King of the Woods



Before reading this page it is important to raise a pretty strong spoiler alert. This page is intended for those that have already read the book and would like to find out a bit more. If you haven't read the book what follows either won't make much sense or is likely to spoil your enjoyment of King of the Woods if you do plan to read it. Continue at your own risk!

King of the Woods Chapter XIII

The first thing that you're likely to want to know is actually how fictional King of the Woods is. The only definite assertion I will make is that Richard is a real person and we both lived in Solihull in summer 1990. Other than that I'm not going to be drawn. And anyway, as pointed out in the book, these days I'm not really sure what is true and what is fiction.

King of the Woods was originally written as a present, and that first version was a lot closer to a factual memoir than the version you've (hopefully) read. It has since gone through several rewrites to make it more palatable to readers who don't know Richard, me or Solihull.

In the previous versions it started with Richard and me meeting aged sixteen, and went into much more detail about the Dick Club, the Bung and The Grit, only getting to us meeting again in summer 1990 after five or six chapters, and the fantasy worlds (which are the whole point) only start to creep in after 15,000 words or more.

I was never particularly happy about this, because the novel started off like a British version of Wayne's World, and several readers got the impression it was more about The Grit than Richard, which was certainly not my intention.

So in the published version I decided to start in summer 1990, which was when Richard and I became real friends and relegate the Dick Club and The Grit to past tense. I even toyed with sticking The Grit in the dustbin altogether, but the one thing that saved it was the joke about why the drummer is like the bubonic plague, which I modestly think is one of the funniest lines in the book.

This means that there were several chapters which were dropped wholesale, or heavily edited to make work with this new narrative. And here you can download and read a few of them.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

This was originally the opening chapter. I wanted to get a hallucinogenic sense of the transition from my naive teenaged world into the wild, dark and dangerous world at the bottom of Richard's garden, with the journey from the front door, through the house, to the manicured part of the garden and into the overgrown corner where the Bung is being like an ancient pagan procession to a centre of worship.

As an opening chapter this was widely poo-pooed by several readers because it took several pages of me faffing about in a dark garden before the story got going. I still rather like it though.

The Garden of Earthly Delights download

Thieves in the Night

Another dark chapter where a bunch of teenagers slither around in the mud and chop a tree down. The stream here is indeed Folly Brook that Richard and I walk along and discuss our Great Works of Art in the published version.

Thieves in the Night download

A Map of the Lost then Found

This chapter describes what Richard and I get up to in our late teens after we'd lost contact and before we meet again in summer 1990. The scene of Richard going to Glastonbury via ley lines is one of my favourites, and it was a real wrench to drop it in the final version.

A Map of the Lost then Found download

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky

Most of this chapter exists in the published version. It is our fantasy world in concentrated form. How to capture the summer of 1990 in words was a sticky problem when I first started writing, because, as this chapter says, nothing much actually happened. But I knew something pretty profound had happened between Richard and me. My starting point was The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (the chapter in The Wind in the Willows, not the Pink Floyd album, though both were very important to Richard and me). In that chapter Ratty and Mole meet the god Pan. They are struck by his beauty, but are given the 'gift' of forgetfulness. This leaves them with a sense of having been in the presence of something eternal, but with no specific memories. If anything this is the same feeling I have when looking back to summer 1990, and so I took Ratty and Mole's transition into the dawn and built at fantasy world round it that Richard and I could walk through.

There is no narrative, no fox or Ice Maiden or never-ending tasks, just a series of fantasy lands that Richard and I would recognise as places we'd like to visit. As such readers found it a bit bewildering and dense, having been thrown from the history of a fatuous heavy metal band into somewhere with no reality at all.

Although I think the addition of a narrative and its subsequent weaving into the story of Richard and I in the real world improves it immensely, I think if this chapter were a bar of chocolate it would be 100 per cent cocoa, whereas the published version is a rather more palatable 75 per cent version.

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky download