In a new book containing many mysteries perhaps one of the biggest is the true name of its Spalding author.
The pseudonym Will Jonson has been used for his first novel, Keep it Dark, to separate the writer’s fiction and poetry from previously published study guides, he claims.
There is also the matter of small autobiographical sections that might persuade the reader that the whole thing is actually about the author’s life.
Which is clearly not so as the book covers conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War and Battle of Stalingrad... battles Will was definitely not involved in.
It has been written from a left-wing perspective and Will says he wanted to approach aspects of history from a different viewpoint.
In the process he is uncovering secrets often kept hidden – by governments and by ordinary people in their relationships.
The novel’s great mystery is the link that carries the reader through the whole story: a young boy’s confusion at the sight of his uncle crying.
As that young boy, Tommy, grows up he visits some of the places linked to his uncle’s past and finally reaches full understanding.
Research for the book involved a trip to Russia to speak to veterans, visit monuments and museums, and Will jokes: “I know so much about Russian sniping tactics.”
He says of the veterans: “Their fighting experience was horrific. The death rate at Stalingrad was terrible. People were being sent to fight tanks with no rifles and told to make a Molotov cocktail.”
When Will made a gentle joke about the many medals the veterans were wearing – long-service awards as well as campaign medals – he was told: “If you had said that (during the Stalin era) you would have been sent to the Gulag.”
In the book that fate befalls one character who makes a joke about Stalin, and Will says: “It’s a condemnation of the system but not complete condemnation. Stalin was obviously a foul butcher but in the 1920s Soviet factories had free creches, which is decades in advance of us, and men and women had equal pay, not much pay, but equal.”
If it sounds heavy, it isn’t: there’s a joke in every chapter and a few love stories.
The book has been well received, nominated for the prestigious Goldsmiths Prize 2013 and called “an impressive debut novel” in a review in Tribune Magazine.
Keep it Dark by Will Jonson, £10.99 or available as an e-book. ISBN: 978-0957338418