It was so strange how this book came about. At first Charlie was only meant to be the sub character throughout the whole story, and Annie was meant to be the protagonist. Although Annie plays a massive part in the book, and yes the story does revolve around her to a certain degree, it was Charlie's character that took over. I just loved writing him as he was such a complex character. He's not a good man, far from it as, if you do read the book, you will find out. But he has a soft side to him, and a vulnerable side to him and on top the rough tough attitude he has, all he is after is someone to be with. Unfortunately for Annie, she's the one Charlie picks with disastrous results.
So there I was with my first draft all finished, but I knew I was far from happy with what I had. I knew then I wanted Charlie to play a much bigger part. So, I started again and wrote the whole thing again. When it was finished I was starting to become a great deal happier with how it was progressing. And now, it's all done and out there. The thing is with this book I just released it without any fanfares advertisements, no blog post nothing. The reason I did this was because of Charlie's character being let's say somewhat devious, and far from likeable. So i just put it out there to see how people would react to it. And to my great pleasure everyone loved the book. Of course they hated Charlie saying that he got under their skin. One reviewer even said they wanted to give Charlie a good slap. When I read these reviews, I thought, yeah-great, just exactly as I wanted them to think. Anyway, let's see how it goes with this one.
Silhouette of a Broken Man is a novel with the theme of jealousy running through it and what damage it can cause.
It starts off with Charlie, a young man from London who has got his eye on a certain young lady, who he tricks into going to Scotland with him to stay with his aunt.
When they get there, Charlie soon finds out the death of his Uncle Frazer many years ago may not have been an accident after all. The thing is, he’s not bothered at all about the evidence he has uncovered telling him this, but he knows he can use it to blackmail his uncle’s killers. The problem is, he may have got it very wrong, and that combined with the jealous feelings he has for his new boss, bring about a disastrous end.
Charlie Chambers loves to makes plans; he swears by them. Unfortunately, they rarely bear fruit for the young man and often land him in the hottest of water. Now he has another. This one is fool proof, and it just can't go wrong. Just as well, because the stakes are sky high.
If it works, the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with will no doubt think he's the hero he aspires to be. If it fails, it means trouble, and a lot of it. It could even mean death to the girl he loves.
As the hours go on, the lure of Scotland calls, and more sinister plans have to be made, especially when he is given a letter written by the hand of his dead aunt. But one thing Charlie didn't account for in his master plan - was the green eyed monster of jealousy, a love rival, a village full of lies, and a man named Mad Harry.
Dolly Chambers always had high hopes for her son, as she proudly watched him grow up. As a matter of fact, she often said, one of her great wishes would be that one day, he would follow in his father’s footsteps, and be just like him.
The thing is, he did exactly that. The problem was; unbeknown to Dolly, her husband wasn’t the true, steadfast man she thought he was. In fact, he was quite the opposite. He was a swindler and thief at best, and if that wasn’t bad enough, most of his life was spent trying his hardest to find out new ways to con the good folk of North Shields out of their hard-earned wages.
Unfortunately for Dolly, she was not as street-wise as most of the other women who lived around the Quayside, on the River Tyne. They could see what her husband was like and often warned her about him and what he was up to. Sadly, she was so blind to her husband’s criminal ways that she put this down to jealousy of her friends, and ignored their cries of advice. This caused friction from time to time, but one thing was, when Dolly failed to see what her husband was up to, most of her friends put this sightlessness down to nothing less than blind love.
Then again, he wasn’t all bad some would say. At least he had a job that he went to every morning; well at least most mornings when he didn’t have a hangover. He got up at seven, had a quick breakfast, normally a bowl of cornflakes, and a cigarette, before walking the twenty minutes or so to a small industrial area at Percy Main. When he got there, every morning was the same. A bollocking from the foreman for being five minutes late, which was always ignored.
His job wasn’t hard either. All he had to do was count the palettes going in and out of the yard. One day the foreman was off sick, which made him smile, because this meant he was to write up the check sheets. Of course, he wasn’t going to let an opportunity like this go by. So after a short time, a few fives, became a four on his list. Before long he had quite a stock of very expensive goods hidden in a dark corner of the warehouse that nobody ever went to. Being quite pleased with himself, all he needed to do was sell it to the highest bidder. The problem was, this highest bidder just happened to be a very upstanding man of the community, and also the best friend of the owner of the business.
A few months later, Frank Chambers was up before the courts on the charge of theft. A few days after that, and because the idiot pleaded his innocence, as well as conducting his own defence in court, he was handed a twelve-month sentence.
