Slow Burn | After You Write A Book

I got an email this morning, in response to a book I published nearly 25 years ago:

Hello John-Paul,

I just though I’d send you a quick message to tell you how much I enjoyed your book Comp. I came across it via some idle, late night Googling of Holland Park School and managed to pick up a second hand copy, which I read in a very short space of time.

Book cover of “Comp: a survivor's tale" by John-Paul Flintoff

The book actually freaked me out a bit, as it transported me back in time in an altogether too convincing way. I started at Holland park as a first year in 1982, so I was probably in your brother’s year, but so much of what you wrote echoed my own experience and it stirred up a lot of half forgotten memories.

That year at Holland Park had a profound effect on me. I’d come from a very different place, a “free school” in South East London, where you could spend your days doing what you pleased and didn’t have to worry about offending the wrong person and getting your head kicked in. It was called Kirkdale, there’s various photos and things about it knocking about on the web, needless to say it was very different from Holland Park.

I only “survived” the first year, I refused to go back after the first week of the second year, and I have every respect for you making it all the way through to the 6th form, I couldn’t have done it, I was one of those kids mercilessly targeted, much like Alexander, and I think if I’d have stayed my fate might have been similar to his.

Anyway, I congratulate you again on a splendid book, it’s uncanny how you’ve captured the experience of being a child in that environment, everything you wrote about the first year could have been me, basically. I gave the book to my Italian partner to read so she could get an idea about what school was like in London in the 80’s and I told her ‘that’s exactly what it was like’. She was horrified.

Good luck with all your future endeavours.

If you write a book, this might happen to you, too.

See An Author’s Year