only sound was their trudging feet.

David Simmonds was born in North London and went to what was then the University College of North Wales, Bangor. After a failed attempt at teaching (six weeks), he spent a year working and travelling in Canada and America before returning to train as a journalist with weekly newspapers in the South Wales valleys. 

He spent most of his working life with BBC Wales in Cardiff as a radio and television producer and director.

He began writing fiction after taking early retirement. His work has been published in magazines and on-line, and in 2017 he won the Writers’ and Artists’ Short Story competition. ‘Jake’s Progress’, based on his time as a trainee reporter in the valleys, is his first novel.

David now lives in Penarth, just outside Cardiff, with his wife Mary and an irascible cat, Mrs Grumpy. 

Much of his time is spent in the service of his two daughters and three grandsons or rowing on the River Taff.

Twitter : @DavidRSimmonds3

No comments:

Post a Comment