So what a moron I’ve turned out to be, Dolly thought as she watched the guard grab him by the arm to take him down to the cells, still protesting he had done nothing wrong, shouting to the jury that had already made up their minds before he could prove his innocence.
‘Well Charlie,’ she said to her son sitting beside her in the public gallery, looking like he was not bothered in the slightest. ‘What do you make of that? A full year of being on our own, without your father.’
‘I’m surprised he didn’t get more, the stupid prick,’ he replied not caring a hoot how long he was put away for. The only thing that bothered him was the amount of time he had wasted, listening to the judge being a patronising old git. ‘Still,’ he said to his mother. ‘I’ve got my dole money today, so I’m going out tonight for a few beers down the Mariners Arms.’
‘A few beers?’ his mother questioned, raising her eyes in despair. ‘Is that all you can think about? Christ Charlie, it looks like your father won’t be coming home for a long time, and you can only think about throwing a few glasses of lager down your neck. Anyway, what you class as a few beers, and what the rest of the world classes as a few beers are two completely different things. That means you’ll be rolling in at God knows what time, mortal drunk.’
‘No, don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Two or three at the most,’ Charlie answered, as Dolly thought about her son and what the future would hold for him. And not for the first time in her life, Dolly was worried sick. The reason being, many of the traits his father had when he was young, she could see developing in Charlie too. But a great deal worse.
Dolly looked at Charlie somewhat dismayed, and then she remembered what she had hoped for all those years. ‘I’ll tell you what Charlie,’ she said sadly. ‘Let me give you some good advice. Always remember. Be careful what you wish for; it might just come true.’
Charlie looked back at his mother, not having a clue what she was on about, didn’t reply. Instead, his thoughts went to what he would be up to later that night. He knew he was going to go to the pub, that was a given. However, he also knew he would be going in the hope a certain young lady would be working behind the bar. And it would be fair to say Charlie certainly had his eye on her.
Annie was her name, and an attractive lady she was too. Tall, slim, with long dark hair, and a face some folk would call angelic. Unfortunately for Charlie, Annie was somewhat selective in her type of men, and even though Charlie had a thing for her, it could not be said, that it went the other way.
Not that she was standoffish in any way. She just wasn’t foolish and knew any type of relationship with a half brain like Charlie Chambers was simply never going to happen. No matter how hard he tried.
Of course Charlie could not understand this at first. It wasn’t until Rob Fowler, the local window cleaner put him straight, when they were both sitting in the bar drinking beer.
‘You have to try and understand women,’ Rob said to Charlie, giving him the wisdom of his years. Not that many would imply he was anywhere near wise mind you. ‘The thing is with Annie, she’s a cut above the rest,’ he carried on. ‘To have a girl like her, you must be better than the rest. You have to show her you can give her a future. Look at you. You’re a mess, your life’s a mess, and you’ve got no money to even take her to the pub for a half a pint of lager, never mind a swanky meal out in Tynemouth.’
‘I’ve got money, quite a bit, if you must know,’ Charlie retorted. ‘And I’ve got a job, as you well know.’
‘Oh, come on Charlie, everyone knows you’re just like your father. Money slips through your hands like water. As soon as you get it, it goes straight in that till behind the bar.’
‘That’s not right, I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Every time I get paid, or my dole money comes through, I’ve always put something to one side, and now I’ve got a good wedge saved up.’
‘Oh yeah,’ Rob laughed not believing a word. ‘So how much have you got?’
‘Probably more than what you’ve ever had in your life.’
‘Have you now? Okay, say if I were to believe you, which I don’t by the way. You may well have enough to take her out for the night, but what Annie wants is more that a good night out. She wants someone who can give her what she needs for the rest of her life, not just a couple of hours.’
‘Well, I can do that. As I said I have a job, and I get my dole money.’
‘Yes Charlie, and I dare say you might have to pay some of your dole money back. Because, sooner or later, someone is going to shop you to the dole office for fiddling. Why you keep boasting to people you’re on the dole and working is beyond me. Anyway, you and me, we’re both birds of a feather. I clean windows for some rich bloke who lives in Newcastle somewhere. He pays me a shit wage on which to live on. I’m not going to get rich, unless those six little numbers come up. And neither are you, working for the peanuts you get; or fiddling the dole for that matter. You’ve got to go and make your own luck in this world Charlie, and there are only two ways to do it. One is to start your own business and let’s face it you’re not clever enough for that. The second is to go down the rickety road of crime. Everyone knows you’ve also tried that too, and that didn’t work out so well for you either. Just face facts Charlie, as far as your life goes, you’re fucked.’
