When Michael Peel awakes on the most important day in his business calendar it is to find that he has undergone a transformation. Though superficial it is a change that immediately induces unbridled hysteria in his wife, the police are called and Mr Peel finds himself on the run - suspected of murder. Forced to impersonate a fictitious friend he embarks on a desperate adventure that will test every fibre of his being and culminate in a riot in Trafalgar Square.
Inspired by the grotesque comedies of Tom Sharpe and with a nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, The Peppered Moth is satirical novel that offers a lively romp through late Twentieth Century London. Pitilessly skewering such monsters as a loan company boss but equally scathing of the out-of-control mores of political correctness, this is a blast of fresh air that will have you laughing out loud.
Part of my inspiration for The Peppered Moth was a book I read as a teenager called Black Like Me by a remarkable journalist called John Howard Griffin. In it he describes a journey through the American South, disguised as a black man (he was white). Although what he did would not be acceptable now, for understandable reasons, it was a remarkable piece of investigative journalism at the time and the resulting book opened many people's eyes to the injustice of segregation.
Like 'Black Like Me', the theme of The Peppered Moth is 'walk a mile in my shoes', but it would be hard to imagine a more different book. It is a satire set in London and the South East of England in the 1990's. Very different times and a very different place. But although multicultural Britain was well established in the nineties it is not true to say that everyone was already colour blind - and in fact I believe that is yet to be achieved.
In the book I take an imaginative leap - describing a situation which I have not experienced myself. I believe in the human imagination and I do not think that we should say that a poor man can never write a story about a rich man, or a fat woman about a thin man - or any other kind of person about any other kind of person - or indeed object or animal. This, I believe, was Kafkas's chief point when he wrote Metamorphosis.
What matters is simply this - is the story any good? One of my favourite quotes is from Oscar Wilde who said that "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all." I am proud of The Peppered Moth but ultimately the judgement of its value lies in your hands.
The Peppered Moth has now been published on Amazon. You can check it out here:http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IPJIIR0
The Peppered Moth is now also available in paperback
A great read. It’s a classic repressed-Englishman story in the vein of Stars and Bars (William Boyd). Liked the way the plot whistled along, each step plausible, leading to mayhem. Noticeable that author tried hard to avoid appearance of racism, could perhaps have trusted reader to supply that goodwill. Given the premise, I can understand why, though.
The Peppered Moth is a modern day Metamorphosis, but rather than awakening as an insect, Michael Peel, a posh and sweary English stalwart, discovers he has become a black man overnight. It’s a brave and risky subject for any writer to tackle, particularly a white Englishman, but, for me, that was where a large part of the thrill lay; each time Preston appeared to be sailing a little close to the wind (e.g. when Peel visits his wife’s blind, racist aunt), the joke always lands on the bigot and Preston waltzes on to the next episode! The tale obviously addresses some weighty subjects, but does so without the narrator ever getting bogged down in needless moralising. It’s an enormously enjoyable caper, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
4.0 out of 5 stars Frothy fun to distract and amuse 8 July 2014 By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE Format:Kindle Edition It is always cheering to find a book that doesn't take itself too seriously, yet manages to convey the rewarding shudder of shadenfreude required to spice up your day.
This author's experienced grasp of the mysteries of moths, mothers, misunderstandings, stints at stand up comedy, all serve him well in this gently amusing, sharply observed, feel good, present day fairy tale.
Innocently waking up one morning, and an important one it is too, for Mr. Michael Peel, business wise; he finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a chap well, of another race, another, darker, skin tone. Having an annual board meeting to attend, he has to show himself to the world in his new guise, despite the disbelieving hysterics, screaming habdabs, of his distraught lady wife. Poor Michael, he has his work cut out from then on to avoid arrest for - the murder and disposal of - himself.
