Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 26765
date submitted 31.07.2012
date updated 22.01.2014
genres: Thriller, Historical Fiction, Crime...
classification: universal
incomplete

A Lark Ascending

John B. Campbell

A boy in London's Limehouse witnesses a crime and is caught out, but that proves to be the least of his troubles.

 

Amid the squalor of London's East End in the aftermath of the First World War a boy embarks on his rites of passage. With his father damaged by shell shock and his mother a victim of the recent epidemic, Malcolm struggles to survive life on the mean streets and finds more adventure than he bargains for.

After one of Malcolm's more colorful mentors is murdered, he is approached by the victim's niece to help unmask the killer. He is drawn to Katja but her association with volatile characters causes him doubt and conflict.

An eccentric aunt convolutes his life even more with her bohemian ways and her involvement in the political intrigue and conspiracies that are rife in London.

International issues come to bear on the murders at hand. What chance has a thirteen-year-old against the power of the megalomaniac who emerges from the shadows to threaten Great Britain's foreign relations? In the den of iniquity that is Limehouse, London's Chinatown, can a boy his age bear the weight of such responsibility?

 
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tags

1920s, 1930s, bohemians, chinese, crime, limehouse, mystery, soho, synagogue

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HarperCollins Wrote

‘A Lark Ascending’ is an historical fiction novel, which follows Malcolm Roberts, a boy living in London’s East End. One night, out exploring the Docklands, Malcolm witnesses a crime … and when his friend Joe turns up dead, Malcolm is drawn into the mystery. With his mother recently dead and his father suffering from shell shock after fighting in the Great War, Malcolm goes to stay with his bohemian aunt. Then, when Joe’s daughter turns up, asking Malcolm for help finding her father’s killer, Malcolm becomes embroiled ever deeper in the criminal underworld of the East End.

My initial thoughts were that this should be pitched at a younger market. While there are darker and more adult themes here, the young protagonists and the style and tone of writing mean it reads as young adult fiction. A good example in this genre is the ‘Sally Lockhart’ series by Philip Pullman, and there are many similar elements to be found in ‘A Lark Ascending’.

One of the strengths of your writing is your ability to capture the time and place, the thriving hustle and bustle of the streets and markets, and the grime and grit of the Docklands. The descriptions work well and it is evident you have done your research. However, it feels like creating this vivid depiction of London has been your primary focus, and the actual plot and narrative have fallen by the wayside somewhat. Building a strong setting is essential, especially in this genre, but it’s erring on style over substance as it stands. This said, you have created a good base on which to build and, with work, you could have a great historical mystery novel here.

The opening scene and subsequent action scenes are appropriately fast paced; the short, punchy sentences work to heighten the tension. You capture the reader instantly, drawing them into the action and making them root for Malcolm from the off. However, after reading 20,000 words I am still no clearer as to why Malcolm took it upon himself to follow the men that night. What is it in him that drove him into such a dangerous situation? His fondness for penny dreadful’s alone isn’t enough and doesn’t explain his drive to pursue the mystery further by contacting a journalist. His reaction to Joe’s death is quite melodramatic and seems at odds with the adventurous young man his other actions would suggest. The storyline around his father is very interesting and could be brought much more into the story. We see some indication that his father encourages his adventurous behaviour, but not enough background is given. The scene before his father is taken away needs work, it isn’t at all clear what is happening, especially to a younger reader.

The quick pace of the action scenes needs to be balanced out with slower paced narrative scenes as it all feels quite rushed at the moment. Malcolm is rushing from place to place, with no indication why. Certain scenes, like the one previously mentioned, with Malcolm’s father, and also the Coffee Shop scene, need fleshing out. We need to see real character development here. There are a whole host of interesting and intriguing characters, but they aren’t being used to full effect. We need to know more about their characteristics and their motivations. It feels like many of the characters are just there to add to the scenery. Use dialogue and internal reflection as well as action to provide background and drive the story forward.

Things to watch out for – American spellings, and age and time period appropriate language e.g. ‘Sometimes I ache to be out of London’ – an unlikely turn of phrase for a young boy.

This is a good work in progress, which should improve with work on the areas mentioned. I’d strongly recommend considering re-pitching the novel with a mind to target the children’s market.

