Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 July 2022 from Orenda Books
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review
A disillusioned nurse suddenly learns how to care.
An injured young sportsman wakes up find that he can see only in black and white.
A desperate old widower takes too many pills and believes that two angels have arrived to usher him through purgatory.
Two agoraphobic men called Dave share the symptoms of a brain tumour, and frequently waken their neighbour with their ongoing rows.
Separate lives, running in parallel, destined to collide and then explode.
Like the suicide bomber, riding the Circle Line, day after day, waiting for the right time to detonate, waiting for answers to his questions: Am I God? Am I dead? Will I blow up this train?
Shocking, intensely emotive and wildly original, Will Carver’s The Daves Next Door is an explosive existential thriller and a piercing examination of what it means to be human … or not.
If you’ve never dipped your toe into the swirling waters of the Carver-verse then I seriously recommend you give his writing a try. Will Carver writes with forensic precision, utilising his pen like a scalpel and scoring his prose deep into the channels of your brain. He is, I always think, a writer’s writer. Taking risks that few others would attempt; trusting his readers to go with his prose however uncomfortable it makes them feel – and sometimes he sets out to make them very uncomfortable indeed. Dark, funny, caustic and always worth reading, he is both brilliant and unique.
Today I have the pleasure of sharing an extract from The Daves Next Door with you. It’s just a short taste of what you can expect. To get the full flavour, read the whole book!
THE OLD MAN (AND THE ANGELS)
‘Am I dead?’ the old man asks, the tingling in his right shoulder reverberating down to his fingertips, stabbing at his skin from the inside as it descends. He smiles through the pain, hoping he got it right this time.
The couple look at him then at each other, their gaze planted somewhere between welcoming and apathy.
Their necks creak back in unison towards the enquiring pensioner.
But say nothing.
At ninety-one, the old man is, indeed, old. Elderly. Aged. Senescent. Yet, beneath that crepe-paper skin and drooping brow is a man of sound mind, of memories. His birth, sandwiched between two wars, has left him resilient and unforgiving. But the old lady’s death two years ago to this very day has kept him anchored on all sides by his grief.
All he has are the memories. Snapshot recollections that no longer resemble her.
And he doesn’t want them any more.
‘Am I dead?’ the old man asks before folding over and retching his solitary heartache towards the kitchen floor, trying with all his might to keep the pills inside, so that they may do their worst to him; so that they may punish in order to end his punishment.
The couple look down on him and the dribble of bile that hangs from his thin lips, then turn to one another, their mood perched somewhere between uncertainty and true mercy.
But say nothing.
They appear like angels before him, not bathed in light but swathed in blur. The old man feels they are here to take him away, toend his substantial time in this realm. He does not mind if there is a Heaven and he is to be rejected from it as a result of his actions. He is not worried about eternal nothingness because it is the presence of somethingness that brought him to this juncture.
His chest fills with cold, and he welcomes the possibility of Hell.
It would be a relief. ‘Angels. My angels.’
Then he falls. The old man’s legs give way beneath him as his motor skills evaporate en masse, the effects of those small white capsules – and cheap Scotch – betraying his brain. He is losing control.
His face crashes into the hard laminate, cutting below his right eye and grazing his cheek with a friction burn as his delicate skin sticks to the faux wood.
The couple do not flinch even as the old man grunts, the air in his lungs expelled unintentionally as his ribcage smacks the ground beneath, their emotions standing somewhere between anticipation and composure.
But they say nothing.
They remain in silent contemplation, looking down on the pitiful scene beneath them, the old man shaking, writhing in agony as he loses his battle to contain nausea. The woman wants to look away but cannot force herself to do so. She wishes she could offer her hand or a comforting word but something inside of her is preventing empathy.
The old man claws at her feet, desperately trying to pull himself to his knees. Their eyes meet, his show empty yearning, hers glaze with a thin saline film. Her partner watches over the old man’s appeal but does not have the inclination to reach out.
‘Am I dead?’ the old man asks one final time, his hands now clutching at the ankles of the pretty girl whose face remains pixelated, only darting into focus for short bursts.
The couple stare on, unblinking, concentrating. The old man’s breath now laboured with the occasional stab of a dry tear, and he asks them the question again. This time without moving his lips. This time his thoughts are conveyed in a look. His query is said in his head.
But they hear.
And this time they answer.
Am I dead?
‘Yes,’ says the woman, finally reaching out a cold, smooth hand to his bloodied cheek. ‘Yes. You are dead,’ she reiterates, sliding her hand away from him and releasing his weight to the floor.
She should not have done that.
They should have said nothing.
The old man is not dead, yet.
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Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He
spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his
sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study
theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful
theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives
in Reading with his two children. Will’s latest title published by Orenda Books, The
Beresford is out in July. His previous title Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted
for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was
longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good
Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.