This is a contemporary tale of three men, their women and their dads. Very much in the style of Tony Parsons or Nick Hornby. Three Biblical characters brought bang up to date. What is Jake’s secret? What is Cain up to? Can Sol stop being so restless and find some meaning? And where is the beautiful Abby? Three ancient stories, rebooted and retold in a story of drama, intrigue and rock’n’roll.
An extract from the book
There was blood everywhere. I mean everywhere. The caesarean had been a hasty job: the twins were at 39 weeks and leaving it much longer would have been dangerous. The mother’s eyes were wide with a strange brew of terror and wonder. The wide-eyed stare softened as the surgeon presented her with an instant family. Two blinking, gulping creatures coated in a grey and red slime. Strange ugly aliens that were to her the most beautiful creatures on the planet. The nurse began to wipe them down.
‘Never seen that before,’ she said. ‘The smaller one won’t let go of his brother.’
Rebekah looked at the two through tear-drenched eyes. One of the boys was indeed clutching the foot of the other one as if he’d never release it. The child squealed as the nurse unclamped the tiny perfect fingers.
‘Come on sweet pea, you’ve got a good grip,’ she said. ‘You’ll be great at opening jars. That and hanging off cliff faces.’
And before she’d even finished he’d clutched at his mother’s little finger and was hanging on for dear life.
The day they were born their father visited his bank, withdrew an obscene amount of money and invested it in a clutch of South African diamonds, which he then deposited in an entirely different bank, in a safety deposit box deep in a chilled vault along with other people’s secrets and keepsakes. Their father was an astute and successful businessman. Those diamonds would buy the boys a future.
On the same day Adam’s first son plopped out onto an old rug in the family home. The baby’s mother had always sworn she’d give birth at home. She’d been through plenty; she wouldn’t be fazed by the simple production of a screaming child. When the local midwife arrived Adam was sitting on the floor sweating, with a glass of whisky in one hand and a pair of amniotic-fluid-smeared scissors in the other.
David, meanwhile, was celebrating his boy’s second birthday. Champagne flowed and the nightclub was packed with the bodies of the great and the good. His son wasn’t there, of course, and he wasn’t David first-born, but he was special: so said the local priest, an old friend of David’s with features like Gandalf and the prophetic ramblings to match. He’d baptized the boy, stared deep into his soul and pronounced him divinely anointed. David had been chuffed: only a year before he’d lost his previous child and the agony still burned like acid in his soul. But this son was a panacea – he’d want for nothing and David would make sure he’d become the brightest boy in the land.
As the twins grew up it became blindingly obvious – Jake and his brother Esau were different.
On Cain’s fifth birthday his parents celebrated by dumping him with some friends he didn’t know very well and rushing into hospital. He figured there’d be a proper party when they came back. There wasn’t. Instead there was a struggling new baby who now demanded all the attention: attention that had previously been given to him. Cain never recovered.
As the years passed it was clear that the new baby was favourite. Cain, the prototype, had been improved upon, and everybody seemed to consider mark two a vastly improved model. Cain tried his best but he couldn’t help slipping further into the shadows, and in the semi-darkness he brooded on his misfortune and plotted ways to win back his parents’ attention.
The hunt for Black Hawk Down
‘Dad, why d’you stay in this dump?’
Sol’s old man, Dave, had transformed a tiny council house into his own recording studio. A little neon sign hung in the modest top floor window intermittently sputtering and blinking the studio name, ‘Radio Therapy Records’. The top floor was one single room, a jungle of speakers and cables, posters wilting off the walls like drooping palm leaves.
‘Sol!’ His dad was always pleased to see him. ‘Listen, I got a new sound. Man, you won’t believe this.’
Dave was a bulky guy, permanently tanned and criminally good looking. He wore his hair long, as if he was a roadie for Led Zeppelin and was an eternal optimist. He wore a smile most of the time; it was the kind of smile that exuded shedloads of charm.
