I promised myself many years ago that one day I would write DEAD DOG FLOATING. I wanted to write the story of a 12-year old boy, his dysfunctional family, his belief that he could somehow keep it together, and a cast of characters that personified a midlands industrial town in the early seventies. I wanted it to be funny, but at the same time hold a story with real depth. I wanted to pay tribute to three dead boys who would never become men, forgotten by all but those close to them. Most of all though, I wanted to write about the boy, his need for a stable family, to make sense of the world around him, surrounded by these people who know little more than he does about life beyond the smoking chimneys.
I do think there’s a lot to be said about adults getting in touch with their ‘inner child’. I’ve never had much of a problem, and my kids call me ‘giant child’. Adults in touch with their child know how to play, have fun, be irreverent without being hurtful, and never get tired of Lego. I found Derek Jackson, and together we told his story- DEAD DOG FLOATING. He told it to me just as it was, and I wrote it down. I scribed Derek’s view on the world, his beliefs, his honesty, and most of all his dreams, hopes and his desperation to believe in his father, despite every indication to the contrary. Derek took me by the hand back to 1972, the time and the place when Rod Stewart sang ‘Maggie May’, and workmen still got on their mopeds and drove to work at Rolls Royce, despite the factory being closed. We walked together down streets of terraced houses where people had sold off their sofas to rent a colour telly, and I felt joy. I felt joy that I was looking through the eyes of a twelve year old boy and how free he was from prejudice and full of often unintentional humour when adults made complete arses of themselves.
I’m not sure I‘ll ever write a character as wonderful, and as beautiful as Derek Jackson age 12 again. He made me happy to write him, and I miss him now we are done. Maybe we’ll meet again, but maybe not. I know he’s there, and perhaps it is because of him that I will always be known to my kids as ‘giant child’. I’d rather that than a boring old fart.