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The Boy and the Level by Solsticeman

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Images become very important in a story, especially when the readers are unfamiliar with the territory surrounding the characters. Here we have a boyhood tale that sets a charming scene of young lads meeting on a bright and sunny day that just seems too good to be true, and perhaps it is.

Having never been there, I can only imagine the coal mining towns of Wales and the poverty that surrounds those people. But although this is the setting, the story is about a boy out to enjoy a private moment away from family and friends.

We are all familiar with folk tales and fables, stories of the strange happenings in places just down the road. In Boy and the Level, Solsticeman has created a tale that leads the reader down the garden path exploring the relationship between his characters in a perfectly normal fashion, until we are told the circumstances. (Hard to talk about the details without giving things away)

Short and sweet, well worth reading:


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Thanks Chris, it still surprises me when people like what I have written. Yes the poverty was astonishing... miners were the aristocracy of South Wales... until they were injured or got lung diseases. For their children that could be disastrous. For the lucky ones the public library was a way to escape. I was lucky my father was an engineer... so I simply didnt fit.

Oh dear, that sounds terribly serious... we were loved...we made our own fun... and we all survived.

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I suppose the story conjured images of Welsh mining towns because of How Green was my Valley, the 1939 book by Richard Llewellyn, or the film of the same name made in 1941. Imagine that, a good book made into a film only two years later and now we are besotted with lousy vampire films from even worse books almost overnight.

But America has small mining towns in West Virginia, many of them just as poor and filled with dispair. Stories like Coal Miner's Daughter and October Sky come to mind. Glimpses of a not too distant past that seem to endure even in present day.

I know Solsticeman writes this story from the heart and from personal experience, I am just glad he felt the need to share it with us. It takes courage to look into a personal past and find images remembered well enough to enlighten the readers. But it is those self same memories that often give a story, no matter how short, the backbone of credibility.

But Solsticeman has gone on to write of English schoolboys in the same delightfully reflective manner (now posted on Iomfats as Shades of Gray) and I would hope he shares that story with us here. We can never have enough of a good thing.

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Yes, the parallel with W. Virginia is a good one. The communities faced the same hazards. I can remember once or twice there were big thumps in the floor, and then the siren would sound and you would hear the wives shouting to one another as they ran to the pithead for news... another kid in the school was headed for rough clothes and free dinners.

I was glad that my Dad was an engineer in a much safer industry!

Though no-one in the valleys would admit to it being a good thing, the mines are gone and Richard Llewellyn's valley is green again. Not only have the mines closed but there is absolutely no trace of them. I could only orientate myself in the view across the valley because amongst all the greenery there was a builder's yard that hadn't moved.

Thank you guys, your words mean a lot coming from such established authors, authors that I personally admire.

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