He was at his desk, two huge 48-inch screens mounted on the wall in front of six dozen keys and sliders. He’d designed his own mixing desk and it looked like someone had smashed a Fisher-Price piano across the cockpit of a Boeing 747.
‘It’s massive, man. I have three groups in the download chart, and four more to follow.’
He pushed buttons and hiked sliders and the sound that exploded from the walls was like a jet taking off to the sound of a dozen saxophones and a hundred guitars.
‘Admit it – you never heard this before, right?’
Sol’s dad was sixty-three and lived like he was still fifteen.
‘Dave, your curry’s ready.’
Sol turned and stared at the blonde in the doorway. She was younger than him, with a perfectly proportioned face and more curves than a barrel of fruit, like something that had been designed for a web site. She smiled at Dave and disappeared again.
‘Dad, who’s that?’ said Sol.
‘Oh, just a friend. She’s cutting a record.’
‘And cooking you curry.’
When it came down to it, Sol’s dad was an aging rocker with a heart of gold and loins of clay.
‘If I play my cards right I could soon have seven out of the top ten downloads. Seven!
Check this out. I wrote it for Cliff – he’s desperate for another number one. D’you see what I did with it?’
Dave passed his son a beer mat. Sol read the scribbled lyrics.
‘I’m your Bachelor boy, you poor young ones, we don’t talk any more you devil woman, O little town so wired for sound, your daddy’s home and Carrie’s my living doll.’
‘Better than his last one.’
‘No, it’s not, it’s the worst idea you ever had. Doesn’t even rhyme. Doesn’t scan.’
His dad stared ahead at the complex bars of colour on the two screens. ‘You wait, it’ll go to number one,’ he said.
‘So? That proves nothing. Any crap does that these days. Who is she?’
‘The girl. And why don’t you get a bigger place? You’re loaded. The people next door must be going nuts with the noise.’
‘I am the people next door. I bought the house last week. What d’you think about getting him to do something with Meatloaf?’
‘Cliff, keep your eye on the ball, will ya?’
‘What a sort of “Bat out of heaven” thing?’
His dad laughed. ‘Yeah! Why not? I love you mate, you’re great. You always were.’ Without looking at him Dave reached out and squeezed his son’s shoulder.
‘So why did you spend so much time with other people?’
‘What?’ His dad looked genuinely shocked. As if they had not actually had this conversation a hundred times before.
‘Dad, I know you think I’m the dog’s biscuit, but the point is you can’t just say that. I’m right here. Stop the music and give me some time.’
His father nodded solemnly, took his hands off the desk and swivelled his chair to face his son. ‘Is it money again?’
‘No, you’re the one with the girl problems, Dad.’
‘Dave! The curry!’
‘Be right with you, babe.’
‘Oh babe, is it?’ said Sol.
‘She’s just a friend.’
‘Have you seen Mum lately?’
Dave sighed. ‘She won’t talk to me.’
‘Surprise surprise,’ he muttered.
Sol glanced over at the pneumatic blonde who’d reappeared in the doorway.
‘Dave,’ she said.
‘In a second babe, give us a minute, will ya?’
The pin-up girl rolled her eyes and slipped out. Sol’s dad reached for his old mug, a massive cracked thing with Mink DeVille scrawled across it and a thousand chips embedded in the glaze. Sol’s dad never washed his coffee mug: he just covered the stains with more stains. He took a slurp of something that looked like an oil leak and winced at the foul taste.
‘She’s got a degree, you know,’ he said, nodding towards the door. ‘I mean she’s not a bimbo. Not at all. Not just bump and grind, she’s . . .’
Sol raised an eyebrow and his dad threw up his hands.