Weird, whacky, and wry, this story romps along at quite a pace. There is even a chase, not cars, but a squadron of BMX's, which adds to the sweet silliness of the construction. A crazy roller coaster of a day ensues, our anti hero Peel is beleaguered, bemused and yet he battles on. Unlikely allies appear to help him through, kindly folk and those with an eye for the main chance join his crew, all trying to make sense of his nonsensical story; including his blind old Aunt Alice, providing a delicious cameo of an Oscar Wilde-ish hand bagger.
Part pantomime, part farce, this e book will lift your spirits and give you a few hours off real life. I thought it ended a little hurriedly and the basic premise could be considered iffy although it was so well handled, I imagine it unlikely anyone could take offence.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner. 6 July 2014 By MHTF Format:Kindle Edition Excellent. A weird and wonderful tale that keeps you hooked until the end. The funny and confusing state of modern melting-pot London is hilariously depicted.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, made me weep with laughter 29 Jun 2014 By Mrs J Rogers Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I have to admit being at school with this author. Nevertheless my review is totally unasked-for and unpaid-for, so you should take me at my word. This is a hilarious and original story told with mighty gusto and literary succinctness. Well worth reading. Just make sure you have a tissue at hand and understanding people around you who won't be too worried about your paroxysms of laughter!
4.0 out of 5 stars a good laugh 6 April 2014 By rhewit Format:Kindle Edition I found this book amusing from the start, and it romps along nicely. It is a quick and zippy read
"Loved, I mean LOVED The Peppered Moth. It has a deliciously cosy, old-fashioned English sense of humour, wrapped around a modern message about race relations in modern multicultural Britain, bourgeois preconceptions and the role of the media. Right from the opening scene (and I use the word scene as it is a very filmic piece), with Mr Peel contemplating his espadrilles and worrying about fish and mortgage payments, you are 100% engaged with this character. He starts off as a recognisably unremarkable man, deeply English and slightly stuffy. In his inadequacy and propensity for embarrassment and 'skirting the issue' he is J Alfred Prufrock meets Basil Fawlty. He's not possessed of much courage but, as his situation becomes increasingly bizarre and farcical, as with all good heroes, he finds hitherto uncalled for reserves of strength and character. The resolution is a delight and when the moth set-up is finally paid off it is as satisfying as good sneeze brought on by a dose of pepper." Carol Cooper, magazine copy editor.
Please read the opening passages of The Peppered Moth below:
It was a dreary Friday morning and Michael Peel awoke and lay listening to the rain pattering on the window in his comfortable, tatty bedroom. For a while he stared sightlessly at an old pair of pale blue espadrilles in a string bag that hung on the back of the door as his wife of the last forty-two years brushed her teeth in the bathroom. Michael used the few moments of waking repose to order his thoughts.
Once a year, Michael Peel and Associates undertook a small but nevertheless important public relations service for a personal loan company, a direct ancestor of the payday loan firms that today grow fat through hideous interest rates. The task was not onerous, involving little more than the now archaic business of sending a few faxes to the press as well as the organisation of a board meeting and a lunch, but there were opportunities for cock ups and anxiety is sometimes generated, not by the difficulty of a task, but by the level of importance attached to its being carried off without a hitch. In addition, Michael Peel and Associates only really had one employee, which was of course himself.
He had selected salmon for the lunch, on the principal that he liked it, but a vague memory of someone saying something negative about fish caused him to roll over and swing his legs off the edge of the bed, the whole movement powered by an adrenalin rush. Charles Dryesdale, the CEO of the personal loan firm Dryesdale Ltd., had once told him he was sick of salmon. Why was he only remembering this now? His ageing brain was letting him down.
He heard the toilet flush and the sound of taps running and he relaxed slightly. Caroline would reassure him. There was a sharp clack as the bathroom door opened and he heard her bare feet approaching across the upstairs landing. He remained seated on the edge of the bed as she pushed open the bedroom door, still rubbing moisturiser into her face, her dyed ash-blonde hair in disarray.
“There’s a problem with fish,” he said, enjoying the cryptic nature of this short sentence. Good to keep the old girl on her toes, he thought, expecting a note of ritual irritation in her reply.