J.Adams wrote 259 days ago

Back for round two --

Malcolm is so dear that I'm feeling terribly fearful for whatever is coming his way... (The bit that prompted me to write about my feelings regarding Malcolm is when he smiled at Mr. Phipps "as much to please the kindly vendor as in appreciation for one of his favorite meals."

Malcolm is believable at age thirteen, but he exhibits a quality of wisdom and maturity I've only seen in the most intelligent and sensitive of the children I've known. Malcolm is utterly engaging; it's not really possible to put this book down, even though this isn't a genre I'd have chosen on my own.

And that's what makes all the difference, isn't it? -- When you can engage someone who isn't interested in the topic(s), hold them, and then actually foster the development of a genuine interest in something previously dismissed -- THAT is the mark of a brilliant author, and you are surely that, John. This is a delight to read and I'm on the edge of my seat worrying about the trials in store for our young hero.

Finished through Chapter Five and will return when I have more reading time. This story is rightfully sitting in the #1 spot on Authonomy, but truly it belongs on the #1 spot on the New York Times best sellers list. Congratulations on an engaging and lovely literary work of art, John. I wish you all the very best.

-- Judy

An afterthought -- I would have preferred not knowing that Joe was going to be murdered in advance of beginning this story. Knowing in advance has caused me to believe that the thugs chasing Malcolm in Chapter One identified Joe and they are responsible for his death, possibly having received the nod from Crocker. I'd rather not be speculating on all of this as I'm reading. This writing is so good I don't need a teaser to keep me glued to the story.

Stark Silvercoin wrote 589 days ago

Author John B. Campbell proved he could pen amazing stories filled with memorable characters and delicately expressed landscapes in A Walk To Paradise Gardens. Now he turns his attention to thrillers with A Lark Ascending, and once again becomes the master that many lesser writers should follow.

Once again we are brought right down to street level, this time in London’s East End during the 1920s. We see, hear, smell and experience the seedy boroughs of that place with a flair that seemingly could only come from someone who has experienced it. This time, instead of an epic love story, we are given the tale of a twelve year old boy trying to survive in a gritty world where people are actually trying to murder him. Malcolm Roberts is fast, street smart and clever, but also terribly outnumbered. The opening chase scene is worth the price of admission alone.

As always with a Campbell story, no detail is left untouched or un-researched. From the clothing to the dialog, it all seems authentic. This is a refreshing turn from most thrillers where action is the main focus and everything else is secondary. A Lark Ascending is exciting to read, but it also gets everything else right too. Like his other book, A Lark Ascending is far better than just about anything you will find on the shelves of bookstores today, and wholly deserves to be published. When it is, I predict it will become an instant classic.

John Breeden II
Old Number Seven

Connie King wrote 599 days ago

A Lark Ascending
In a word: magnificent! From the breathless, pounding chase scene that introduced me to Malcolm's world, I was hooked. Evocative descriptions - Malcolm's early encounter with the 'floater' had me gagging along with him, immaculate writing and characters so full of life they spring off the page. Some wonderful turns of phrase, too - 'the words [Captain Roberts'] sounded hollow, as if said by rote with emotion under wraps, as hidden as sodden feet in wet military boots.'
I bow down before the master!
Connie x
Streets Apart

JennyWren wrote 620 days ago

Nigel, I honestly don’t feel qualified to review your writing. You are very talented and I feel this novel has cemented your ability as a major writer. It is well-crafted with believable characters and an eminently satisfying read. The setting and the plot could have been a challenge in other hands, but in yours it is a small but lovely masterpiece. I have sprinkled it with many stars and as soon as I free up some space it will be given a whirl on my bookshelf.

Dear readers, if you enjoy historical fiction but are tired of the lack of imagination or weak plots, I highly recommend this book. A highly satisfying, richly themed, multifaceted and topnotch story which is well worth reading.

davebending2 wrote 80 days ago

Congratulations Nigel on reaching the Ed. Well deserved. Have read the first couple of chapters and should do well when completed. Carry on the great work.
Dave

Andreea Daia wrote 80 days ago

I stopped by to check out the stories that made it to the ED and from what I read so far "A Lark Ascending" thoroughly deserved this recognition. It is beautifully written, the characters are well-rounded, and the plot develops nicely.

