Audiobook: Backstories by Simon Van der Velde, narrated by Bobby Hirston, Catherine Dryden, Simon Van der Velde and Stacey Patterson

Published by Smoke and Mirrors Press


Can you find the famous person hidden in every story? And once found, can you understand them?

‘Ingenious idea, brilliantly executed’ – Daily Mirror

Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ – is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice – but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them – leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

This book is comprised of short stories, each one tells the tale of a famous/notorious person and it’s the reader’s job to work out who is being described, the biggest hints are dropped at the end of the story so you find yourself taking in more information when you’re trying to guess early on. I’d recommend this book as a fun roadtrip game (for adults) to see who can work out the mystery person first.

I couldn’t help but giggle  when I reached  one story with a character called Nia whose name is shouted repeatedly… and pronounced incorrectly. My name so rarely crops up in literature, it cracked me up – so close, but no cigar!

The mystery people featured in the stories aren’t too obscure though some are pretty UK specific, it was gratifying to know I could work them all out without too much head scratching.

The writing helps you build an emotional rapport with the character, though the stories are a bit liberal with the facts they are intriguing and make you hang on until the end.

Multiple narrators for this anthology was a great idea, they each contributed something unique to their stories and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I would mention that there is use of the n-word (historically accurate though it may be) so discretion is advised.

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