Fishermen’s Tales, the self-published debut novel by Peter Kennedy, is the product of seven years of writing. Born and raised in Hartlepool, Kennedy moved to East London with the aim of making it as a writer 20 years ago. After unsuccessfully going down the traditional route of sending his work out to agents, Kennedy decided to do it himself.
“Fishermen’s Tales is a DIY project, bath-tub gin for the working classes,” says Kennedy. “This is a literature that came from the streets, passed on by the people word of mouth – one of my objectives when I was writing it was that my mother would be able to read it. I’m trying to reclaim and romanticise the working class heritage that I came from.”
Kennedy’s novel – a collection of closely linked stories about a village and plague taken from 18th century fishing village folklore, and influenced by the Old Testament, the Brothers Grimm and Kennedy’s mother – showcases some excellent writing. Kennedy lures you in with his fairytale-like prose in stories such as ‘Auto-da-Fe’, writing about a “deep dark forest” and a “strange little man” who has not gone to bed early tonight because “tonight his house is on fire.”
The writing works best when it is clean. Some chapters lose pace in the dialogue, and there are occasional inconsistencies in tone, such as in the final chapter when switching from the more formal – “was not” – to the informal – “gonna” – in the
As a physical object, Fishermen’s Tales is underwhelming; the quality of paper is poor and the front cover is less than inviting. But to use that old cliché, do not judge a book by its cover.
Fishermen’s Tales is reminiscent of Cynan Jones’s The Dig in that it’s a lean book of separate parts, engaging with the environment and feelings of isolation. While not without flaws, it’s a promising debut.
Fishermen’s Tales is published by J Publishing Company.