Friday, May 3, 2013

Gregory Heath's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze is a new mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC that will post every Friday in October. The participating authors were challenged to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Drowning "Thoughts of Maria" in Booze...

Thoughts of Maria is a multi-narrative novel, in which each of the main characters relates their own experiences. Here are the characters (and their drinks):

Maria is a nineteen year old Filipina, who lives with her family on a rubbish dump in Manila. They are desperately poor, but they are proud, decent people and it is love, not poverty, which binds them together. There is no money for luxuries such as alcohol, though this will change when Maria meets (and subsequently agrees to marry) Gerry, a recently divorced Englishman in his late forties:

We ate back at the hotel in the evening, and I chose the food. I have not eaten so well for a very long time. We had chicken and pork adobo, followed by hot rice cakes with butter and coconut, and a bottle of Chilean wine. There were some silences between us, but it did not seem to matter.
We are meeting again tomorrow. Gerry says that if we are both happy with the arrangement, we need no longer talk to other people. I think we are both happy with the arrangement.

Gerry is a property surveyor who specialises in old buildings. He is a traditional Englishman through and through, so it’s definitely beer for him. In fact he is having a beer with his son Callum, sitting out in the back yard one evening, when he tells him of his plans to marry Maria:

I wanted to get to the point, but I needed to explain myself properly. I was nursing my beer bottle in both hands now, gazing at it. ‘I was walking into the newsagent’s a few months ago,’ I said. ‘I saw this couple. They looked really content… She was a lot younger than him, and she was oriental… I wondered if they’d met through an agency. I kept thinking about it afterwards… And I’ve met a young lady myself… Her name’s Maria.’

Callum, however, is more into his drugs than his alcohol:

Coke’s my drug of choice. It might not last long but while you’re on it’s like you’re superhuman, alive to every tingle of every nerve ending in your body. I’ve seen some people get wired on it but for me it’s always good. And, God, what it does for music. A banging tune is a great thing anytime, but after a bit of Charlie we’re talking another dimension. You feel the music in you, as physical as the heart pounding in your chest, lifting you up, driving you on.
Yeah, there are dangers if you overdo it. Too much and you’ll burn half your nose out, and there’s always the risk of ending up with a batch that’s been cut with something deadly, but at the end of the day that’s just a risk worth taking. Because what’s the point of a long life if you’ve never truly lived, eh? Honestly, what’s the point?

Rachel is Gerry’s ex-wife (and Callum’s mother). Now trapped in a loveless relationship with Carl, she is extremely unhappy, and is slipping rapidly into alcoholism. She drinks vodka, and plenty of it:

Now I’m a proper drinker. I sit at the breakfast bar, or at the kitchen table, and I drink vodka. And it doesn’t help me. It helps Carl, in a way, after a while, because I get to the stage where I no longer want to kill him. Because I realise that it’s all my fault. That I’m a stupid bitch and I should have known. That I should have known from the beginning, because I’ve never been special, and I never will be. I am ordinary, just that, and anything else could only ever be an illusion. I should have stayed with Gerry, in our ordinary life. I should have been grateful that he wanted me. But I wasn’t, and now I can’t go back. Because Gerry has shaken me off like dust.

I'm a British writer from a little town called Melbourne, in Derbyshire, England. My poems and short stories appear frequently in literary magazines and I have published two novels.
The main theme of my work is people’s inability to communicate in a meaningful way with those whom they love, and this idea forms the basis of my first novel, ‘The Entire Animal’, which was published in 2006 by The Waywiser Press.
My second novel, ‘Thoughts of Maria’, published in 2013 by Open Books, continues this theme, but also touches on wider issues such as drugs, arranged marriages and sexual obsession.
I love to hear from my readers - visit my website at or tweet me @_GregoryHeath! 

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