Congratulations!

David G. Turner wrote 80 days ago

Congratulation to making it to the ED. I read a couple of chapters and so far I enjoyed it. Good job!

Nigel Fields wrote 81 days ago
RonParker wrote 158 days ago

Hi John,

It's easy to see why this made it to the top.

Unfortunately, I got to it too late to be of any help to you by backing it, but I wish you every success with its publication and look forward to reading it in print.

Ron

TheEyesHaveIt wrote 221 days ago

A Lark Ascending is a compelling read with an endearing protagonist. What will Harper Collins say? I can't wait for your review. I will remain tuned in.
All the best,
Rosa

Borisgudnv wrote 221 days ago

Congrats, old thing. And now you have two gold medals. Well-deserved. We love your writing, which is, as described by HC, 'compulsively readable'. I am impressed by your versatility. Two such different stories. I am a fan of both books. I might like Lark Ascending just a bit more.
Wishing you the best,
B

Bea Ware wrote 232 days ago

Three cheers, you dear man. You did it again. We're quite proud of you, you know.
Love,
Bea

Emily Lives wrote 232 days ago

Okay, Nigel baby! Looks like you are on your way to earning your second gold medal. It's been my pleasure witnessing your growth as a writer. I wish you all the best.
And I expect to see a Malcolm sequel up here next year. Ya got that?
Love,
Lil' Em

Francine elizabeth wrote 235 days ago

I am new to authonomy, and whilst looking round, I found your book. I have only read the first two chapters, but I felt transported to the place. I originate from south London and feel that you have captured the London area very well. I look forward to reading more.

Karen 221B wrote 236 days ago

Good cover design and evocative title attract readers.

Wafffles wrote 241 days ago

I love that I felt immediately transported a century back when I read the first chapter of your story. It's not just the thick accents, or the 'bread and cheese and stew' menu, but the way you immerse every aspect in ambiance. It's one thing to put those antiquated elements into the story itself, but to narrate that way too is all the more effective. For instance, the line "Malcolm headed for Joe, running like a thieving urchin." Who writes like that? And yet, that's the point! Anyone can make an old-fashioned character speak in old-fashioned ways, but to adopt that linguist style for parts of your own narration is above and beyond. I'll definitely be reading the rest of this soon.

Lewis Chessman wrote 241 days ago

A lovely tale well worthy of the Editor's Desk. Backed.

JagoBella wrote 242 days ago

Are you on the Editor's desk already? Or waiting in the top five for the day?

Nigel Fields wrote 243 days ago

Hi S D,
Thank you so much for caring enough to include in your comments things that are a concern.
Please allow me to say that in the opening scene, the unidentified voices during the chase are as intended. I use them in a similar fashion to the voices of supernumeraries in theatre. Malcolm's, Joe's and Bess' voices are identifiable in their own right, I believe.
In the second paragraph of chapter 2, I endeavor to link the captain and his identity as Malcolm's father straight off.
I think as you read on--if you choose to--your well-intentioned concerns will iron out. Hope so. Thanks again.
Cheers!
John Campbell/Nigel Fields


Dear Mr. Fields,
I've so far read chapters 1 and 2, and I love the action and imagery you create, and the introduction is very grabbing. There are a few places that you use passive words like "was" and "were" and the use of such isn't neccesary, especially for a thriller. Also the dialogue is confusing for me to tell who is talking at times because you don't use dialogue tags - and your character's weren't introduced in chapter 1, they just showed up.
Some of the plot is also confusing, for example, on chapter 2 I am confused of whether or not Captain Roberts is a father figure to the boy or just a stranger. That shouldn't be something causing confusion right away considering the story is coming from the boys point of view.
It has tons of action, but I'd like to be able to connect to your characters more from the start. It's all go, go, go, and that's great for a thriller, but it would be nice to see more about how the boy feels. I want to feel more about Malcom and actually come to care about him.
In regards to your characters, I find it difficult to understand "who" they truly are right away.
It is obvious you have a lot of positive feedback from reading the comments; I wanted to give you something that you can actually use and that may help you perfect this gem. It has a lot of potential and you are a very talented writer and the plot is intrigung so far. I may just have to keep reading this.

