BACKSTORIES BY SIMON VAN DER VELDE
Publication Date: 25th March 2021
Price: Kindle – £2.99, Paperback – £7.99, Audible – £7.99
Genres: Literary fiction, short stories, biographical fiction, mystery, contemporary fiction, recent cultural history.
Themes: Diversity, nostalgia, music, crime, social justice.
Blurb: Dreamers, singers, talkers and killers; they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, but inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.
Synopsis: Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous, (or notorious ) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real. The settings are mostly 60 's and 70 's UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia - but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists ' identities are withheld. This means that your job is to find them, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who 's mind you 've been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.
I was lucky enough to receive the audio version of Backstories which was such an enjoyable experience. The different voices for each story added an element of excitement and authenticity helping me 'set the scene' and add extra clues to who the character was from the very beginning of each chapter. I loved the 'guess who' element with each new story, although I must admit I didn't always guess correctly and sometimes didn't piece it all together until the final clue was given. I loved how the characters were very well known and in the public eye, some iconic heroes in history and others monsters. This real mixture of personalities, the different eras in which they spanned from and the diversity of nationalities was a great combination. You never really knew what you would find from one story to the next, which definitely kept me entertained and enthralled.
Simon Van der Velde's clever writing and obvious research makes this a quirky and unique book of short stories. I loved the fact that I could listen to one story, or two, depending on how much time I had in between jobs and get the satisfaction of reaching the end of each one, knowing who the character was before having to switch it off. I thrived on trying to guess the personalities before they were revealed and it became a game in which I was competing against myself! I couldn't wait to start the next story, especially for redemption if I had failed to piece the clues together and make an accurate guess.
Backstories is truly a fun, dynamic 'game' for adults that will test your knowledge and memory on people in history as well as give you an insight into their lives that you may not be familiar with. A very thought-provoking and engaging book. I look forward to seeing which host of characters Simon Van der Velde decides to focus on next in Backstories II.
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers. Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.
“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes” The Stranglers 1977 I was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question. So join me on my quest, and together we’ll uncover the fears and passions and prejudices that made our heroes what they were, and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way. Whatever happened to all of the heroes? They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.
Simon Van der Velde January, 2021
ps. I am proud to be sharing 30% of all profits from Backstories with Friends of the Earth, Stop Hate UK and The North-East Autism Society. See www.simonvandervelde.com for further details.