Mike’s report on ‘Tom Fleck’
Here are my kind of ‘notes’ on Tom – as you can see, I got a lot out of it.
Genre – towards the end, I thought more romance than history, but that’s just how the reading experience was for me – looking at the final chapter again, I could be wrong.
Plot – I thought travelling up to Flodden passing through different towns and landscapes was a good idea – part of the pleasure of the book was this ‘travel’ aspect. Seeing Flodden from the viewpoint of an outsider from Yorkshire was a very good idea.
Description and style – both of countryside and town scenes was excellent. Historical detail didn’t intrude too much. You avoided stereotypes like over-dirty peasants and sweet maidens just gazing at roses all day! One or two lines that I bookmarked as being really good – “I must find a safe space to dwell… – where there might be contentment and books,” “It’s the heart Tom. That’s what folk should witness” (big speech), “the angular noble head breathed out a final sigh and its sixty years of consciousness faded.”
Dialogue – different accents and voices were good and convincing (would need to run that by a Scotsman/lady though!) – use of dialect didn’t intrude. I thought the dialogue was strongest when characters were in their comfort zone e.g. Tom on the farm, the aristocrats in their manor or when leading battle. That’s probably how it should be!
Writer’s voice/life philosophy – this was excellent too – you could see the views of twenty-first century man coming through.
Hero – it’s a matter of personal taste, but he maybe develops too quickly and is too virtuous – though I know he has more than a simple peasant background so that could explain it (ugly duckling in a way, I guess). I would like him to do something really wrong (but fixable) and work out how to atone. I liked the way he broke out into poetry! And to be fair, he got a bit snappy when he said, ‘My dad said you could know a body by his deeds. If the Big Man’s in charge of things hereabouts He’ll have blood up to His holy elbows.’
Sex and love – all came across as quite romantic and modern – I thought you were right not to be too explicit in the sex scenes. Not about sex and love (except maybe male bonding) but the defecation scene was good as people tend to wonder about that kind of stuff – if the book ever gets to Hollywood though, it’ll be cut!
Historical detail – really well researched – I tested it on testoons and Flemish ells! And you were fair in judging big issues like the motives of James IV, I thought – it seemed right to portray him as both courageous and in thrall to the French.
Next project – I would like to see something a bit darker in terms of the main character without necessarily a happy end, but that’s just me!
Harry – many thanks for Tom Fleck both the character and the book – really impressive thought-provoking stuff I learnt a lot from and really enjoyed reading – will probably reread it to garner more historical detail and writing tips. And good to know that after all that hard work you’re going to put yourself through it all again!