Publication Date: 25th March 2021
Genres: Literary fiction, short stories, biographical fiction, mystery, contemporary fiction, recent cultural history.
Themes: Diversity, nostalgia, music, crime, social justice.
Dreamers, singers, talkers and killers; they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, but inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?
These are people you know, but not as you know them.
Peel back the mask and see.
Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous, (or notorious) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia – but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists’ identities are withheld. This means that your job is to find them, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes
The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Simon!
30% of all profit from the sales of this book will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth. Support these charities by buying Backstories here.
Backstories is the intriguing debut from author Simon van der Velde. It is a collection of fourteen short stories which have one thing in common. The main character of each story is a well-known figure from history or popular culture, including serial killers, movie stars and rockstars among others, and the reader is given clues along the way to enable them to guess who each of the main characters is. Being a fan of mysteries and guessing games, I really enjoyed this original concept. I found that I was able to guess the majority of them correctly, but a couple left me without a clue.
Each story was a well-written combination of history and fiction, with many layers and intricate details included, which helped to flesh out each of the characters and make them feel very real. The stories kept me engaged as I tried to figure out the clues along the way. In most cases there is a final clue which helpfully more or less gives away the identity of the main character in case you hadn’t figured it out along the way.
Many of the characters in these stories are victims of bullying, racial or sexual abuse, but these contentious subjects are handled respectfully and delicately by the author.
These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.
I heartily recommend Backstories. It is easy to pick up and quickly read one of the entertaining stories if you do not have a lot of time – each story takes around twenty minutes to read – and I could even see this concept being developed into a card or board game. I understand that Volume Two is coming soon and will be on the lookout for it.
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About the Author
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, labourer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as travelling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters and insights for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Shortstory Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers. Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, Nicola, their labradoodle, Barney and two tyrannical children.
“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes” The Stranglers 1977
I was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question. So join me on my quest, and together we’ll uncover the fears and passions and prejudices that made our heroes what they were, and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way.
Whatever happened to all of the heroes?
They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.
Simon Van der Velde January, 2021
ps. I am proud to be sharing 30% of all profits from Backstories with
Friends of the Earth, Stop Hate UK and The North-East Autism Society.
See www.simonvandervelde.com for further details.