And now for another Wednesday waffle:
Write about what you know, they say.
But what do I know? Not a lot! Panic!
I was trawling through my backlist recently and came across The Ferret Has Landed, which I wrote probably eight or ten years ago. I originally thought it would be most suited to the YA market, but as the storyline evolved, it’s more of an adult novel, I think … maybe both.
I was indeed writing about what I know – the Avon family have five sons, no girls (we have four, no girls) and each is quite different, diversity being the spice of life, or something. Running a large family brings many challenges, especially if your other half works away a lot and for extended periods (mine, not Mrs Avon’s) – and when the children are all boys, the trials and tribulations come thick and fast on a daily basis.
It’s not just all the endless smelly underpants and even smellier socks in the laundry; the numerous rugby boots caked in mud, and trainers cluttering the hallway; the ever-up toilet seats; the World War III-hit bedrooms, wherein lurk all manner of nasties; the tsunami aftermath bathrooms; the garden sheds acting as graveyards for abandoned expensive bikes of all sizes; bats, racquets, balls and all manner of sports equipment filed in such obscure places they will be on the MIA list next PE day; the constant demand for enough food to feed a ravenous regiment; the practical jokes that end in A&E; somebody’s prize possession (be it animal, vegetable or mineral) spirited away, any enquiries as to its whereabouts met by blank, oh-so-innocent expressions … the list goes on … and on …
All that alpha male competitiveness, derring-do nonsense starts from an early age – I’m not a great fan of Freud (if I must pick a side, I lean more toward the Behaviourists), but he did get some of that right. The quest for self-elevation to man of the house status pings in as soon as the father figure closes the front door on his way out. After that, it’s a fight to the death – usually mine.
Believe me. If I sit down and think about it, I’m pretty sure I have enough anecdotes – some funny, some sad, some utterly horrendous – to fill a whole library with books.
The Ferret Has Landed is a tale of crime and murder, woven into the lives of the Avon family and how their dynamic changes to cope with infiltration by the eponymous Ferret.
Sebastian Avon, newly ennobled with a scrape-pass BA in nothing whatsoever useful, has returned to the family home, Bumble Bee Cottage, to plague his parents and four younger brothers while he contemplates his future, his navel and what to do during his grope year.
When the snooty Fanshaw-Browns, new incumbents of neighbouring Brothel House arrive, they bring with them several cupboards full of skeletons and a rather flimsy cover story to conceal their true identities. They are planning to renovate the place with the assistance of ‘interior designer’ Prudence Dent – dubbed the eponymous Ferret very early on in their relationship by Mrs Avon, due to her unfortunate, bossy boots manner and unfailing talent for getting up everyone’s nose, if not their trouser leg. The Ferret is not short of a few desiccated bones herself.
Unlike his brothers, Sebastian is smitten and follows The Ferret around like a poor man’s Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on a sartorial off-day, as she systematically destroys the beautiful old house, displaying a dearth of artistic talent along with great aptitude for digging up cellars and ripping out cupboards. What is she searching for?
The happy couple quickly become engaged – and with typical social ineptness make their announcement at a funeral. The brothers can’t believe Sebastian’s stupidity – though his past record should have given them a clue, surely?
Secrets lay buried in the past and in Brothel House – what is the connection between those secrets and the Fanshaw-Browns? Could they really be master criminals on the run?
Why not? With the exception of the Avons, nobody else seems to be who they say they are …
The eBook is on free promotion for a couple of days, so help yourself to a copy at
Here’s the first chapter as a taster:
In the cold light of morning, his was a face – a face jam-packed with Vesuvius spots – that not even the most devoted mother could love. Sebastian rolled over, farted and groaned, his necro-slumber disturbed by hail stones clattering onto the grimy skylight of the attic bedroom. Temporary amnesia, born of several skins full of dangerously cheap alcohol the previous evening, made him wonder where the hell he was. He had the bed to himself, so he hadn’t pulled … tottyland’s loss, he thought, as he absentmindedly scratched at hairy bum cheeks … like, mega loss.
He scanned the cramped room through one barely-open bloodshot eye – the ramshackle furnishings looked familiar and he definitely recognised the vomit-inducing odour of rancid trainer that attacked his nostrils … vintage Seb. Ah yes, he was home sweet home, back in the scrotum of his family after three long years’ hard slog at university; cue weepy violins. At least, that’s what he claimed en famille – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth s’welp me gawd, would only distress the oldies and have them question whether their extreme sacrifices made in the name of Number One Son’s higher education had been justified.
He leered with overblown satisfaction, remembering – like, in his reckoning at least – his sound-wicked-awesome result. This man was In The Ozone! OK, so he had only just scraped a projected BA pass grade in nothing useful whatsoever, but more importantly, he was a pioneer – a blazer of trails, no less. Sebastian was the first member of the entire Avon clan – and that included the vast itinerant and criminal contingents – ever to attend university; how humbling that must be for lesser mortals. As icing on the bun, he would emerge with a degree tucked securely under his beer gut – and the world was his executive prawn cocktail. Thoughts of food prompted his stomach to produce a cacophony of unpleasant gurgling noises, not unlike a giant blocked artery, and despite the hangover hammering around his skull he wondered where his breakfast in bed – as befits a conquering hero – had got to. He’d been home several days now and – like – one hadn’t turned up yet.
He needed some slap-up grub before he could even think about suitable career options – current favourite being foreign correspondent for any girlie magazine, closely followed by Formula One racing driver … after he’d passed his driving test. He’d have to actually learn to drive initially, of course – a minor technicality in his not-so-humble opinion, since his omnipotence knew no bounds. But before any of that, he had a grope year to plan … and he’d need several more hours’ kip to crank the grey cells back into working order. He’d already decided on the main criteria for his twelve, maybe eighteen month break – it would involve lots of sunbathing, copious amounts of booze and uninhibited sex, nothing strenuous and definitely nothing philanthropic. Just a few minor details to fill in, then – he deserved some chillax time, he figured, after all that hard work he’d done at uni, sinking record numbers of pints in the subsidised student bar.
He pulled the pillow around his ears to block out household noise on the floors below and drifted off to the land of nod, hoping to get back to grips with that fit bird from the kebab shop last night – like, he had no trouble at all remembering her with those amazing bazookas which contradicted that Newton dude. She was phat!
I hasten to add that my oldest son is not called Sebastian and is nothing like the fictional character. Well, not much … although he did scrape a pass grade BSc in Environmental Science. During his final year, he spent way too much time in Paris, visiting his girlfriend who was doing her year there toward a degree in French. They have been married a while now and she’s not at all ferrety.