Charlie wanted to respond by smacking the man in front of him, but he knew he would just get up again and smack him back even harder. The thing is, Charlie thought about what the window cleaner had just said, and his words hit home. He was right! His life was going nowhere fast. He also knew he never had it in him to do anything like start his own business, or anything else for that matter. He just wasn’t clever enough in his own eyes, or anyone else’s. So according to Rob, there was only one other option, and that was to go down the road of the criminal.
So that’s what Charlie did for the next few months. He turned to crime. However, it should be said that he should have listened carefully to Rob when he said that he wasn’t cut out for making a career as a criminal. It was only two months after that conversation, he did the same as his father, and tried to steal from the man he was working for.
Unfortunately, just like his father, he was caught red-handed. However, that’s where the similarity ended. His father went to jail for his crimes, but lucky for Charlie, he was let off with the sack.
Nevertheless, things changed a great deal for Dolly and Charlie after only a few months. Charlie’s father had been released from prison. However, within two days he packed his bag and made a bee-line down south, stating he was never coming back. So there they were, once again, all alone.
This didn’t bother Charlie, but it bothered Dolly. Again, she worried about the future. However, things seem to have a habit of sorting themselves out, and Dolly’s life changed again. This change was in the form of the local baker of all people. Jack was his name, and it just happened, his wife had had enough of the North East and couldn’t wait to get on the next train back to London. As soon as she heard her mother had died, leaving her house to her in her will, that was it, she was off.
So Jack was all alone, and so was Dolly. Cupid pulled at his bow, and soon the two of them were all over each other like a rash. A week later, Dolly, along with Charlie, moved in with him into his small two-bed flat above the bakery shop.
Charlie was more than happy with this arrangement. Especially when Jack gave him a job as a general dogsbody, so he could earn a few extra pounds to put in his back pocket. To give Charlie his due, he even stuck at it, and enjoyed it. This pleased Dolly, as it also kept him out of the pub, and before long, things were looking up in his life. It pleased her even more when she realised, he even managed to save some of his wages under his mattress. Of course both Jack and his mother knew it was there, but as far as the two of them were concerned, it was as safe as houses.
Dolly was happy. She filed for a divorce from Frank, who seemed like he was happy living his life down in the south somewhere. He never put any obstacles in the way of the divorce, so Dolly was free to live her life and move on. Likewise, Jack and his wife. They too got divorced. So all were happy, and life moved on. But, there was always something in the back of Dolly’s mind niggling away. She just knew something, somewhere would go wrong and spoil everything.
This something happened a few years after she moved in with Jack, just a few days before Charlie’s twenty-fourth birthday. It was already late evening and dark. Jack was out with his mates playing darts in the Mariners Arms at the end of Saville Street, and she was sitting quite happily watching the start of News at ten.
Charlie came storming in, slamming the door behind him. He ran up the stairs, banging on every one of them in a temper. At first he didn’t even acknowledge his mother, as he ran straight to his room. After less than ten seconds, he left again, shouting something like, ‘I’ll show that stupid twat I’m no idiot.’
‘Why, what’s happened?’ his mother shouted. But no answer came back as she watched his lanky frame run back down the stairs, slamming the door once again as he made his way onto the street.
Instinct told her to look under his mattress, and when she pulled it back, her fears were quickly confirmed. His money was gone.
Despite his many faults, Charlie was a good little saver, and Dolly knew this as fact. More often that not, when he was working downstairs in the back bakery, she had a sneaky look at how much he had saved. After all this time, it was a tidy sum of money.
Mother’s intuition told her this was not going to be a good day for her son. She pulled on her jacket and shoes before running out onto the street looking for him. She did not know why, but it was the strangest of feelings in her gut that was telling her to head towards Northumberland Square, in the centre of the town. It was only the week before when she looked out of the window of the bus and looked towards the statue of the Wooden Dolly. Sitting at her feet were a group of young lads openly selling drugs. She was saddened by this sight, but what shocked her to the core was when she saw Charlie take a small package from someone wearing a dark hoody.
Of course he denied it when she quizzed him about it. But, after a while, he relented and told her it was nothing more than a couple of joints. Dolly was still annoyed at that, and worried. But this time, the worry that she had the week before, was nothing to what she was feeling now. Because this time she was sure, it wasn’t just a twenty quid wrap. This time, the price was in the high hundreds; and that meant jail.
