30 March 2013

Book Launch Guest Post - Flying Cats and Flip Flops by Paul Johnson

I still can't believe I've written this book.  It wasn't until my late twenties that I so much as even picked up a book. My am/dram fixation back in the nineties fuelled my desire to enrol and commit every Tuesday evening to a spot of adult education. I achieved qualifications in both Economics and English Literature - A proud achievement from someone whose chaotic, unstable childhood overshadowed school and the chance of a decent education.

My early teen years were spent pin-balling between divorced parents in different parts of the country, collecting schools like Panini football stickers. Schooling and its offer to equip me for my working life passed me quietly by, but my dabble in adult education unearthed a belated desire in me - a thirst for knowledge which I found in books.

I started with the classics more out of a sense of duty than anything else. Compelled to find out more, I set about digesting the words of Wilde, Dickens, Steinbeck and Co to see what I'd missed out on at school. I was also part of a community theatre group and felt rewarded when I could relate to my more academically gifted colleagues, expressing my thoughts, putting my opinions forward with a renewed sense of confidence.

Nowadays my choice of reading follows a theme, a criteria, a list of must haves:

It must grab me straight away (That's more to do with my short attention span)

I like a book that takes my emotions on a roller-coaster ride.

I love to be chilled to the bone, unexpectedly. Check out Richard Montanari - Skin Gods and The Rosary Girls.

A believable, unpredictable  plot and characters who hijack your senses, drawing you into their mind, their world. The Millennium Trilogy did this for me. Stieg Larsson is/was a master story teller.

Now reading a book is one thing. But writing one, well you'd have to be a complete genius wouldn't you?  Intellectually gifted, patched-elbow jacket-wearing types with round wire framed glasses - Authors. I guess some fit that stereotype but the basic fact is that authors come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life, but they all have one thing in common - They have a story to tell and that's me, a storyteller, but an extremely fortunate one.  'Flying Cats and Flips Flops' is an incredible true story and personal to me, as it involves my eccentric thrill-seeking father and his surreal, bizarre antics in Kenya.

I've spent forty odd years of my life without the slightest urge to write a book. Patience and perseverance has never been my thing. These attributes are as I have found crucial, not just in the writing or the rewriting, but in completing and actually publishing my ideas and played-out scenarios that have buzzed around in my head for what seems like an eternity.

Over the years my tolerant, extremely understanding wife has seen all my 'fads' crash and burn shortly after they start. The motivation to write and publish my dad's book was more down to my unfortunate situation than anything else. In 2009 I had a car accident, lost the sight in my left eye (a detached retina - inoperable ) and my right eye had developed three different conditions leaving me seeing dark shadows. Doctors couldn't guarantee me ever seeing again - a frightening prospect. I spent six months with my white stick and a wonderfully supportive family facing the unknown - it was a testing, lonely time.

During my blindness I decided to get back in touch with my father after an eight year absence. My wife would play taxi and drop me out to his place in Plymouth, where we would spend the next few hours in his garden, drinking coffee and laughing like we had never been apart. I purposely swung the conversation to his time in Africa and he obliged by filling in the last eight years. He escaped the UK and my overbearing, kleptomaniac step mother to start a new life in Kenya which involved two deaths, a new career as a drug smuggler and a sentence to a prison with one of the worst human rights record in Africa. I couldn't wait for each week to pass and for the next instalment, as bit by bit I painted his incredible journey in my mind.
"Dad, if I get my sight back I'm going to write your story"

June 2010 - The incredibly talented, unassuming doctors and staff at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London did just that. With my life back on track, I had a book to write.

Flying Cats and Flip Flops was published on 22nd January 2013 and is available on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle) and from Daunt Books of London.

Flying Cats and Flip Flops. Surviving a Notorious African Prison

Terry has a plan. Enough is enough....  Leaving a note for his domineering kleptomaniac wife, he swaps his humdrum council  house existence for a new life in Africa. He craves excitement and adventure, and finds both in equal measure.  Determined to know the real side of Kenya, Terry gets involved in many bizarre and dangerous situations, and it isn't long before a new career beckons him -as a drug smuggler. He's a natural.  Razor sharp instinct and a ballsy attitude - until he's caught with three kilos at Nairobi Airport. Sentenced, he is the only white British sixty year old in a prison with one of the worst human rights record in the world. He battles to survive the brutality and overcrowded conditions of a jail controlled by a corrupt regime - unaware his biggest challenge is waiting for him in England.

Flying Cats and Flip Flops is a true story of one man's obsession to live his dream - but at a cost.

Available on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle) and Kobo
Follow on Twitter @FlyingcatsFF 
and Facebook Flying Cats and Flip Flops

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