Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and fifty-sixth, is of biographical trilogy writer Patrick C Notchtree. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/author-spotlights.
Patrick C Notchtree has been a teacher and a police officer. He has always been ‘good with words’ and used to get good marks for writing stories at primary school. Although the demands of later education meant much of his later writing was more factual, this never left him. Indeed one police inspector remarked that his statements were the most readable he had to deal with, “It reads like an adventure story, I can see it happening”.
He has travelled widely in Europe, North America and has set foot in Africa. Indeed while there he was offered a hundred sheep or five camels for his fiancée who was with him. Happily he declined the offer and married her instead. They have two children and now three grandchildren.
His life has had its troubled, darker side which led to a major crisis in his sixties and then to the writing of his biographical memoir in which he seeks to explore those influences that made him the troubled and conflicted person he readily admits he is.
Patrick now lives in the north of England with his wife and has his son and two granddaughters nearby. Much of his life is reflected in the biographical trilogy “The Clouds Still Hang”, so to repeat too many biographical details here would be something of a ‘spoiler’!
And now from the author himself:
I started writing things down many years ago, thinking about my childhood, my first love and how much he meant to me. Making notes, gradually building memories. The idea of a published book came much more recently. After the trauma of my early sixties, I had to seek help. For my own PTSD, which remained undiagnosed for decades, I found talking was very hard. To speak about the ‘principal event’ was impossible for a long time and in the end it was my wise counsellor who suggested writing rather than talking. This painful process eventually managed to break the logjam in my head and of course eventually led to my book. The whole thrust of the book is the damage that early sexualisation can do, even when not coercive, and this is developed at length in the chapter in the last book where ‘Simon’ goes over the past with a psychiatrist.
The result is my autobiographical novel, “The Clouds Still Hang”. Rather than write in the first person I chose to tell the story mainly through the eyes of ‘Simon’. This gives the writer flexibility to step outside the main character from time to time. By fictionalising the account I was also able to shield the true identity of many characters to protect the innocent – and the guilty!
I am one of many – I now realise – of my generation who grew up denying and hiding their gay sexuality. Struggling to live a ‘normal’ life, the protagonist of the book, Simon, does what is expected and remains firmly in the closet. Structured in three sub-books, the first tells of Simon’s childhood, his friendship, love and eventual sexual relationship with an older boy, the second the trauma of the 1960s including the ‘principal event’ referred to above, the third his continuing struggle to comply with social expectations, unsuccessfully, leading to his eventual downfall and re-emergence as a man at last true to himself.
The book was written as a way of expressing much of what has happened in my own life and was written over two decades, but the bulk of it in the last few years.
The title is a line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, and as readers will find, Simon identifies with the troubled prince as he struggles to come to terms with the cards life has dealt him. In some respects there are clouds that will always hang over him.
The cover was produced by myself. Is the young man looking along the road to his past or his future? At the clouds of the troubles he has experienced? Or is the rainbow the symbol of his innate optimism and emerging true identity?
There are some parts of the book I found very hard to write. Two sections in particular led to tears being shed anew and much emotion relived. To say which sections would be a spoiler but readers will no doubt reach their own decisions. But the memories evoked in the writing also brought relived joy and happiness as well. Like life, the book is a roller coaster ride.
It is a fictional biography, written because it tells a strong story which raises many issues over six decades, the post war baby boomer generation who in many ways never had it so good.
My own experience is probably unique, yet will strike a chord with many others who have been through similar things, as well as those with an interest in such matters, either personal or professional, such as police and probation officers, criminologists with an interest in this field or those investigating the developing ‘queer theory’. It’s a varied, exciting, demanding, sometimes terrifying life story.
In its small way it has been controversial. This is because the first part contains descriptions of sex between teenage boys. These are a part of the story but it is not an erotic book, in fact I was as careful as I could be to avoid pornographic narrative and most reviewers have been positive about a sensitive and caring portrayal of adolescent love. The book would make no sense without these scenes and neither would the rest of the trilogy which describe Simon’s later life. It was important to be honest.
There are three main love stories and some explicit sexual scenes, both gay and straight, so it is recommended for over 18s and those not easily offended by such narrative, including one scene of sexual violence.
The first part was originally published in March 2012 under the title “The Secret Catamite Book 1 – The Book of Daniel” which is still available separately in downloadable formats only but is available free!
You can find more about Patrick and his writing via his website: http://www.thecloudsstillhang.com.
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