Razvan Popescu lives in a flat overlooking the seaside town of Skegness. He keeps himself to himself and few know the man at all. Even fewer know his past, which he has tried to leave behind in the Romanian woods. But when a tattooed man is found murdered on the beach, it is clear that some of that past has followed him to this tacky seaside town. As battle erupts within the criminal fraternity, dark forces gather around the town and Popescu’s acquaintances find themselves dragged into a world of violence, fire and fairy tales. One thing is certain: the circus has come to town. Ten To One is a novel writing project in which ten authors write a novel together, seeking the approval of a judging panel and a public vote to keep their character in the story. Circ, the first Ten To One novel, is written by Simon Fairbanks (http://www.simonfairbanks.com/, @simon_fairbanks), Maria Mankin (June 2007), Yasmin Ali, Jason Holloway (http://www.twitter.com/batlleth), Livia Akstein Vioto, Luke Beddow, Danielle Rose Bentley, William Thirsk-Gaskill (http://www.twitter.com/wthirskgaskill), Sue Barsby and Giselle Thompson. Edited by Iain Grant
This was provided in ebook format by the publishers (Pigeon Park Press) a local Birmingham UK publisher, in exchange for a review. The novel was written in an unusual way, as explained to me by Heide Goode from Pigeon Park Press:
We ran a project to select 10 authors from around the world and then got them to write a novel in a knockout style.
It worked like a TV gameshow – each writer took control of a character and then at the end of each round of chapters there was a public (facebook) vote and a judges’ vote to see who would get dropped.
What was really interesting was that the writers didn’t get overly competitive, they really just wanted to make the book as good as it could be. Circ, the first Ten To One novel, is written by Simon Fairbanks, Maria Mankin, Yasmin Ali, Jason Holloway, Livia Akstein Vioto, Luke Beddow, Danielle Bentley, William Thirsk-Gaskill, Sue Barsby and Giselle Thompson.
For a book that has been written by multiple authors, it is gratifying to find that it has come through with a consistent voice – I suspect through the hard work of the authors and editor rather than luck or fate.
It starts ordinarily enough with the body of a murder victim found on the beach in Skegness, a seaside town that has lost much of what little glamour it once had. As the book progresses, there are more murder victims, graphic violence, the small town organised crime boss that is being threatened with take over by the Romanians who have an interesting and useful business in the meat processing plant just outside town. Quite a few of the adults are damaged in some way. Mungo the clown has descended into drink after the circus had burnt down 10 years previous and as the book goes on, we find out more about both Mungo and the night of the fire. Popescu is now an old man and has to confront what happened when he was working as a policeman in Romania. Bobby, the local crime lord has a bodyguard who may or may not exist outside of Bobby’s mind, and both of them become more dangerous as the book moves along.
Because of the way the characters were chosen there were some that inevitably got discarded along the way, some through more violent means that others. I wont say who lives, dies or disappears, because of spoilers but I think I understood why those who faded out did so. The remaining characters in the final scenes were, I think, the right ones to be there, and it was a strong, if occasionally graphic in it’s violence, ending.
Ten to One is certainly an interesting way of producing a book and I think that on the whole it works. whilst reading the book, I certainly didnt miss those characters that faded into the background, but in reading the last chapter where it referenced some of them, I thought “oh yes, them….”. I dont think I would have missed them if they’d not been referenced again at the end, but since they were, I felt a little….short-changed? As Iain Grant states in his editor’s notes, things had to be removed, some of it fabulous and I dont know if any of the stuff that was removed would have made me feel different. Small niggle in the grand scheme of what was ultimately a decent book produced in an interesting way.
I have recently done an interview with Simon Fairbanks, who is one of the authors, and it can be found here. Some additional information on the way the book was written can be found over on that post, as well as details of Simon’s other works.