Hello and welcome to our stop on The Same Ledge blog tour! Please scroll down for an excerpt.
Behind the postcard imagery of London, the darkest parts of the city house some of the saddest stories.
When Michael met Cameron, they were two boys who shared a bond and a ledge, an escape from their turbulent and violent home lives. But when Michael leaves, their lives drift apart into dramatically different directions until the events of the past bring them back together. They are no longer boys, but the ledge remains. Can they save themselves? Can they save one another?
This raw debut from Daniel James is a literary fiction that delves into fragile friendships, social inequality and mental health.
It was September first. They had spent much of the day putting things into boxes. The room he had spent his childhood in was desolate; just walls and a carpet. They had outgrown the two-storey terrace house, lost in a network of streets behind the main jugular of Battersea. The street was quiet as it always was on a weekend, it is smattering of low-income families muted somehow, its portion of the south London aged shuffling between their smoky homes and the corner shop. London was divided between the rich and the poor and what started as a means to reduce the number of slums in London became a means to fortify them with bricks. Streets of poorly kept and poorly maintained houses slept in the back streets of the country’s capital, out of sight and out of mind. The estates of terrace houses or large ugly tower blocks boasted their own facilities, almost as if there was a need to reduce the risk of the residents slipping out of the shadow of their homes and wandering into the streets of London proper. The spaces were equipped with schools, grocery shops and laundrettes; critical organs to the heartbeat of the estate. Communication posts for the elderly and lifebuoys for the families that found navigating through London almost as expensive as living there.
In the estate, a small parade of shops set back from the pavement containing a newsagent, the laundrette and a bakery. The newsagent’s carpets were black with age and the strain of shuffling slippers but, for the kids here, it was a paradise. The shop counter was stacked high with penny sweets brightly shimmering. He would run side by side with his brother from their house two streets over. Their sweaty fists grasped twenty or fifty pence coins, money from the tooth fairy or a birthday exchanged for a set of stickers, a fluorescent toy or a handful of sweets wrapped snugly in their paper bag with the top rolled over.
Now he stood in a new room in a new house no more than ten minutes driving from the old. These houses were managed by a trust that was responsible for the maintenance. It had been almost eight years since his sister was born and five years since their mum had applied for a bigger home for the six of them. He would still share his life and room with his older brother.
The house stood on a cul-de-sac under the shadow of a tower block in the council estate. Council estates seemed to be darker places than housing estates. The parade of shops was buried under the mass of the tower block with a web of underground passages that fell completely dark at night. A home to the poorest, those most in need and those willing to take everything from you at knifepoint. This place was different. Opposite there was a patch of grass almost the size of a football pitch. The edges were lined with tall trees; from the highest windows of the house you could imagine you were looking over a park. There was a sign with ‘NO BALL GAMES’ clipped to the lamp posts and below that a black-and-white image of a dog squatting down with the words ‘NO FOULING’ written beneath him. Despite this there was usually a group of kids kicking a ball between each other, no more than ten years old. ‘NO FOULING’ would become an ongoing joke as they played. The edge of the green was home to a small playground, fenced with black iron bars, a ramshackle collection of bushes squeezed between even more iron bars. Balconies overlooked the grass with washing hanging to dry. It gave the impression of a community. Here, at least, was the illusion of safety.
Daniel James is a London born writer residing in Toronto at the release of his debut novel. Daniel draws upon his own life experiences as a Londoner to create a descriptive account of life in the city, exploring issues of inequality and the pressures on the human spirit blended naturally into one story.
Daniel uses modern-day themes and explores complex issues that revolve around mental health, relationships and societal class, issues that have impacted his life in one way or another. The need to captivate and highlight these themes are the inspiration behind his writing. He hopes you connect and enjoy the story in your own way.
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