Source: Own copy
Publication: 24 September 2021
Best-selling novelist David Mark’s first work of non-fiction is an excruciatingly honest account of living with acute mental illness.
This lyrical, raw and painfully funny memoir explores how it feels to house a monster inside your head: a slavering, seductive beast that whispers ‘kill yourself’ just when you start to think you’re happy. It’s the story of finding love and raising a family in the face of mania, depression, OCD, addiction, hallucinations, suicidal ideation, chronic anxiety and a genuine genius for self-sabotage.
Piece of Mind deals with the reality of waking every day and choosing not to die. It’s about keeping on keeping on. It’s about fighting for your life when death seems so much easier. It’s about becoming a best-selling novelist and fulfilling your dreams and then feeling so utterly empty inside that an ocean of whisky isn’t enough. Sounds bleak? It’s damn funny too.
How can you review what goes on in someone’s head? How do you weigh up prose that is the telling of so many unpalatable truths about the writer that it must have taken a degree of genuine courage to put down on paper?
I have pondered this for a while and decided that you don’t. What you do is talk about the impact the book had on you, and so that’s what this is.
David Mark is a terrific writer and he uses his skills to great effect in this searingly honest and very raw memoir. Piece of Mind is a book in which David explains how his mental illness has impacted on all aspects of his life and tries to give the reader a glimpse into the chaos that goes on inside his mind.
It helps that Mark is very self-aware and so his honesty comes from a place of understanding that self-delusion won’t work here – it has to be his truth or nothing. He’s also adept at deflection – his humour turns some pretty dreadful behaviour into something that feels more palatable because he – and you – can laugh about it. But make no mistake – under that knowing laughter lies a world of hurt and pain and it is on show here for you to know and understand.
It is the only book I have read that deals with what’s going on in the head of someone who is genuinely suicidal a lot of the time and it has helped me to understand how black that feeling is and why all my instinctive reactions in trying to help someone in that situation are worse than useless. If this book achieves anything important it is this lesson – learn to listen, show love and be there when it matters, without judgement.
All the time I’m writing this I am worrying about how David Mark is going to respond to people reading his book. How he’s going to feel about putting it into the world for the people he knows to read it. How his children and partners – present and former are going to react. I guess it will help that they know him and have lived through a lot of this stuff with him. Still, it can’t be easy when you are full of suicidal thoughts and you then stir up a hornet’s nest of recollections.
It helps that he is in a place today where he loves and is loved and that, very clearly, is the biggest help to his ability to carry on living from day to day.
There are so many demons lurking in Mark’s head that everything is fraught with danger. He talks about his relationships, his addictions and his suicidal ideation – and we see from all of this very clearly just how truly awful our public mental health services are and how few resources they have at their disposal. Mental health services in this country are an absolute disgrace and though that’s not the purpose of this book, it should rouse you to anger and action because lives could be saved if they were better.
Piece of Mind is an intense and very readable book. It is unquestionably a book I’d want everyone to read to enhance their understanding of how adverse mental health can impact on one individual. I know more about David Mark now than I wanted to and I hope that helps me to better understand the daily struggle he lives through as a writer, as a partner and as a father.
I think this is a brave book. It is certainly a brutally honest one and yes, it’s sometimes funny because only laughter will protect the raw and unvarnished truth.
I really, really think everyone should read it.
David spent more than fifteen years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with the Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.He has been championed by such industry luminaries as Val McDermid, Peter James, Mick Herron and Martina Cole.He has written eight novels in the McAvoy series: Dark Winter, Original Skin, Sorrow Bound, Taking Pity, Dead Pretty, Cruel Mercy, Scorched Earth and Cold Bones as well as two McAvoy novellas, A Bad Death and Fire of Lies, which are available as ebooks. McAvoy will return in 2021 with the prequel Darkness Falls, and new installment PAST LIFE.His first historical thriller, The Zealot’s Bones, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. With publishers Severn House, he has written the critically-acclaimed thrillers The Burying Ground, A Rush of Blood, Borrowed Time, Suspicious Minds and Cages.His first work of non-fiction, a mental health memoir detailing his battle with depression and addiction, is released this September. Piece of Mind has been described as ‘lyrical, raw, brutal and very funny’.Dark Winter was selected for the Harrogate New Blood panel (where he was Reader in Residence) and was a Richard & Judy pick and a Sunday Times bestseller. Dead Pretty was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger in 2016, as was Cold Bones in 2019.David’s Radio 4 drama, A Marriage of Inconvenience, aired in 2017. His first novel has been adapted for the stage and was a sell-out smash in Hull. He has also written for the theatre and has contributed articles and reviews to several national and international publications. He is a regular performer at literary festivals and is a sought-after public speaker. He also teaches creative writing.