Friday, 12 April 2013

New from Five Leaves, Ship of Fools by Rod Madocks

Some years ago I got an email from someone called Graham de Max, offering his new book, a novel. The subject sounded interesting, but I was not looking for new material. However I knew Graham de Max slightly, a housing officer in the town I live,  and didn't want to be rude, especially as my partner had worked with him on refugee matters. An email conversation ensued that soon began to make less and less sense. To cut a long story short, the approach had been by one Rod Madocks, wanting Five Leaves to publish his novel, but because of the sensitive nature of the novel he wanted to use a pseudonym. One of his favourite writers is Graham Greene, and the de Max came from the interesting character of Max de Winter in Rebecca - hence Graham de Max.
In due course Rod's real identity came out - I knew of him too, he was a mental health worker in Nottingham, who'd worked directly with my partner. He'd never heard of the real Graham de Max.
I thought I'd look at the manuscript to give a bit of friendly advice, which I normally try to avoid... But in the end we published the book, and it did well, being shortlisted for the ITV Thriller Award, enabling us to change the cover from a rather dire brown set of stairs to a moody secure hospital corridor.
I insisted Rod publish under his own name, as I wanted to set up readings for him, and in any case he was not the best picker of pseudonymous names. And so No Way To Say Goodbye appeared, a rather creepy novel about a mental health worker who obsessively tries to trace what happened to his murdered girlfriend among the ranks of his charges in mental health secure prisons. Well worth reading.
Last night we launched his second book, Ship of Fools - stories from the mental health front line. These stories comprise twenty in number, one for each year Rod spent in mental health. Though the stories are in the first person, they are fictional, but like his first book real places and real cases are mentioned to give the impression of personal experience. The narrator - as in the first book - is not necessarily a nice person, especially to his colleagues, and veers from being bored and sick of his charges through to the most tremendous empathy for them. In some stories the narrator just watches, reports and tries to be a reliable witness. The "ships of fools" - the narrenschiffe - were packed with the insane, and sailed off down the Rhine by Hanseatic cities five centuries ago, and aboard this ship are the narrator, his many charges and those whose lives intersect with those who are insane.
The book will be of interest to anyone working in mental health, or living with serious mental health problems, or people trying to understand mental health.

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