S.D. Geiger wrote 243 days ago

Dear Mr. Fields,
I've so far read chapters 1 and 2, and I love the action and imagery you create, and the introduction is very grabbing. There are a few places that you use passive words like "was" and "were" and the use of such isn't neccesary, especially for a thriller. Also the dialogue is confusing for me to tell who is talking at times because you don't use dialogue tags - and your character's weren't introduced in chapter 1, they just showed up.
Some of the plot is also confusing, for example, on chapter 2 I am confused of whether or not Captain Roberts is a father figure to the boy or just a stranger. That shouldn't be something causing confusion right away considering the story is coming from the boys point of view.
It has tons of action, but I'd like to be able to connect to your characters more from the start. It's all go, go, go, and that's great for a thriller, but it would be nice to see more about how the boy feels. I want to feel more about Malcom and actually come to care about him.
In regards to your characters, I find it difficult to understand "who" they truly are right away.
It is obvious you have a lot of positive feedback from reading the comments; I wanted to give you something that you can actually use and that may help you perfect this gem. It has a lot of potential and you are a very talented writer and the plot is intrigung so far. I may just have to keep reading this.

Nigel Fields wrote 249 days ago

Thanks for the tip. I appreciate it. Will upload edits in a few days.

Yes! Something I can read!

Technical tip to the author: the leading apostrophes indicating missing letters, such as in "...wot 'e needs" near the end of this chapter, should be curved the other way. If you're using Word, the way to do this is hold down the ctrl key while you press the apostrophe key twice.

Nice work!

doggod42 wrote 249 days ago

Yes! Something I can read!

Technical tip to the author: the leading apostrophes indicating missing letters, such as in "...wot 'e needs" near the end of this chapter, should be curved the other way. If you're using Word, the way to do this is hold down the ctrl key while you press the apostrophe key twice.

Nice work!

doggod42 wrote 249 days ago

Yes! Something I can read!

Technical tip to the author: the leading apostrophes indicating missing letters, such as in "...wot 'e needs" near the end of this chapter, should be curved the other way. If you're using Word, the way to do this is hold down the ctrl key while you press the apostrophe key twice.

Nice work!

J.Adams wrote 255 days ago

Well, I've read everything that's posted and I'm making space in my favorite living room bookcase for the physical -- and complete -- copy of this engaging story (plus a sequel, please!) Please let me know when it's published, John, this is a treat. I sincerely wish you all the very best.
Cheers!
-- Judy

J.Adams wrote 259 days ago

Back for round two --

Malcolm is so dear that I'm feeling terribly fearful for whatever is coming his way... (The bit that prompted me to write about my feelings regarding Malcolm is when he smiled at Mr. Phipps "as much to please the kindly vendor as in appreciation for one of his favorite meals."

Malcolm is believable at age thirteen, but he exhibits a quality of wisdom and maturity I've only seen in the most intelligent and sensitive of the children I've known. Malcolm is utterly engaging; it's not really possible to put this book down, even though this isn't a genre I'd have chosen on my own.

And that's what makes all the difference, isn't it? -- When you can engage someone who isn't interested in the topic(s), hold them, and then actually foster the development of a genuine interest in something previously dismissed -- THAT is the mark of a brilliant author, and you are surely that, John. This is a delight to read and I'm on the edge of my seat worrying about the trials in store for our young hero.

Finished through Chapter Five and will return when I have more reading time. This story is rightfully sitting in the #1 spot on Authonomy, but truly it belongs on the #1 spot on the New York Times best sellers list. Congratulations on an engaging and lovely literary work of art, John. I wish you all the very best.

-- Judy

An afterthought -- I would have preferred not knowing that Joe was going to be murdered in advance of beginning this story. Knowing in advance has caused me to believe that the thugs chasing Malcolm in Chapter One identified Joe and they are responsible for his death, possibly having received the nod from Crocker. I'd rather not be speculating on all of this as I'm reading. This writing is so good I don't need a teaser to keep me glued to the story.

