Sandman by Ian Kingsley
But first, a bit about the Author…
Ian Kingsley is the author’s pseudonym for fiction writing but he isn’t new to the writing scene. Kingsley has written multiple works of non-fiction on science and technology but says that writing fiction has been his life’s ambition. Kingsley was born in Peterborough, England but has spent most of his life on the south coast of Dorset, England. It is this beautiful part of England that inspired the setting of his debut novel Sandman.
And now, the Review…
Sandman is Ian Kingsley’s first fiction novel. Published this year by New Generation Publishing, Sandman is about two very different men who encounter each other in a setting that is both liberating and stifling for both men at one point or another. It’s about murder and misunderstanding as soon as their paths cross, but most of all, this story is about people, their desires and what they would do to fulfill them. Kingsley has said himself:
What interests me most is exploring how unusual circumstances throw ordinary people into extraordinary situations.
And that is exactly what you’re going to get in Sandman. If you enjoy a good whodunnit then Sandman is an easy and enjoyable read set in a picturesque harbour area of England close to Bournemouth. But this mystery is different from other crime novels for it has a very character driven element that is often not as well developed as in Sandman. This is what gives Sandman that psychological thriller element because it deals with real people who are faced with emotions and experiences that we can all very easily identify with like jealousy, guilt, fear, rage, and yet also empathy, love, and responsibility to family. But it’s not just the two main characters that are well developed, there’s a cast of characters that are all so real, who all contribute to the story in a unique and unpredictable way. This is the one aspect of Sandman which I most enjoyed – the characters – full and fleshy, they are difficult not to follow and even more difficult not to identify with.
Another aspect of this novel which cannot be overlooked is the power of the setting. Kingsley notes in the beginning that the novel’s setting is inspired by the beautiful (and real) Mudeford Sandbank, Christchurch town and Christchurch Harbour, Hengistbury Head and Wick village, near Bournemouth, England. Obviously, there are bits and pieces which are fictional, specifically buildings like beach huts, etc. I found the beautiful beach setting to be a wonderful contrast to the events of the novel as well as the state of mind of some of the characters. The setting is well described and fresh – a treat for anyone whether you’re from England or not. This skill is probably owed to the travel articles Kingsley publishes for his travel website www.synergise.com .
Take a look at the map of the novel’s setting.
If Sandman is a novel to make you scared or cry at times, this will be a novel to make you think at times.
Apparently this novel will be set in various locations around the world with its base setting being Bath, England. I can hardly wait.
For other writers, Kingsley intends on publishing articles to aid you in the writing process so keep an eye out for that. You can find all this information and more on the author’s official website www.iankingsley.com .
I could hardly leave you without an excerpt, so here are three great scenes chosen by the author for this review – enjoy!
The crouching figure stared across the narrow strip of beach. Bright moonlight was forcing him to take cover in the shallow dunes. Although fierce flurries of sand occasionally stung his face, he considered conditions to be perfect, for the blustery wind would mask any inadvertent sound he might make. He was quite happy to wait for suitable cloud-cover. As always, the sea was his constant companion as it hissed and sighed in restless sleep.
Totally focused, he was ready to move. He knew his dark jacket and jeans made him practically invisible at night: ideal for a mission. Tonight, he needed to gather information and then get out by boat.
When a cloud finally obscured the moon, he slipped across the sand to the long line of beach huts. He knew he could now move down their entire length without being seen, just like the most highly trained member of the SAS. Time for an update on the hut-dwellers. At last, the mission was on.
Paul Vincent was well aware his wife’s tight little smile was the result of feasting her eyes on the sleek, wet-suited contours of Russell Gartland. Were it not for this, he could have relaxed and perhaps even been amused by the overpowering enthusiasm of the man with the spiky, gelled-up hair. Unfortunately, he knew Sasha’s weakness only too well. Gartland was showing them his windsurfing training rig on the harbour shoreline. Paul felt almost under-dressed in his baggy red trunks.
‘So remember the sport’s called windsurfing, not sailboarding, and you’re called sailors, not surfers,’ said Gartland.
‘Confusing,’ muttered Leah, shaking her head. Paul watched his daughter with some amusement. He knew she would want to get all the details like this correct. Dressed in a yellow bikini, she brushed long hair from her face. At only fourteen, she was not quite as tall as her mother and did not have the same toned body, but they were otherwise strikingly alike, except for her being a shade too skinny in his opinion.
Gartland grinned and shrugged. ‘That’s life, Leah. But windsurfing’s a world away from board surfing, believe me. When you start out with displacement sailing, you’re boarding through the water like a surfer, but when you’re proficient and have learned to hydroplane in stronger winds, you’ll be skimming across the surface of the water.’ He winked at Leah. ‘That’s a whole new scene. It’s fast.’
‘Really?’ Paul Vincent was impressed by this new piece of information; he also wanted to draw Gartland’s lingering gaze away from his daughter. ‘What speed can you get up to when you’re hydroplaning, Russell?’
Gartland turned to face him. ‘You can plane at around eight to ten knots, Paul, and you can even get to over fifteen knots with recreational equipment.’
‘So can you do more with special equipment, Russell?’ asked Sasha. Her black bikini revealed a figure almost as athletic as Gartland’s, courtesy of her work as a physical education teacher. Paul noticed she moved a little closer to Gartland while enveloping him in one of her broadest smiles.
‘Oh yes,’ Gartland grinned. ‘There’s no holding back what you can achieve with special equipment, Sasha.’ As they exchanged amused grins, Paul was sure of it. He reckoned he’d noticed their mutual admiration during the theory training Gartland had given them a week earlier, but now this seemed patently obvious as the man continued to hold his wife’s gaze. ‘It’s possible to go right up to fifty knots, Sasha, but ideal conditions for recreational sailors are about fifteen to twenty-five knots.’ He pulled up the sail of the training rig. ‘So, we’ve done the theory. Now you need to develop balance and core stability. Stand up on the board, Sasha, and let’s get some wind in your sails. You look up for it.’
Sasha stood on the training board but wobbled off when she was distracted for a moment while smiling at Paul.
‘Try again,’ said Gartland. ‘You can’t walk on water, Sasha.’
Paul thought Gartland probably imagined that particular skill was restricted to him. As Sasha stepped back onto the board, a light gust of wind unexpectedly filled the sail, taking her by surprise. When she wobbled towards Gartland, he reached out to support her, one hand resting on her back and the other on her buttocks. Both were laughing uproariously as he pushed her upright again, with his left hand remaining far too long on his wife’s bottom for Paul’s liking.
‘Steady on. Don’t handle the goods.’ Paul tried to make light of it, but annoyance was clear in his tone.
Still with one hand supporting the small of Sasha’s back, Gartland grinned round at him. ‘Why do you think I do this job, Paul? Wait till it’s your turn, sailor.’ He jokingly twitched one eyebrow, causing Sasha and Leah to dissolve into hysterics.
‘Just don’t push it, Russell, that’s all,’ said Paul. ‘Especially with my daughter.’
Gartland’s face now lost its humour and his tone became icy. ‘I was only helping with Sasha’s core stability, Paul.’ He took his hand away from her.
‘I’d just concentrate on your own core stability, Russell.’ Paul held the other’s gaze during an uncomfortable silence. No one was smiling now.
Sasha stepped back off the board, let the sail flop down onto the damp sand, and turned deliberately towards him, with hands on her hips and an exasperated expression on her face. ‘Look. Cool it, Paul.’ She glared at him. ‘Russell only stopped me falling. That’s all.’
‘Okay, okay. I’m sorry.’ Paul was annoyed with himself. He knew he’d over-reacted—and not for the first time—but it was tough being married to a woman who loved to flirt. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her—he did—but he hated imagining what other men were thinking when she led them on.
Paul broke the impasse by stepping forward and pulling up the rig’s sail himself. He turned to Russell. ‘Try it with me, Russell. I’ll not fall on you.’
Gartland managed to give Paul a weak smile. ‘I think I could take it, even if you did. Anyway, start out by taking a firm grip, Paul.’ He indicated the bar, but by their subsequent exchange of looks, both knew what he really meant.
The lad with rolled-up jeans pushed his boat into the water from where it was beached near the end of his garden. Jumping in, he sat down and rowed with a slow, fluid motion. Golden reflections from the low morning sun danced on the calm waters, and the only noise he heard was the soft plop of his oars as they moved in and out of the water. A shallow mist hung low over marshland at the easterly tip of Blackberry Point; several horses dreamed by the water’s edge as if floating on cloud. A light breeze caressed the boy’s deeply tanned skin and he sensed the coming of a hot, sun-filled day. He savoured the freshness of the air greedily. It was good to be alive.