‘All right, Sol, listen. You’re a smart lad – smarter than you deserve to be, and I got a problem. This boy band comes to me with a song they claim they’ve written – and it’s brilliant. Will I produce it? Fine, I say, we’ll sell a million. Next thing you know this girl band rolls up with an identical number, I mean identical, except all the “she”s have been changed to “he”s. And what d’ya know? They claim it’s theirs. It’s a brilliant song, but I haven’t got a clue who wrote it. Neither of them registered it. But one of them pinched it.’
Sol blew out his cheeks and scratched his head. For a moment he was tempted to suggest they ask the pneumatic graduate. ‘Scrap it,’ he said.
‘Tell ‘em you’ve found out they’re lying, wave some document around that qualifies Billy Joel wrote it, a gas bill or something, and threaten to dump both bands.’
‘What good will that do?’
‘The band that didn’t write it won’t be bothered. They’ll concede anything to stay with you. The band that did write it will be the ones that care. Trust me.’
‘How d’you know these things?’ Dave asked him.
‘I dunno, obvious stuff. Hey, I’ve got a song – get Cliff to sing this one.’ He searched in his pockets for a while. ‘You haven’t got my copy of Gladiator have you?’ he asked as he pulled tenners and parking tickets from his jeans. ‘And didn’t I lend you Black Hawk Down as well?’
‘Not sure. Maybe.’
‘Here you go,’ Sol slammed down a scrap of the cover of a movie magazine.
His father scrutinized it for a while. ‘I can barely read this,’ Dave said.
‘That is me – that’s where I’m at right now. From the heart.’
There was a sigh behind him and he turned to see the girl again.
He nodded at her and for the first time they made eye contact. Her eyes were different colours, one blue, one green. She smiled at him briefly. Somewhere in the background his father started reading the song.
‘“There’s a lime . . .”’
‘Time. The word is time,’ said Sol, dragging his eyes from the girl. ‘“There’s a time for everything yet nothing ever changes.”’
‘Right – good line. “Time to live and die, love and hate, laugh and cry, watch and wait. Night and day, get and give away. Up, down, tear and mend, quiet, speak, start and end.” Different. Not bad in fact, got a tune?’
‘Course not,’ said Sol, ‘you’re the music-meister.’
‘Fair enough. “Build and plant, crash and burn, limp and dance, twist and turn . . . ”’
Sol glanced back at her. Why did he do this? Why the sudden need to keep hooking her eyes with his, and why, oh, why did he get that sudden rush when he found she was waiting to lock her gaze on him? He felt an elbow in his ribs.
‘I said . . . I don’t like that bit.’
He turned back to his dad. He heard a footstep and glanced over his shoulder to see she’d gone. ‘Has she got a sister?’ he asked.
‘No, and don’t even go there. That’s way too weird.’
‘Why? She’s only your cook.’
‘Yeah . . . right . . . Look Sol, why are you thinking like this at your age? I mean the stuff in this song. You’re twenty-seven for heaven’s sake. Your life’s all there for you – youth and vitality – it should be all beer and football not this gloom and doom.’
‘Dunno . . . just feels like it goes round and round sometimes. Birth death, night day, wars ceasefires. Sometimes I just wake up at three in the morning and it all collides in my head like a massive traffic accident. Maybe I just had too much too soon.’
‘What d’ya mean?’
‘Well, great job, all the money I need, independence, quality of life. I’ve got it all, what else is there to live for? Maybe I should just give it away and start again. Do something different. Something weird, dangerous, radical.’
His dad stood up and put an arm around his shoulder.
‘Oh oh, this isn’t that bit where you show me your kingdom and tell me one day it’ll all be mine?’ said Sol. His dad didn’t laugh.
‘You need a good woman, Sol,’ he said.
‘I can’t – you’ve got ‘em all.’
‘Easy tiger. I can’t help being a love machine. But look, I’m serious, life’s about love and rock’n’roll . . . and God. What more d’you need?’
‘Why’s everything come down to sex, rock and religion with you, Dad?’
‘You’ll find out, mate. You can run but you can’t hide.’
‘Oh I can run quite fast.’
‘Good luck with that then.’