Daniel Escurel Occeno wrote 260 days ago

You are welcome, good luck on whatever it means to reach the level. – Daniel Escurel Occeno

J.Adams wrote 261 days ago

What an engaging first chapter. I am late for work, (but couldn't stop reading) will be back for more, shelved already, this is excellent. Thanks to Cherry for turning me on to this one, she can pick 'em, that's certain.
Cheers!

JagoBella wrote 264 days ago

I am so happy to see that ALA is well into the top ten. I can't wait to see this manuscript on the editor's desk. Malcolm is the kind of character that stays with you well after you have finished reading. I have always felt that John's writing is like a gourmet meal, perfectly complemented within itself and very satisfying. And nothing spoils that first taste.
Love it!

John J. Lawrence wrote 264 days ago

Hi John,

Beginning the story with a chase scene grabs the reader's attention. Your superior word painting capabilities allow the story to come to life in vivid detail.

Your protagonist, Malcolm, should tell the story. His first person narrative, from the perspective of an adolescent sleuth, will provide the type of realism demanded in today's action/adventure stories. An example of this type of writing is "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.

Use Mark Twain's style of first person story telling to make Malcolm your version of Huckleberry.

Be wary of point of view shifts. As example, in chapter 9:

"The lull in conversation proved neither awkward nor companionable. The landlady probably understood Auntie's need for some respite from auntie hood; and Wendell had no reason to take on more of Malcolm's oversight than what was necessary for a friend and neighbor to extend."

Telling the reader what the landlady 'probably understood' and what Wendell's reasoning probably is, takes the reader out of Malcolm's story. It would be all right to tell the reader Malcolm's thoughts about what the landlady probably understood or about Wendell's reasoning but it confuses the reader to 'get-into-the-head' of more than one character. This is Malcolm's story and even if told in third person omnipotent, must remain as experienced by Malcolm.

You are excellent at telling a story!
A true gift that you use well.

On my watch list and high stars.

Best,

John J. Lawrence
"Uncharted Waters"


RETombeck wrote 265 days ago

Good title.

Stop trying to cram in so many names. You introduce eight proper nouns in the second and third paragraphs: London, East End, Malcolm Roberts, White Horse Road, Stepney, Limehouse, Joe Hasani, Thames. This just trips the reader up. Take some out and see how it reads. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Chapter 2 drags, and then a bunch of narrative is crammed into the very last paragraph. Maybe introduce the servant at the beginning of that chapter, and let the rest unfold naturally.

In Chapter 3 we get more of the proper nouns. It’s like you’re planning to test us on street names and building locations. Also, the action comes to a sudden stop. Nothing really happens from the start of Chapter 3 until the middle of Chapter 5. Then, boom, a whole bunch of stuff happens.

Sadly, we then go into a room and sit around for most of Chapter 7. By Chapter 8 not much else had happened, and all the steam built up in the beginning felt lost. It lost me for good there.

In my humble opinion, you need to let Malcolm live. As it is now, you mostly move him around from place to place. It’s very descriptive, but not very interesting. The story will be much stronger when it is about Malcolm and what he does, instead of about the streets and rooms he finds himself in.

tallott wrote 266 days ago

I can see how some will say your novel packs a punch, for it is emphatic and tries to enter the world of teen fugitives. It is intensely practical. The language is direct and speaks clearly to the reader.
I wrote a novel on a similar theme on self publish Create Space site and got it in a library but felt it is too traditional. In return for comment, any chance you read or comment on my other more bouncy novel Caribbean Chocolates, on site now, that Mslexia ask me to enter for comp, but I am not sure it will be done in time best wishes, thanks if you read and rate me at all Tracy Allott Barnsley Yorks

Shultz wrote 271 days ago

An actual novel, as good or better than anything one could buy. This should and will be published, just keep the faith.

Bren

x

Kestrelraptorial wrote 272 days ago

I like the feel of the street life in this story. Malcolm running from thugs in the very first chapter, then diving into the river to catch up to the ship. He there meets his father, Captain Roberts, who congratulates his son on his quick evasive thinking as he says he’ll make a good soldier. Malcolm remembers the ruffians bringing metal ‘cricket balls’ – grenades – to the solicitor, Mr. Crocker. Another crate, labeled ‘books’ was full of trenchcoats.

