5th February 2015 - Adele Geras
Adèle Geras is the author of nearly a hundred books, writing fiction for both adults and children, as well as poetry.
She's also the author of Out of the Dark, one of the six new titles published this year by Quick Reads, the scheme devised to provide accessible, bite-sized reads by well-known writers to those who lack confidence in their reading skills, as well as readers who are short of time.
Here Adele explains why the scheme is so important and why she was so keen to contribute to the series.
When I was asked to write a short novel (a novella, really) for Galaxy Quick Reads, I was thrilled to bits. I've written one before (Lily: A Ghost Story in 2007) and from 2006, when Dame Gail Rebuck came up with the idea and launched the first set of stories, I've been a huge fan of this charity.
For anyone who doesn't know, Galaxy Quick Reads produces short books by well-known writers for adults who are not altogether confident about their reading skills and who may be nervous of opening a thick, densely-printed book. It's a fact (though not one that many people know, I think) that one in six adults in this country finds reading difficult. Even when reading is not a problem, a horrifying one in three adults in the UK do not read for pleasure.
Books have been a delight and a huge comfort to me for 66 years. I feel very strongly that those who can't access this treasure are seriously missing out. It's true that there are many ways of accessing 'stories' nowadays, through film and television, for example, but it's not quite the same thing. The pictures in your head, the characters you bring to life for yourself are always more vivid, more striking and of course, unique to you.
To date, Quick Reads has distributed over 4.3 million books, which is an amazing achievement. They take these stories (and the non-fiction books in the series) to places like prisons, for example, where they are popular with men and women trying to improve their skills ahead of release. Over 3.9 million Quick Reads library loans have been recorded (this figure according to Public Lending Right) and they are in every possible way A GOOD THING. They only cost £1 so that no one can say: oh, I can't afford that. This low price is one of the most inspired things about them. You could buy them in bulk and send them out for birthdays... £1.00 is less than the price of a card.
Six new Galaxy Quick Reads are available form today and mine is called Out of the Dark. It tells the story of a young man coming back from the First World War with half his face shot off. He is haunted by the ghost of his Captain, and struggles to lay this phantom to rest. The story is also a love story and a story about finding your way in a world which seems to have no place for you.
When I was invited to contribute a Galaxy Quick Read for this year, I knew at once that I wanted to write about the aftermath of the First World War. So many men came back wounded, in all kinds of ways and had to find a place in a society that had been transformed by the conflict. I was also interested in the fact that this coincided with the growth and flourishing of the film industry. There really was an early film studio by the canal in Islington. And it is a fact that many men with disfiguring facial wounds became projectionists in the cinemas of the 1920s.
I'd like to say one last thing about Galaxy Quick Reads. I wouldn't want any avid and regular readers of novels to be put off by the fact that these books are short and simply told with a typeface slightly bigger than books they've been used to. I've read Quick Reads by many wonderful writers (eg Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid, Minette Walters) and it's clear that none has altered either style or subject matter to make their story 'easy' to read. I know that what I've written in Out of the Dark is something I'd be happy for any reader of mine to enjoy. I have not dumbed anything down. I have written simply and directly in the first person voice of a young man who is not 'literary' in any way and I hope very much that everyone who reads my book finds they enjoy it and goes on to read the other excellent Galaxy Quick Reads out there.