Dolly, half walking, half running made her way towards Northumberland Square with an obvious sense of panic on her face. On the way she thought she saw Charlie, but only for a second as someone switched a light on in some doorway illuminating a small entrance where he was standing on the other side of the street.
‘Charlie,’ she shouted, just as a bus pulled up in the bus stop in front of her blocking her view. Hurriedly she ran towards the back of the bus hoping to cross the road behind it. Being busier than it normally was, this was easier said than done, especially as two other cars came down the road, following the bus. One of them blasted its horn as she stepped out on the road. Startled, she jumped back onto the pathway, tripping over the kerb, as the car simply drove away.
By the time she got back on her feet and brushed herself down, the car was long gone. The door entrance was again in darkness, as whoever switched on the light had now switched it off again. Then as luck would have it, there was a gap in the traffic and a chance to cross the road. She took it and moved quickly to the doorway. Again, whoever switched the light off only a few seconds before, for some reason switched it back on again. This time, illuminating another man standing in the doorway.
Her heart sank as the person who she thought might have been her son, this time was someone else. This man was nothing like her son, he was not of a skinny type of build; he was a stocky type with a fat belly, and she recognised him instantly.
The man looked at her and gave a grin, a grin that turned her stomach. In his hand was a small white envelope, just like the one Charlie kept under his mattress. Now she was worried, but what was she to do? Charlie was up to something, and this something had to do with one of the men she hated most in this world. It was the same person who had drained the life out of many good men and women of this hard part of Shields. His name was Harry Smithson, or Mad Harry as most of the locals knew him by. He was a local thug who was detested by most people who lived here, and if anyone could have put a knife in his back, and get away with it, many would have done it long before now. He preyed on the local businessmen, and women by putting the fear of God in them, and boy, did he love doing it.
Dolly gently closed the front door behind her, somewhat stupefied at what she had just witnessed. She hung her jacket on the peg next to the others, then noticed Charlie’s also there. Relief showed on her face, as she knew her son was home safe. Saying that, she still hoped he could come up with some sort of a reasonable explanation as to what she had just saw. She slowly made her way up the stairs when she heard a noise from the kitchen. Her heart warmed by the sound of him making a cup of tea.
'Hi Mam,’ he said cheerfully as she came in. ‘Do you want one? There’s plenty of hot water in the kettle.’
‘That would be nice Charlie, then we can have a talk,’ she said softly.
‘About what you’re up to. First you come in here stomping up the stairs in a hell of a temper, and now you’re acting like a happy bunny.’
‘Well, to answer your first part of the question, I was upset with that stupid Rob Freeman. He’s nothing but a poxy window cleaner himself, and I’m just sick of him telling me how to run my life. He’s been saying for years what I should do, and what I shouldn’t. I’ve had enough of him, that’s all.’
‘Oh yeah, what’s he been saying now?’
‘He was calling me stupid again, just because I wanted to buy Annie a present. The problem was, I didn’t have enough money to get her anything worthwhile.’
‘What do you mean; buy Annie a present? She’s not your girlfriend Charlie,’ his mum replied despondent. ‘What did you want to buy her anyway?’
‘Last week; when we were in her café, she said she would love to go the Bahamas, but she hasn’t got the money. So I thought we could go together. The problem is, it costs a fortune, and I haven’t got that much money saved up. Not yet, but I’m working on it.’
‘Oh Charlie! When will you ever learn? She doesn’t want you as a boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely girl, and I think the world of her. But you two would never make a couple. Why don’t you just try to find someone else? There must be loads of young girls your age around here looking for boyfriends.’
‘Annie doesn’t want me because I haven’t got much money. That’s what Rob said. But that’s going to change soon.’
‘Charlie, I know you are very fond of Annie, and I’m sure she’s very fond of you too. But can’t you see, even if you had money coming out of your ears, you two wouldn’t fit together. And as for going on holiday, that’s just a pipe dream. Also, I’ve known Annie for a number of years now, and she doesn’t chase men for money.’
‘Well, we’ll soon find out, because I have a plan to make some extra cash. Mam, I’m sick and tired of the likes of Rob Fowler always having a go at me because I’ve got nothing. But mark my words, that’s going to change in the next few days.’
