Welcome to the first day of the Dust blog tour!
About the book
Published: 8th September 2016 (Red Door Publishing)
J.J Walsh and Tony ‘El Greco’ Papadakis are inseparable. Smoking Kents out on an abandoned cannery dock, and watching gulls sway on rusting buoys in the sea, they dream of adventure…a time when they can act as adults. The day they’ll see the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Set in small-town New Jersey in the 1960s, against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, Dust follows the boys through the dry heat of a formative summer. They face religious piety and its murderous consequences, alcohol, girls, sex, loss, tragedy and ultimately the tiny things that combine to make life what it is for the two friends – a great adventure.
But it’s a road trip through the heart of southern America with J.J.’s father that truly reveals a darker side to life – the two halves of a divided nation, where wealth, poverty and racial bigotry collide. This beautifully written debut novel would not be out of place alongside the work of Steinbeck and Philipp Meyer’s American Rust.
At turns funny, and at others heart-achingly sad, their story unfolds around the honest and frequently irreverent observations of two young people trying to grow up fast in a world that is at times confusing, and at others seen with a clarity only the young may possess.
Early in life, my grandfather told me that only three things were certain: birth, death and time. And time only ticked one way; it went forward and never back. It came to be a recurring wish with me, the desire to turn back the clock, to undo what I had done. Always wishing for the impossible, my feet stuck firm in the molasses of the present, unable to shrug off decisions I had made and their unforeseen or disregarded consequences.
Dust is a coming of age story whereby two young boys are trying to understand life and are learning hard lessons about illness and death. Dust is narrated by J.J. Walsh about his life living in 1960’s New Jersey and his close friendship with El Greco (Tony Papadakis). J.J and El Greco are obviously very close, this is clear from the outset but is developed through the story.
At times, its easy to forget that Dust centres around two 10 year old boys not only due to the language, both in how they speak and the profanities they use, but also because of the life experiences they are having at such a young age. They are living through the Vietnam War and are become too accustomed with death – I’m not sure that I was quite so switched on to death at the age of 10, fortunately!
As well as the friendship between J.J. and El Greco, I also particularly liked the bond that J.J. built up with Mister Taylor – Mister Taylor helped J.J. to work through things in his mind, come to terms with things happening around him and help to give him some perspective. It was refreshing to see the respect that a young boy had for the older gentlemen and the advise that Mister Taylor’s life experience could provide J.J.
If you are looking for a hard-hitting, fast-paced plot then this possibly isn’t the book for you and at times I wondered where it was going. However it is a beautifully written story of friendship and loss from the perspective of a boy who is 10 going on 40, most definitely old beyond his years! The concept of ‘dust’ really comes through the dry hot summer and the descriptive narrative that Thompson uses to describe the landscape. There are some hard hitting messages in this book, not just life and death but also about the division of a nation. An enjoyable debut novel.
About the author
Raised in Stockton-on-Tees, England, the author spent many years living in London before moving to Andalucia in southern Spain. He has travelled extensively throughout the United States over many years, harvesting material for writing both literature and songs. He plays guitar in a rock band, and now lives happily in the wilds of North Yorkshire with his partner Liz and three wonderful children, two rabbits, two tortoises and a bunch of fish.