As a bookblogger I am frequently approached by self-published authors to promote their work. I feel I should review more than I actually do – as an aspiring author myself, I know only too well how it is almost impossible to hook an agent and then to actually succeed in getting published via the mainstream route. Self-publishing and e-books have taken off in recent years, making the dream of publication a reality for so many authors. Readership depends largely on word of mouth, however, or the size of their budget, so it is by no means an easy route.
I was attracted by the sound of Peter Morris’s Mary and Her Seven Devils. This is Peter’s sixth novel (two written in collaboration with another author). The blurb reads as follows:
Mary, a bright, very pretty and yet serious girl, by dint of her courage, common-sense and honesty, manages to navigate the delusions and the warped thinking of many of her contemporaries, to emerge as a good-natured and right-minded young woman who knows her own mind and who can tell good from bad.
Tested by right and wrong relationships and the colourful though dubious vicissitudes of the film world, but strengthened by her shrewd university flat-mate and her loving if naive parents, our pilgrim wends her way along paths where there is no moral consensus, to end up happily as a straight-thinking yet quietly sparkling heroine.
The story is a good one and the concept of the central character, Mary Fleet, on a journey in search of her true self, works well. Mary encounters a number of challenging events, ranging from the unwelcome sexual advances of a film producer from whom she secures work, being stalked by a corrupt social worker, and falling in love with a young man who is emotionally fragile. The plot is best read as a kind of quest, almost in the classical sense (and there are classical, theological and philosophical references here) – some of the events stretch credulity, but read as part of Mary’s odyssey, disbelief can be set to one side.
I liked Mary, and her college friend Sophie. Both characters were well-developed and their motivations rang true. Some of the secondary characters were less well-developed, but, again, read more as ‘caricatures’ (devils?) they can just about work. The author has a disclaimer at the start of the book, that the depictions of social workers are in no way a comment on social services in Tyneside or anywhere else. It does seem as if the author has a bit of ‘beef’ with the social services sector though, as they are all pretty grotesque!
If I have any criticism of the book, it is one that applies generally, in my view, to work that is self-published, and that is the want of a good editor. The book is set in 2016-19, but it felt much more like the 1980s to me, even down to the descriptions of clothing. As a mother of young people in this age group, I have a strong personal knowledge, and the students in this book felt more like me (university 1987-90) than my kids! I think a strong editorial input might have picked this up. There are only occasional references to the dates, however, so I was able to imagine it was the ‘80s!
I wish Peter Morris every success and hope this book finds its audience. It is available from Brown Dog Books. https://www.browndogbooks.uk/products/mary-and-her-seven-devils-peter-morris