Dolly grabbed the edge of the table tightly knowing what was going to come next. She had a question to ask him, but she wasn’t looking forward to the answer she was expecting. She loved her son despite his many faults, and come hell or high water, she was determined to help him no matter what he was up to. Somehow she had a feeling this was going to be one of these times when he needed her help. Unfortunately, she knew this time, just like all the other times, her offers of help would fall on deaf ears. She still asked the question anyway. ‘Charlie; are you doing some sort of deal with Harry Smithson?’
‘Have you been spying on me?’
‘Hardly spying, but yes, I did follow you in case you were going to do something stupid again. I saw you talking to him, and I’ve a horrible feeling about it.’
‘He’s going to help me out.’
‘No Charlie, no,’ Dolly replied raising her voice in frustration with her son. ‘He’s not going to help you out, not in the slightest. For crying out loud, the man is a criminal through and through. Don’t you know what type of man he is? He’s the lowest of the low, and with the morals of the devil.’
‘No Mum, listen. He said he has a thing going on that can make me some money. He wants me to be an investor, and you know what, I’m going to take up his offer. For years everyone has been telling me I’m no good, and I will come to nothing. Just like my father.’
‘Well, they will be right if you start dealing with that madman, and you will end up in jail. Just like your father did; if not worse.’
‘What do you mean worse?’
Dolly took a breath of exasperation. For years she had tried to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he just couldn’t see it. The bottom line was her son had a criminal mentality. He often saw crime as a way to make it big in life. He looked up to the wrong people. To him, the heroes of the day, were the men who got away with it, the men who drove down the road in their sporty looking hatchback cars, windows open and music blasting. To her great despair, there wasn’t a thing she could say, or do that would make him change his mind, but she was determined to have one last try.
‘Do you know what the latest rumour is?’
‘About what?’ he answered.
‘Mad Harry Smithson and Joshua Able, the bookshop owner.’
‘Joshua Able’s dead; you know he is,’ Charlie answered wondering what his mother was getting at. ‘He died in the fire at his shop last week.’
‘Yes, of course I know,’ Dolly answered her son back. ‘I also know it was arson. It was in the Chronicle. Someone put a burning rag through his letter box setting the place on fire.’
‘What’s that got to do with Harry Smithson?’
‘Because the rumour is, that it was either him, or his mate Jim Evans who did it, or at least one of his other stupid sidekicks. Apparently he stopped paying his weekly protection money saying he couldn’t afford it anymore. Of course Harry Smithson wasn’t bothered whether he could afford it or not. So he decided to teach him a lesson; didn’t he?’
‘So what are you saying?’
‘Jesus Christ Charlie, you are thick,’ Dolly replied somewhat demoralised with her son. ‘Can you not see; Harry Smithson has killed that poor man because he refused to pay him any more protection money. All Joshua Able wanted to do was make an honest living, and that man who said he wants to help you make some extra cash killed him. Now can’t you see why I’m so worried about you? The man isn’t going to help you, or if he is, he’s only going to help you go straight to jail.’
‘I’ll be fine Mum, just wait and see. Harry’s not as bad as people make him out to be.’ Dolly sighed once again,
‘Do you know Jack has to pay Harry Smithson every Friday night, regular as clockwork, just to keep his bakery from burning down.’
‘Jack’s a wanker,’ Charlie replied.
‘Oh, he is, is he?’ his mother replied back at her son now very aggravated. ‘You’re an ungrateful sod at times Charlie Chambers. Jack has done everything he can for you. Remember, he’s the only man on this planet who has done anything to help you. For Christ’s sake, he gave you a job when he didn’t even need help.’
‘That was years ago,’ Charlie protested.
‘That’s irrelevant. The point I’m making is, Jack has done nothing but helped you, and he’s a good man. But while we’re on the subject of helping; how is Harry Smithson meant to be helping you?’
Charlie took his time answering, as he knew his mother was right about Jack. He was a good man without a doubt, even though Charlie always thought he was a weak person by paying his weekly protection payments to Mad Harry. But Harry was strong, and the strong will overpower the weak every day of the year. So he deserved it in his eyes. Now it was time for him to be strong. He pushed his shoulders back and answered his mother.
‘I have given all of my savings to Harry. He said he will put my money on a horse he knows is going to win a race tomorrow. He told me he has connections in the racing world.’
‘Oh my God Charlie, and you think he’s going to give you a big wad of cash as winnings don’t you?’
‘That’s what he said. The horse is something like ten to one. I’ve given him nearly a thousand pounds, so I’ll get a fortune back by tomorrow night.’
‘No Charlie, you won’t. When will you ever learn?’
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