Juliana S. wrote 272 days ago

Just a short note to say thank you, John, for your kind comments about my book. I'm glad you enjoyed what you read. I have had a chance to read the first four chapters of your book. You are an amazing and talented writer and well versed in the craft. You cover plot, characterization, description and sensory perception masterfully. Right from chapter one we care about Malcolm. We get a sense of his surroundings and his fear and circumstances. I like the way you mention celebrities of the time to give us a feeling of the period. Some of your descriptions really "got to me," --"gloved hand intent on smothering," "rubbish squished and cracked beneath his shoes," and let us not forget "nuzzling corpse," "slimy flesh sidled next to him." Powerful! Had a moment of nostalgia with the description of the typewriter "punctuated by countless return-carriage bells." I remember those! Ha-ha. All the best. Highest stars and looking forward to reading more.

mapleyther wrote 272 days ago

Brilliant and, if possible, even better than the last book. Look forward to seeing this in the top 5 in a very short space of time!

M.P. Jones - Mason Wilson & The Dead Bird Debacle

Geowonderland wrote 274 days ago

John,
Once I got into the story with chapter two, I had a hard time to stop reading it. Your story is engaging, showing depth and beautiful language. Sometimes I had to reach for a dictionary, which proves your exquisite language.
I enjoyed many scenes, among them the father cheering up his son, "You showed daring and resourcefulness... you can think like a reconnaissance man behind enemy lines." Or becoming friends with Sid by standing up to bullies.
I enjoyed descriptions of atmosphere, "...servant said, bisecting the air between father and son." Or the ones that made me smile, "...the man was the sloppiest pointer; you'd think he was indicating the entire continent."
I enjoy the sound of many languages, but the way you put it is superb, "...speaking Yiddish. Malcolm enjoed the complex consonants and inflections of the language. "
Six stars from me.
Can't wait to see it in print.
Aneta

Groaner wrote 274 days ago

Frankly, John, I'm not in the mood for commenting, so just a quickie here. I just read three chapters (saw them talking about it in the forums) and was pleasantly surprised. I'll use the word 'intriguing' as it does keep you reading, and there are hints of things to come (like what's the mysterious deal with the dad) that should hook readers. I'll back this and give it good stars. Best of luck with it.

Shiloh Yazdani wrote 275 days ago

This is a very good book. It deserves this high ranking. The author tells this story in such descriptive terms the reader just has to sit back and enjoy.
Shiloh
"Courage Through Faith"

R.E. Ader wrote 277 days ago

Brilliant work, well done.

rmstorm wrote 277 days ago

You've got interesting ideas here. My only real criticism is that the beginning feels a bit over the top, like a Montey Python skit with the chase and the comical "Oi'l get 'im first, oi will!" I know you're trying to be accurate to the period, but in my head I hear the Spam song.

Sebnem wrote 279 days ago

A Lark Ascending -John B. Campbell
Review
Chapters 1-3

Hi Nigel,

This is a delightful story and I’m sorry to say it took me so long to discover it. Your first chapter is absolutely gripping with Malcolm running away from the thugs following him. He finally makes his escape by diving into the River and swimming towards Joe’s boat, strangely followed by a floating corpse.

The second chapter gives us background information about Malcolm’s family, his father the Captain who came back a different man from the war. His mother died of influenza when Malcolm was six and all the servants left them, including the Cook. Annie, the servant, turned up at their doorstep unexpectedly one day…Malcolm’s conversation with his father also reveals facts about the chase upon Malcolm’s witnessing the thugs dealing with stolen explosives by the solicitor’s office.

The third chapter is a nostalgic visit to the streets of the East End, around Whitechapel; the various stores, the market, the Jewish community members and shopkeepers, and finally Jade’s Coffee shop with no signs are narrated with great flair and a flowing style. We also find out that the thugs recognize Malcolm and chase him, but he’s saved by a towering old gentleman. The coffee shop scene also reveals to the reader Malcolm is interested in journalism as he is fascinated to overhear a conversation between a Daily Telegraph reporter and another man.

Wonderfully written, expertly edited, and a joy to read.

Highest stars, good luck, best wishes,

Sebnem-The Child of Heaven

MatthewBrenn wrote 280 days ago

A well written and interesting tale. I got to Chapter 4 before I ran out of time and hope to get back to read more.

