Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada by Neil Randall - Book Tour + Giveaway


The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada
Nine stories
One artist
The whole world against him


The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him. Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.

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Excerpt
The idea for the book took a long time to take a solid form in my head. In fact, I wrote the scene pasted below (which is the opening scene of the seventh chapter) about ten years before the book was accepted for publication…
     It was inspired by an odd thing I witnessed.
    One miserable, wet Bank Holiday weekend, I happened to call into a small country pub. Due to the atrocious weather conditions, the place was packed. One of the customers had an absolutely massive St Bernard, one of the biggest dogs I’d ever seen. And the dog was off the leash, wandering around, going from table to table, sniffing the floor, bumping into people as they squeezed in through the door to escape the elements. It became a real nuisance – it was just so big! – almost  knocking a group of elderly patrons off their feet. It went behind the bar area, causing untold disruption for staff. But due to that English reserve, nobody complained to the owner. They just let the dog do as it pleased.
    To put the scene I wrote back then into context, smoking had been banned in pubs for quite some time. But old habits die hard. And I remember how the smokers used to have to congregate outside pubs for a cigarette, come rain or shine, how miserable and desperate they used to look, especially during the winter months. And I reimagined that Bank Holiday weekend in my head. Only the dog wasn’t just having a free-for-all in terms of running around as it pleased, but was actually sitting at the bar enjoying a cigar!

 

      And the scene sat on my computer for years. I had no idea what to do with it. Whether it could be developed into a short story, or (and this seemed more likely at the time) a piece of flash fiction.
     It was many years later, when I wrote a full-length short story called Three Little Boys that I started to think about ways in which I could incorporate the scene with the dog into something more substantial, something that would go on to become The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada.

