Since Tom Becker learned to hold a pen, he wanted to become a writer. Aged 25, Tom realized that dream with publication of his first novel, Darkside in January 2007 which won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Aside from reading, Tom’s other passions include music, supporting Everton Football Club and eating a diet of fry-ups and fish fingers!
WHAT’S THE DRAMA?
Guestpost by Tom Becker
Before we go any further, I’d like to state something for the record. I’ve watched and loved The Sopranos and Mad Men and Twin Peaks and Deadwood. I worship at the altar of David Simon, the man behind The Wire and Treme. I even sat through five seasons of Breaking Bad trying to work out what the fuss was all about – in vain, as it turned out. It seems to me that some of the best writing in any form is taking place for TV at the moment, especially since it’s now practically impossible to watch a film without a.) a superhero, or b.) Vince Vaughan. (I remember watching Swingers for the first time, when it seemed like the coolest film ever. If only we’d known…)
But now everything I watch has the kudos of an HBO box set. You see, I love a good US teen drama. Dawson’s Creek, My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights… I’ve never watched One Tree Hill, but I’ve heard good things about it. Even now I’m in my mid-30s, I can happily sit through a season of emotional turmoil and teenage heartache. Like most vices, it started out harmlessly enough. During the summer holidays I would slump bored in front of the TV, with only the likes of programmes like Saved by the Bell and California Dreams to keep me company. (This was back in the mid-17th century, when there were only 4 or 5 TV channels. I know.) But then I stumbled across My So-Called Life. which seemed to be about the only programme featuring people vaguely resembling human teenagers (if, in certain cases, inhumanly good-looking ones). I was hooked.
Around this time I started watching Neighbours religiously, a habit that I kept through university and only kicked the habit when I started work – only to suffer a mortifying relapse when I began writing from home. At least I wasn’t alone. I remember reading an interview with Philip Pullman in which he said he watched Neighbours every day because it didn’t resemble reality in any true way, and was just pure storytelling. I think I know what he means. There’s a simple joy in seeing a storyline early on and just waiting for it to unfold, even though we know exactly how it’s going to end. The couple who are perfect for one another but keep getting obstacles thrown in their path. The doomed romance that society will tear apart, no matter how much the couple love each other. The picked-on outsider waiting for their moment to shine; the troublemaker whose comeuppance is just around the corner. I don’t care about realism, I just want stone-cold, dramatic moments. If you watched misfits Ricky and Delia dancing to Haddaway at the student dance in My So-Called Life…
…and didn’t feel a twinge of emotion, YOU HAVE NO SOUL.
My new book, Dark Room, is a bloody horror set in the fictional US town of Saffron Hills, where a brutal killer is targeting the cruel and beautiful teenagers who live there. Yet amid all the mystery and the murder, the heart of the book is the outsider Darla and her complex relationships with her deadbeat dad Hopper and spiky, troublesome friend Sasha. I can’t claim to have created a character like Tim Riggins or Angela Chase or even the much-maligned, over-analytical Dawson Leary himself. But whether it’s at the country club beauty pageant club or the punk night in the scuzzy bar by the creek, I hope I’ve created my own dramatic moments in Dark Room that readers will enjoy.
When Darla and her feckless dad, Hopper, move to Saffron Hills, Darla hopes it’ll be a new start for the both of them. But she stands no chance of fitting in with the image-obsessed in-crowd at her new school. Then one of her classmates is brutally killed when taking a photo of herself. A murder Darla herself predicted in a bloody vision. When more teens die in a similar fashion it appears that a serial killer is on the loose – the ‘Selfie Slayer’. Darla alone is convinced that the murderer might not be flesh and blood…
Review: Welcome to the Dark Room where all the ‘Selfie Slayer’ will get you. This was one of the most anticipated horror reads I had lined up for 2015. There was just so much promise.
So does it deliver?
There is that amazing prologue. It’s like the opening scene to a great horror movie. Actually I’d probably say that Dark Room is very scenic/visual. You do get that feeling that you’re reading a film, only with the time to become involved in the story. I really like that and think this is a compliment. The first death is, well I want to say brilliant but I’m not sure that’s the right word. It’s gruesome, vivid, striking. Bang! There is no return from this point. I loved it.
I have a ‘but’… about halfway through I figured out the killer. I was hoping I guessed wrong but after I then passed 200pages I was pretty much set in stone. Now the particulars I didn’t get but I wanted to be wrong about the who.
Dark Room is not for the faint of heart. It’s rather graphic but if you’re willing… I say go along for the ride, maybe leave the camera at home.