Matt

Cherry G. wrote 280 days ago

First, I love the title. Second, it's a captivating first chapter which grabs the reader's attention. Third, you have a strong plot full of well -rounded characters. Fourth, it is well written and carefully edited. Fifth, I really hope A Lark Ascending is published soon.
Six stars to you and a place on my desk.
Cherry
The Girl from Ithaca and The Walls of Troy

Vanessa Bell wrote 282 days ago

Absolutely gorgeous! The first chapter left me breathless. Backed with enthusiasm and I'll be back for more!

Lara wrote 282 days ago

Re backed. 6 stars. Should be at no. 3, hope this helps.
Rosalind Minett
A RELATIVE INVASION
SPEECHLESS

Nartana wrote 282 days ago

Very well written

Jack Waters wrote 282 days ago

Hi John

Fantastic opening scene to your novel, A Lark Ascending. Descriptive, heart-racing stuff. Will continue to read on. Just one query on your spelling on page 1. I would substitute 'odor' for 'odour' because it made me double-take. My first novel, Reuben Falls, Dark Legacy is written in American English so I had a few hiccupps along the way. I am a few chapters in and will seriously consider backing this as I think it shows great promise.

Kindest Regards

Jack Waters

Emily Lives wrote 290 days ago

Nigel,
Now that I have read all, here are my comments. A Lark Ascending is told with utter heart depth. You show us a moment in history where one boy's ache to make sense of the world takes us through alley and mansion, through class struggle and post Great War grief. Malcolm is a character that will be cherished by many. I hope we will get more Malcolm from you in the near future.
Best,
Lil' Em

Nigel Fields wrote 290 days ago

Thank you, Mick. I really appreciate your thoughts on accents. Yes, decisions, decisions. I did study linguistics and dialectology, but that is nothing compared with actual experience.
Since the storyline of Lark pivots around the International composition of the port city, I thought I'd evoke that blend via language. That's why one bully says "I'll get 'im" and another, "Oi'll slash 'im."
I loved your contributions, such as the brown bread. In the end, if I obtain a publisher, I suppose they will have an opinion on this that I will probably bow to. Thanks again.


Accents in dialogue are difficult to convey. To be perfectly honest I wasn't overly convinced by one or two of the characters, because having married into a London family that came from the Billingsgate area I found some of your terminology a little "West Country"

Firstly, I assume that everyone comes from the East End, so I would have thought they would have used Cockney rhyming slang a little more. "Oi'll get him first, oi will." "Oi'll have him dead long before you get him." "We'll leave that floater be ..." "... but a hell of a lot dryer than you be." "...Had a fright he did." "... wiv some special tea for you, lad." "Bread and cheese, boy, or a bit o' cake."

I think "lad" would be "son"
"dead" would be "brown bread"

"We'll leave the stiff in the drink, come on son quick."
"Bread and cheese son, or a bitta cake?"
"He''ll be brown bread if I get me 'ands on 'im."
"I'll be back wif a cup of Rosie in a tick son, wif a drop of gold watch.." She winked at Joe.

It did bring a smile to my face because for a split second I thought of Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins"
Apology's for the flippancy I hope you take it in the well intentioned good spirit it's meant to be in. But well done I take me tit for tat off ta ya. Mick (The Solitary Man)

Michael Matula wrote 290 days ago

Very well done. I haven't read a ton of historical fiction, so I can't really judge how it compares with other books in the genre, but I really enjoyed this, as there's a very good pace to the story so far, with a good amount of action and tension, and some very good writing. I really like the setting, as well, and I find the concept very engaging, having written a story about an orphan, myself.

I wrote down a few notes as I read:
I did wonder a bit why the phrase “Must've been a nail; must've sliced his skin” was in italics, as I usually see people use italics for phrases when they're inserting a thought from the protagonist, but it says “his” here, instead of “my”.
“he realized he was approaching a human form ahead” - I would take out “ahead”, since if he's approaching it, that means it's ahead of him.
I wondered if the word “just” was used a bit often in one section (“Just before the end,” “Just then,” “wouldn't just row right over him,” and “Just then,” were in rather close proximity) though I might only have noticed it because I was recently told I overused the word “just” myself, and that it's frowned upon a bit these days, as it's apparently a weak word.
“he suspected it came from some kind of pain neither had ever revealed” - the “some kind of pain” bit seemed slightly off to me, as he would at least know the kind of pain that he's experienced himself, even if he doesn't know the other guy's pain. I wouldn't necessarily come out and say what the protagonist's pain is, since I like to keep things from the audience as much as possible, until the time's right to reveal it, but I might rephrase this line.