The Jacqueline Prophecies
Jacob Fallada didn't know what shocked him more: that a hulking St Bernard was sitting on a stool at the bar, smoking a cigar, or that nobody else in the traditional hostelry was paying the immense canine any attention – not the morose-looking old-timers sitting at a nearby table, or the much younger, smartly dressed couple deep in conversation in a booth by the window.
      Almost involuntarily, Jacob found himself walking towards the bar. When he reached the counter, he stole a quick glance at the dog. Its thick white coat had black and brownish flecks; its bull-like neck; its whole body seemed to ripple with a heaving, muscular vitality that was as impressive as it was intimidating.
      The barman, a shifty, wall-eyed Transcaucasian, shuffled over.
      “What can I get you?” he asked Jacob.
      There was a brief silence, where Jacob tried to divert the barman’s attention, discretely nodding in the direction of the dog, his eyes (if the barman had been observant enough to notice), clearly said: Look, there’s a huge dog at the end of the bar, smoking a cigar, don’t you think that’s a little strange? But there was nothing, not a glimmer of recognition, indicating that the barman did indeed find the St Bernard’s presence in any way unusual.
      “I said: what can I get you?”
      “Oh, sorry, miles away,” Jacob lied. “I’ll have, erm…one of those, please.” He pointed to one of the real ales; one of the cheapest drinks available.
      “Coming right up.”
      As the barman pulled off the pint, Jacob darted another glance at the St Bernard, happily smoking away, seemingly oblivious to everything, like any thoughtful, melancholy drinker found in any bar across the globe.
      “There you go.” The barman put Jacob’s dark, frothy pint on the counter. “That’ll be seven-forty, please.”
      “Right, okay.” As he took a handful of coins out of his pocket, Jacob felt duty-bound to make some reference to the dog.  “I, erm…didn’t know smoking was allowed in public places anymore.”
      Something he immediately regretted. For the dog shifted its immense body around on the stool, and glared at him.
      “No, no,” said the barman, “that only applies to humans – the smoking ban, I mean. Far as the management is concerned, any of our canine regulars are more than welcome to enjoy a smoke at the bar.”
      “Oh, right, that sounds reasonable enough,” said Jacob, nervously, feeling the weight of the dog’s stare. “Not that it bothers me in the slightest. I happen to love the smell of a good cigar. It’s just that I wasn’t aware of the regulations.” He placed a final coin on the counter. “There you go. Thanks very much.”
      The barman gathered up the coins and walked over to the cash register.
      As Jacob reached for his ale, the canine started speaking to him in a clear human voice.
      “You have a problem with me smoking at the bar, young man?”
      “Erm, no, no, not all.” Jacob put his glass back on the counter. “I was, if anything, just conversation-making with the barkeep. I meant no offence, believe me.”
      “Oh, I see, just conversation-making.”
      “That’s right.”
      The dog looked Jacob up and down, as if appraising his appearance – worn-out plimsoles, frayed jeans, a thin T-shirt held together with safety pins, and scruffy mop of hair – as much as his character.
      “You don’t come here very often, do you?”
      “No, no,” Jacob replied. “In my younger days, I used to love public houses, but everything has become so expensive these days, and my artistic work doesn’t pay very well. In fact, it barely covers my rent and living expenses, so luxuries like this” – He gestured towards his drink – “are few and far between.”  
      “And what’s your name?”
      “Jacob, Jacob Fallada.”
      “Hans,” said the dog, offering Jacob a paw to shake. “Pleasure to meet you. And you’re an artist, you say?”
      “That’s correct. Although I don’t like to talk about my work all that much.”
      “I understand,” said Hans, exhaling a cloud of billowy smoke out of the side of his jaws. “You artistic types can be very temperamental. Besides, characters like you and I don’t come to places like this to talk about our lives and work. We come to escape from all of that, if only for an hour or two. No?”
      “Exactly,” said Jacob. “Sometimes it’s good to get away from things.”
      “That it is,” said Hans. “And are you married, Jacob Fallada? You have children? You are a family man?”
      “No, no. Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with the best of luck when it comes to women. And in a small town like this it’s hard to meet new people.”
      “You must get lonely at times, though?”
      Jacob shifted uncomfortably. “Erm, yes, of course I do, every now and then. But my work is very time-consuming, it requires a huge amount of dedication, is a very solitary occupation, you might say.”
      “But you must miss having a woman close, no?”
      “Well –” Jacob could feel his cheeks redden.      
      “It’s all right, Jacob. I didn't mean to embarrass you. It’s just that I have a friend, a young lady who’s not had the best of luck in the romance stakes of late herself, a young lady who might be of interest to you. Perhaps I should give her a call. Perhaps she’ll come here this evening to meet you.”
      Jacob started to protest. “Oh no, don’t go to any trouble. I have very little by way of money at the moment, a relationship, even a quiet drink in company, therefore, is beyond my means. So please, I –”
      Hans raised a paw, gesturing for quiet. “Jacob. Listen to me. Have you ever heard the expression ‘the heart of a dog’?”
      “Erm, no, I don’t think so. Although I must say, I’ve always much preferred dogs to cats. Cats, to my mind, have little substance or loyalty and –”
      “Jacob,” Hans interrupted once again, “please don’t digress. What I’m trying to say is that I will call my friend. If she’s available, and willing to come and meet you tonight, I’m more than happy to buy you a bottle of wine.”
      “Oh no. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable doing that. I’ve only just met you. It wouldn’t be right. Besides, why would you do such a thing?”
      Hans let out a friendly, good-natured chuckle. “Call me a silly romantic, a matchmaker, but as soon as I saw you walk through that door” – Hans gestured towards the main entrance – “I sensed a deep unhappiness in you, that perhaps your life wasn’t going all that well. And clearly, despite your age – late twenties, early thirties, I’m guessing – you have little experience with women and little confidence in yourself.”
      “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” said Jacob.  “It’s just that, as I said before, I’ve dedicated myself to my artistic work, and have had very little time for women, for socialising in general.”
      “All the more reason for me to contact” – Hans hesitated, for the first time he looked unsure of himself – “let’s call her Jacqueline for the time being. That, of course, is not her real name, but at this early stage it would probably be best if you referred to her by a false name, to provide a level of anonymity, that I’m sure would make her feel much more comfortable.”
      “But you make it sound so businesslike, so cold. In the past, if I met a woman, we would never think of concealing our true names, and our relations, if we liked each other’s company, would develop naturally.”
      “Jacob, Jacob, Jacob, you really have been existing in some kind of social void for far too long. Things have changed. People do things much differently these days.” Hans took another draw on his cigar and exhaled another cloud of smoke. “Now, do you want me to contact Jacqueline or not? It’s entirely up to you.” He looked at the clock on the wall behind the bar near the optics. “It’s still early, not quite seven o’clock yet. Plenty of time for the two of you to enjoy a pleasant evening together.”




Author Bio – Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada
Social Media Links – Twitter: @NARandall1, https://www.facebook.com/neil.randall.583, Instragram: neilrandall4869



Giveaway to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.




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