“After an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider goes horribly wrong, depressed scientist Aaron Gall wakes up to discover his mind and body have undergone an astonishing transformation. Now bursting with the joys of life, he is inspired to undertake a radical new therapy: to talk to the priests who brutalised him and his school friends, point out the intellectual dishonesty and inhumanity of their religious beliefs – and then eat them.
Aaron enjoys the process so much (as well as taunting the police and MI5) he decides to extend his murderous conversations to include the Archbishop of Westminster, recently converted Catholic Tony Blair, the Queen of England – and, finally, the Pope himself. But a Catholic Church that has given the world the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Papal Infallibility hasn’t survived for two thousand years without a reason. Aaron is in for the greatest shock in the history of mankind.”
I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my turn and sadly the last stop, on the Scorn blog tour. Scorn is written by author Paul Hoffman and was published by Red Opera on 7th September 2017.
To celebrate the release of this dark yet rather fun sounding novel I have an extract to share with you. So sit back, relax and take a read…
It was one o’clock in the morning and Father Thomas Lloyd was eating sardines on toast in the vast and gloomy kitchen of the rectory of St Edmunds Church in Abingdon, a place not a hundred yards from the Victorian building in which Aaron had received the worst beating of his life from Mother Mary Frances and a mere thirty yards from where the sadistic old bitch was buried. Burial in the otherwise full cemetery was a privilege accorded only to people with a special reputation for holiness.
As he was about to begin his meal, one which he realised at some guilty deep level he was not as thankful for as he ought to have been, there was a hard rap at the door. Although it was unusual for there to be such a late caller, it was not unknown for someone to fetch him to a deathbed or a tormented soul to come looking for the peace of mind only God could grant. Still, he was no fool and was wary. He walked out of the cavernous kitchen and switched on the light in the barely less sepulchral cavern of the hall.
“Who is it?” he called out, ill at ease.
“Is that you, Father Lloyd?”
“Who else would it be in the rectory of the church at this time of night?” was what he wanted to say. Immediately he accused himself of the sin of the lack of charity. “Yes. Yes it is.” To make amends he opened the door immediately. The man on the stoop was not an alarming sight – five nine perhaps, and thin.
“Come in out of the rain.” He ushered the man inside and gestured him through the hall into the kitchen. The abundance of mahogany gave an unpleasant brown quality to the light. “Let me take your coat.”
Draping the man’s coat on the hat-stand, he turned to get a better look at his visitor. Many years of ministering to the soul distressed made him alert to the despairing and the desperate. His visitor did not seem to be either. The man looked at the uneaten plate of toast and sardines.
“I’m sorry. Please finish your meal.”
Father Lloyd was tempted but not for long. He would offer this sacrifice up to God, aware of course that God would realise it was not all that much of a renunciation.
“No. I’ve rather gone off the idea.” He gestured for the man to sit. “Tell me your name and what I can do for you,” he said softly.
“I’d like to make a confession.”
“I see.” A pause and a sigh. “Well, there’s no doubt you’ve come to the right place, Mr..,?”
“Gall. Aaron Gall.”
“Are you from around here, Aaron?”
“I used to be a long time ago.”
“Is that so indeed? I’ve been away and back a fair few times but I’ve spent near half my life as a priest in St Edmunds. You must have been here during my away years.”
“No,” said Aaron. “You taught me, my class, religious instruction when I was a boy.”
The priest looked worried. It didn’t look good or feel right to forget a parishioner.
“Help me. I’m an old man and my memory isn’t what it was.”
“The old primary school, just before it moved.”
“My God, that’s a fair few years.”
“I was seven or so the last time I saw you. It wouldn’t be reasonable to remember me.”
“I was only here a few months the first time, waiting to go to Birmingham.”
There was a silence – an odd one, uncomfortable for the priest. “So, what brings you out tonight?” he said at last.
“You remember Mother Mary Frances. She’s buried in the churchyard here.”
“So they told me.”
“The Sisters of Mercy.”
“So. This isn’t a visit on the sudden then.”
“What is it you want, my son?”
Aaron smiled quietly and spoke softly.
“I’m not your son, old man, and this isn’t a visit.”
Scorn by Paul Hoffman is published 7th September by Red Opera, £7.99 in paperback
So, what do you think? The plot of this book really intrigues me and despite it being a little different to my usual reads it’s definitely going on the wish list. I hope your interest has been piqued too!
Paul Hoffman is a bestselling author whose work has been translated into thirty languages. He spent his early working life as a Boardman in a betting shop, a teacher in a girl’s school, and a film censor with special responsibility for pornography, before becoming a screenwriter and novelist. Paul Hoffman’s first novel, The Wisdom of Crocodiles, predicted the attacks of 9/11 and set out in detail how and why the financial system would crash early in the new millennium. His second novel, The Golden Age of Censorship, is a black comedy satirising both the world of the film censor and the visionary megalomania of New Labour.
He came to international recognition with The Left Hand of God trilogy – a sly attempt to write about war and politics in a way that stole from both contemporary and historical worlds in a way that caused heated debate on the way to becoming a top ten Sunday Times Bestseller.
His new novel, Scorn, is his most controversial yet. Drawing from his own experiences in a hideous Catholic boarding school in Oxford, Hoffman has fashioned a contemporary black comedy that truly defies any attempt at classification – comic, tragic, a love story; with songs, illustrations, two highly unusual policemen known as The Butchers of Basra, a central character unlike any other, as well as cameos from Tony Blair, the Queen, and the a final confrontation with the Holy Father himself resulting in the most astonishing twist in the history of fiction.
Probably the last English novelist to be born by the light of a paraffin lamp, Paul Hoffman spent much of his childhood on airfields all around the world watching his father – a pioneer of sports parachuting – jumping out of aeroplanes. He witnessed his first death at the age of six when one of his father’s friends was killed in an attempt to discover how near the ground he could open his parachute. After a long and brutal battle with the nuns and priest who were charged with saving his soul and which left him at sixteen without any formal qualifications he was offered a place to read English at New College, Oxford when no other university would interview him. He is probably the only Oxford graduate in history to have failed all his O-Levels. On his first night at New College a fellow undergraduate was heard to comment: ‘My God – the kind of people we’re letting in these days’.
The Wisdom of Crocodiles took thirteen years to write and went into its third imprint within six weeks of publication. Jude Law starred in the motion picture of the same name based on one part of the novel.
Scorn is his sixth novel. His next book, The White Devil, will be published by Penguin in 2018