Calling by Philip Caveney


Philip Caveney


Calling by Philip Caveney

A boy wakes up on a train to Edinburgh.He is shocked to discover that no idea who he is or how he came to be on the train - and once off it, he finds himself immersed in the chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe. After a day of wandering the crowded streets, he falls asleep and is woken by the sound of bells tolling midnight - only to discover that is the night of The Calling - a magical yearly event when all the statues of the city come alive. He is the only human ever to witness it. He quickly makes a couple of allies - the Colonel, the bronze cavalryman of the Scots Grey's monument, and the intrepid explorer David Livingstone. They christen the boy 'Ed Fest' and take him to Parliament Square to meet Charles II, the king of the statues, who isn't particularly fond of 'Softies' (humans).He assigns Sherlock Holmes to investigate the boy's case, to discover his real identity and to get back to his home and family. But as the bronze detective begins to decipher the clues, he discovers that 'Ed' is on the run from a sequence of terrible events; ones that could threaten his very existence. The Calling is a magical story set during Edinburgh's most exciting event - and nearly all of its characters can be observed, standing on plinths in the heart of the city, waiting for next year's Calling.

About the Author

Philip Caveney

"I was born in 1951 in Prestatyn, North Wales. My father was in the R.A.F, so I went through one of those strange, transitory childhoods where the family moved to a new military base every couple of years. The result was that I went through the anxiety of the first day at school over and over again. I still find it hard to establish real friendships.

I was a poor student but I somehow scraped through my 11 Plus (I still have the mathematical ability of a hamster) and while my parents headed off to a new base in Malaya, as it was then called, I opted to go to The Kings School, an austere boarding establishment in Peterborough, East Anglia, a city which was close to our last posting. There I underwent a harsh regime of tyranny and oppression (yeah, I know it sounds melodramatic, but believe me at 11 years of age, that's how it felt). At one stage, I and some of my schoolmates staged a breakout. We were picked up in Lichfield and later we were given 'six of the best' by the headmaster, Mr Wheeler or 'Spoke' as he was far from affectionately known. The pain of the beating was enough to convince me that corporal punishment was not the best way to deal with such behaviour. But bad experiences were a common occurrence there. I vividly remember witnessing a brutal mock hanging staged by the prefects on an unsuspecting youngster, an event which would later find its way into the pages of the novel Burn Down Easy.

It wasn't all bad news. Twice a year I got to fly out to visit my parents in Malaya, where I witnessed sights, sounds and smells that were light years beyond my narrow experience. The subsequent recollections would one day form the basis for an early novel called Tiger, Tiger. The other positive thing was that I began to enjoy my English classes, particularly compositions. I soon proved adept at turning the most boring essay title - 'holidays', 'pets', 'it was a dark and dreary night' - into a succession of horror stories so lurid that looking back I wonder how I had the nerve to do it. Instead of being showered with acclaim for my efforts, my teacher took every opportunity to belittle me, reading out my work in a sneering voice to a sniggering class while I sat there humiliated. But writing was my escape and no matter how much he laid in to me, the purple prose kept flowing copiously. Now, every time I get published, I feel I'm thumbing my nose at that teacher, who's name if memory serves me correctly, was Mr Long. And if he should, by any freak chance, be reading this... Up yours!

At sixteen, after a disastrous showing at the O levels, I left school and went directly to Kelsterton Art College in North Wales. After years of discipline, here was my chance to kick up the traces and in 1968, there was already a tried and tested route to rebellion. I grew my hair long, coaxed a beard from my chin and naturally joined a rock 'n' roll band. I started out drumming with them but somehow graduated to being their singer. They were called Hieronymous Bosch (cool name, we thought) and the more observant of you may have noticed that my novel Bad To The Bone was dedicated to them. Not surprisingly, it's based around a rock 'n' roll band only their singer is a woman. Freudians, make of this what you will.

The band kept threatening to get somewhere but never really did. In my last year at college, I started a first novel, a little thing called Nathan Storm. It never did get published but it found me an agent. What happened was, around 1973, the band's bass player, Steve and I went to London to seek our fortune. Fortune's being in somewhat short supply, we ended up sleeping in a Hillman Imp for a couple of weeks. Every night we would park up behind Doctor Barnardo's in Ilford and the kids there would sneak out stolen sandwiches for our supper (now that's poverty for you!). Anyhow, I got the address of an agent from somebody I met who had the dubious honour of being 'Diddy' David Hamilton's wardrobe assistant; and one fine day I took my manuscript up to the agents offices in Tottenham Court Road.

I chose an unusual approach. Overcome with shyness, I went in, dumped the manuscript on the receptionist's desk, then before she could even ask me what my business was, I legged it out again. I didn't stop running till I reached the nearest tube station. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to leave a friend's phone number where I could be reached, should stardom beckon.

It didn't. But the agent, a lovely lady named Janet Freer, phoned me back and assured me that though the manuscript was unsellable, she'd detected 'a spark' of something worth nurturing. (Whatever happened to agents like that?) Anyhow, she told me to bring her my next effort. By this time I'd taken up residence in London, in a proper house and everything. Just as well, it's hard to keep clean in a Hillman Imp. I even had a job of a sort, as a (get this!) Literature Collation and Distribution Officer (i.e. clerk) for a marine electronics firm called Kelvin Hughes. Needless to say, I was the world's most inept LCDO, the job was pretty much a front for my desperate attempts to break in to publishing. An electric typewriter and all the A4 paper I needed. Heaven!

After two years toil, I had finished my next magnum hopeless, a kind of spooky occult adventure entitled Magic Sam. I took it up to Janet who deliberated at length and informed me that though it was a definite improvement on my first novel, it still fell a bit short of the mark. Curses!

This was my lowest point. I really wasn't sure if I could put myself through such torture again. After much soul-searching I decided I still wanted this more than anything else in the world, even a recording contract. So gritting my teeth, I went back out to bat for one last time, and eventually (in 1977) came up with a manuscript called The Sins Of Rachel Gurney (later changed to The Sins Of Rachel Ellis, for reasons I will recount elsewhere.) I took it in to Janet and headed homewards feeling distinctly pessimistic about the whole venture. Then, a week or so later, I got a telegram telling me to ring her urgently. Why a telegram? Well, it may seem unlikely, but at this stage in my career I was so poor, I didn't actually have a telephone at home. I ran out to the nearest phone box clutching my last few pennies and phoned her number with a trembling finger.

Down the crackling line, I could hear her distinctive Canadian tones saying eleven words I'll never forget."

"Good news, kid. I think I finally got you a deal..."

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Philip Caveney
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Publication date

31st March 2016




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