Those are all either easily fixed or easily ignored, though. I thought you did a great job with this so far, and if I had more time, I'd certainly have kept reading.
High stars.

Mike
Arrival of the Ageless

mick hanson wrote 290 days ago

Accents in dialogue are difficult to convey. To be perfectly honest I wasn't overly convinced by one or two of the characters, because having married into a London family that came from the Billingsgate area I found some of your terminology a little "West Country"

Firstly, I assume that everyone comes from the East End, so I would have thought they would have used Cockney rhyming slang a little more. "Oi'll get him first, oi will." "Oi'll have him dead long before you get him." "We'll leave that floater be ..." "... but a hell of a lot dryer than you be." "...Had a fright he did." "... wiv some special tea for you, lad." "Bread and cheese, boy, or a bit o' cake."

I think "lad" would be "son"
"dead" would be "brown bread"

"We'll leave the stiff in the drink, come on son quick."
"Bread and cheese son, or a bitta cake?"
"He''ll be brown bread if I get me 'ands on 'im."
"I'll be back wif a cup of Rosie in a tick son, wif a drop of gold watch.." She winked at Joe.

It did bring a smile to my face because for a split second I thought of Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins"
Apology's for the flippancy I hope you take it in the well intentioned good spirit it's meant to be in. But well done I take me tit for tat off ta ya. Mick (The Solitary Man)

L.M.Bell wrote 294 days ago

A Lark Ascending.

John,

I have read the whole thing and what can I say, this is very good writing. Once, I took a Dickensian tour of London (starting in Southwark of all places) and reading this book felt a bit like being on that tour again - except of course, different historical period :)

What I mean to say, is that your period details are fantastic, you really animate this gone-by era in the eyes of the reader and it’s a beautiful, though hard and dangerous world. Not just in the description of the docks, the crowds, the cafes, the clothes, the youth literature and the slang, but also your characters mannerism is so believable, like Aunt Jane smoking ‘daintily’.

Your characters are complex and well-rounded as well - the relationship between Malcolm and his father being particularly moving - and the mystery is unravelling nicely.

One thing I would say is that, having read your blurb, I was expecting the introduction of Joe’s niece to happen much earlier. If she is (as it would appear from the blurb) a key character, then I feel chapter 20 is a little late for her introduction. Admittedly, I am more used to YA novel, which clock at around 80k words, but assuming yours is around 100k, then I would say your introduction is 7-10k words too long. You might argue that it is not an introduction at all, that the plot is well under way, and it is true, but because of the blurb I was waiting for this character to come along before the story could properly kick-in. This is because the blurb puts emphasis on the murder investigation element, with the aunt’s political scheming coming across as more of a sub-plot; but by reading the story it seems it is the other way round. So you could change your blurb or – if you feel that going forward, the relationship between Malcolm and Joe’s niece takes centre stage – then you could introduce this character earlier. No need to cut or re-write anything, you could just re-jiggle the order of the chapters a bit.

Finally, a couple of nit-picks:
In chapter 18:
- Malcolm was unaccountably pleased[…] Sid’s face and hands were clean[…] it meant that Jun […] access to soap and water. Here ‘Sid’ should be ‘Jun’
- Malcolm and Sid appeared to be the only one’s curious about the woman - should be ‘were the only ones’

Overall, I gave this high stars.

Best of luck with it!

Laura

stearn37 wrote 302 days ago

Hi
I really like what I have read so far, I have put it on my watch list until I have room on my shelf.
Cheers,
John Stearn
Author of Derilium

davesealey wrote 305 days ago

Looks good! Just finished "The Hound of the Baskervilles" so I'll be reading "A Lark Ascending" this week, looks like a good way to follow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle :)