Paperback

Published: Lightning Books (July 2020)

ISBN: 9781785632389

We Need to Talk

Jonathan Crane

£8.99

A wickedly honest portrait of Middle England on the eve of Covid

‘A hymn to the mundane, as intricately crafted as an Ayckbourn play. A brilliant first novel’

Ailsa Cox

It’s 2019 in Sudleigh, a market town not far from the south coast. It’s not a bad place to live, provided the new housing development doesn’t ruin it, but most residents are too caught up in their own grudges, sores and struggles to notice.

Gap-year Tom is cleaning toilets but finding unexpected solace in his Chinese house-share. Former lounge musician Frank wants to pass his carpet business to his nephew Josh, killing the boy’s dream to become a chef. Sharp-elbowed phone-sex operator Heather will stop at nothing to become manager of the golf club. Miss Bennett keeps putting her house on the market when she doesn’t want to move.

Do they all know how their lives are linked? And will creative writing tutor Tony, hard at work on his ironic pseudo-children’s book The Jazz Cats, ever pluck up the courage to leave his unappreciative girlfriend Lydia?

Meticulously observed, with flashes of wicked comedy, We Need to Talk offers a jigsaw puzzle of unwitting connections for the reader to assemble. The finished picture is an unflinchingly honest portrait of multi-jobbing, gig-economy Middle England on the eve of Covid.

OUT JULY 2021. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW

Extracts

Everyone was talking at once.

‘…thin end of the wedge…’

‘…single mothers pushing prams…’

‘…degrading a respectable neighbourhood…’

Martin looked around the table. They were all there: the hosts, Clive and Susan Saunders; Dr Hugh McFarlane and his wife, Jacqui; Phil Bishop, civil servant, and the artistic Lydia Dixon. They called themselves Fight for Sudleigh; they were discussing the proposed development at the top of the road.

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Extracts

Everyone was talking at once.

‘…thin end of the wedge…’

‘…single mothers pushing prams…’

‘…degrading a respectable neighbourhood…’

Martin looked around the table. They were all there: the hosts, Clive and Susan Saunders; Dr Hugh McFarlane and his wife, Jacqui; Phil Bishop, civil servant, and the artistic Lydia Dixon. They called themselves Fight for Sudleigh; they were discussing the proposed development at the top of the road.

‘…destroy the rural character…’

‘…push down house prices…’

‘…what about the dormice?’

Martin pulled at the dark hairs on the back of his hand.

‘And what’s Bridget going to do about it?’ Phil asked, forcefully prodding the table.

Martin glanced across at him. ‘I’m not sure what she can do.’

‘She’s the District Councillor, Martin,’ Phil scoffed. ‘Surely she has some say.’

‘She can make a comment…’ Martin began.

‘We should write a letter to the Sudleigh Gazette,’ Clive stated.

Lydia raised an eyebrow and sipped her Pinot Noir.

‘We just want as many people as possible to post objections online,’ Martin said.

‘What about a leaflet drop?’ Phil rubbed his paunch.

‘Absolutely,’ Clive agreed, nodding.

‘And we need to demolish them at the planning committee,’ Phil advised.

‘Who’ll be spokesman?’ Susan asked.

‘I think Martin should do it,’ Clive said. ‘You’re good at that sort of thing.’

‘Agreed,’ Phil said.

‘I really don’t think…’ Martin gripped the edge of the table.

‘Show of hands everyone?’ Jacqui hinged forward, scanned the faces.

‘Look, I’d rather not get…’ Martin complained.

‘All those in favour of Martin presenting the argument?’ Jacqui proposed.

Martin massaged his forehead, forced a smile.

‘So that’s decided then,’ Hugh said, reaching for his glass.

‘How was Dubai, Susan?’ Lydia quietly asked.

*

It was freezing hard now, the pavement glittered with frost. He walked slowly homeward; he only lived a few doors away. Beside him tall hedges rose up, screening the set-back houses. The sharp air carried the musty tang of coal smoke. This was his road; it was where he’d put down roots, brought up a family. He stared ahead; two hundred yards further on, the road veered off at a right angle and the streetlights ceased. There was darkness beyond, where the fields took over from the town and rolled up the black hillside. No, they had to fight this development; it would change everything.

quotes

‘A brilliant first novel, extraordinary because it’s a hymn to the mundane, as intricately crafted as an Ayckbourn play. Crane’s special gift is to take you deep inside the psyche of suburban England at a time of incremental change. These estate agents and shopkeepers, careworkers and jobbing musicians are people you care about long after you reach the last page’

Ailsa Cox, Professor of Short Fiction, Edge Hill University

‘Jonathan Crane exposes the new heart of England with interwoven lives placed under the modern pressures that are blasting us into bits. A beautifully paced, gossipy, moving novel about a divided nation drifting out of touch with itself’

Matthew De Abaitua

‘Crane’s shrewd and witty observations of human foibles, hopes and self-delusions in fictional Sudleigh, the quintessence of middle England, capture a Larkinesque type of desolation, as well as unexpected moments of tenderness and elation’

Elizabeth Kuti

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ABOUT

Jonathan Crane

Jonathan Crane completed an MA Literature and a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Essex, where he is now an academic in Creative Writing. He also works with charities to design and deliver writing programmes in prison and community settings.

His previous writing includes fiction and academic papers. Formerly a musician/composer, he has released two albums. We Need to Talk is his first novel.

He currently lives in Hampshire.

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