Instead she let out an abrupt bark of naked terror.
It was not a sound Mr Peel had heard before but he interpreted it as meaning that an intruder was in the room behind him. He instinctively raised his hands to protect the back of his head before turning and scanning the bedroom for assailants.
The lack of an intruder confused him. He looked up towards the ceiling as though expecting to find some fiendish Ninja figure affixed to the picture rail. Finding nothing, he turned back to Caroline for her explanation, only to find that she had reversed out of the bedroom and was standing with her back pressed to the wall of the upstairs landing.
“What’s happening?” he demanded with real urgency.
“Michael?” she shouted.
“What are yo..?”
“Michael?” she shouted again, her questioning inflection making no sense whatsoever.
“What are you doing woman?” he demanded, beginning to give rein to his mounting irritation. “Why are you shouting my bloody name when I’m sitting here in front of you?”
He stood up and she glanced at him with fresh alarm. She seemed to find him abhorrent.
“Get out of my bedroom at once,” she commanded. The order was strident and delivered at a low pitch, similar to that used to rebuke Robert, their spaniel, when he shat on the carpet.
“What the hell has got into you?” asked Mr Peel, but instead of answering she slid silently away down the corridor, knocking, with her head, a series of framed prints featuring the moths of Papua New Guinea. One of these fell to the ground, its glass front shattering, but she didn’t even glance at it. She gripped the top of the banister and deftly swung herself around it, so that she was immediately heading, still barefoot and in her pale green cotton nightdress, down the stairs.
Mr Peel was extremely annoyed and he seriously considered shouting the word “bugger” with all the force of his lungs but held off out of a desire to get things on an even keel. It was a very important day and his wife’s alarming behaviour was threatening everything. His mind raced through the details of their financial woes.
Unlike most of their friends, Mr and Mrs Peel were still saddled with large mortgage payments. As a Lloyd’s ‘Name’ of long standing, Mr Peel had benefited from hefty dividends right up to the end of the 1980’s, when he had abruptly discovered the true meaning of the words ‘unlimited liability’. Members were required to cover massive losses and many went bankrupt, but Mr Peel saw it as a matter of honour to meet his obligations. He had sold what he owned and started again.
His recovery from this catastrophe had been hobbled by the recession of the early 1990’s, which had cruelly depleted his business, forcing him to sell what remained of his share portfolio, the value of which was at a pitifully low ebb, just to keep up with the mortgage payments. Now, in the mid nineties, although the economy had recovered, Mr Peel’s old clients tended to see him as someone approaching retirement (as indeed he was) and they took their business elsewhere. Bills seemed to come in at murderous rate every day and there had been occasions when he had been forced to ask Caroline to cut back on the weekly groceries. They were due to make a mortgage payment the following week and he needed to deposit the £12,000 that was due from Dryesdale or the final series of direct debit payments simply would not occur. Until his Royal Sun Alliance pension kicked in the following spring this was the last lump of money he was likely to receive.
He organised the harsh facts in his mind, preparing a short and serious speech that he would deliver to Caroline in the kitchen. Whatever nonsense she had rustled up, she was to lay it aside. The truth was they were sunk without the £12,000 and she would be made to calm down and put her hysterics off until tomorrow.
He walked into the bathroom and as he did he heard his wife talking on the telephone in the kitchen below. She sounded calmer, as though dealing with an urgent plumbing problem. He could not hear what she was saying but the sound reassured him. When all was said and done she was a practical old boot. Perhaps she was checking herself into an asylum.
The bathroom door was open and he stepped up to the sink, looking down at the chaotic arrangement of toothbrushes and disposable razors in an old chipped Fortnum and Mason’s mug. He homed in on his blue toothbrush and was about to pluck it out when he became aware of a shadow in the mirror. It was inappropriately dark and caused a pure abstract terror to grip his heart. He looked up and found himself staring, eyeball-to-eyeball, at what he could only describe as...