After a couple of minutes he stopped rowing, stowed the oars, and moved back to the stern where he sat by the outboard. In no hurry to start the motor, he was content to stare across glittering waters while the boat drifted gently. Squinting against the brightness of the sun, he looked towards the long sandbank that separated the harbour from the sea. Beyond, only faintly discernable through the morning haze, he could see the distant outline of the Isle-of-Wight. The beach huts along the golden line of sand reminded him of colourful beads on a necklace. Nature had painted a glorious picture here, but it was the touch of man that lightened the mood and confirmed it was a place of fun. Sand and sea; fresh air and the sound of breaking waves; it was a combination that created a special magic.
The sandbank seemed like an island to him because of the nature of its community: people who slept and lived out alternative life-styles: while paying handsomely for the privilege of their lazy days. This thought always made him grin; he practically lived his entire life there without cost.
Standing, he pulled the starter-cord and his outboard motor burst into a noisy life that startled some oyster-catchers into sudden flight from their feeding place off the point. In the distance, nearer to the nature reserve, and unfazed by the noise, he spotted a stationary heron standing majestically in the mist. Sitting back into the seat he headed down Hurn Channel. When he was quite near to The Run and the harbour-mouth, he turned around the immersed sandbank into Main Channel, observing the buoys. Finally he crossed the shallow waters of the open harbour towards the beach café and slowly approached his usual morning landfall.
His first visit was to the fisherman’s hut near the Black House, but Tom Blake told him there were not enough net or lobster-pot repairs to warrant any work that morning. The fact there would be no money coming his way that day was of little concern. His financial needs were few, although he did have some serious long-term savings plans for when he could get a job with more pay. He was always asking at shops but they never had any job vacancies. Still, one day he might strike lucky.
Although the tide was wrong that morning, he happily spent a long while beach-combing and then stacking some smoothly-bleached logs into his boat; they would look great in his display. He imagined they were borne by the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic before drifting down the Channel; they might have originated from further up the coast, of course, maybe from Poole Harbour, or perhaps from France, but he liked the notion of America best. He was keen on America: ‘land of the free… home of the brave’. He was brave, and he always wanted to be free. When he was older he thought he might live in America and be really free.
After buying a coffee at the shop alongside the Beach House café, and sitting at the strangely tall table there to drink it, he wandered down the sand-strewn service road to the foot of Hengistbury Head. On the way he had to step aside to let the little green land train pass by. He resented it. Why should it force him aside? He had as much right to be there as anyone; more, really. Why couldn’t the passengers walk like him?
He climbed the sandy steps onto the heather-clad headland and then lingered to gaze down along the coast to the east: his favourite view of Mudeford Sandbank. He always marvelled at the way it stood so strongly between the combined forces of two merged rivers on one side and the power of the sea’s constant lashing on the other. How wonderful that tiny grains of sand, effortlessly moved around by wind and tide—even by people’s toes—could jointly have the strength to form such a strong barrier. And what power the waters had. He knew it well. The fact people paid such enormous sums of money for their expensive beach huts also proved everyone else believed the sandbank would always be there. He reflected it was a good job there were never any tsunamis in Dorset. Or was it satsumas? He frowned uncertainly. He never mentioned the word for fear of embarrassment: he knew one or the other were oranges.
Gradually his eye was drawn along the colourful line of huts to the Black House, the last building on the sandbank. It stood next to the fast-flowing tidal waters between harbour and sea, the place where he loved to challenge its power in his little motor boat, especially when its engine could only just match the opposing current. Under these conditions it felt as if he personally overcame the power of Nature, thanks to his own strength and skill.
After a while he headed for his ‘thinking seat’. He was a great thinker, or ‘dreamer’, according to his dad. That morning he dreamed of going to America and powering along Route 66 on the Harley Davidson he planned to buy; he always hankered for a more powerful motorbike. He imagined himself with an attractive blonde seated on the pillion, clutching excitedly to his waist, wholly dependent on his biking skills as he rode a ton to the accompaniment of that throaty roar. How he loved the sound of a Harley. He thought about the girls in his magazines: how attractive they were; how great they would be as girlfriends; what fun they would have with him crossing the States on his bike; what fun he would have with them at nights in motels. Yes, he would definitely do all that one day.