Wotcha and welcome to my little review of Paul Burston‘s psychological thriller, The Closer I Get. Boy O’Blimey do I have a treat for you today. Oh yes, yes I do.
If you care to have a gander at the blurb below (not now, not now, we’ll get to it; I’m just saying), you will see that The Closer I Get is a dark and compelling story about online relationships gone wrong. A tale of buttons pressed and lives torn asunder. Ooh, that’s good word to add the the lexicon isn’t it: asunder. Say it with me: asssssunnnnderrrrr. Nice, huh? Where was I?
Seeing as this is, for the most part, a tale of asundered social media relationships I thought why not ask those very social media types to review this book for me? I know right? Genius or what? Yes yes, I do amaze even myself at times.
In a moment of madness I decided to throw it out there onto social media and see what the cat chat fl… flap chat chap…. chap chap cat ca… chat cat brings in through the chat cat-flap. Jeeez, I thought that would be simpler to write than say, but no 🙄
And so I turned to BookChatz – the bookish social media site. Now, it is entirely possible that you may never have heard of BookChatz. I know I hadn’t until I started writing this review. In fact, since completing my review it appears to have vanished without so much of a trace. Like a dead body in a maggot farm it has completely disappeared (only without the icky smell or the bones left behind). But I swear that it was there, as the following screen grabs shall attest. Crikey, I’m chucking great words about with gay abandon today: attest. Once more, say it with me: attesssssssssst. Lovely.
So, what am I gabbing on about? BookChatz is a place where book lovers, worshipers of the written word, purveyors of the printed page, fanciers of the front flap… um, maybe not that one… disciples of the dust-jacket, sectaries of the sentence, fans of fiction, nuts of the noun, acolytes of the, er, adverb? Oh, you get the bloody idea; it’s basically a social media site for bookworms and book lovers to articulate their bookish passions. There, that was easier.
I discovered it quite by chance whilst researching my review. I thought I needed to immerse myself into the darker corners of social media to get underneath the words, to the very beating heart of the pages, of this book. As it turned out most of the BookChatzzers, as they like to call themselves – not very snappy, I grant you – were lovely people and had quite a lot to say about The Closer I Get. Phew 😂
So, below I present to you some screen grabs I grabbed from my questions about The Closer I Get. I’ve edited them for clarity, removed some of the more, um, choice impressions, and interspersed them with some comments of my own in order to avoid spoilers and just to expand on some points. Please note that any typos, grammatical errors or annoying syntax is entirely the fault of the user and has nothing at all to do with me, your faithful favourite beardy book blogger ☺️
But before all of that guffery, have yourself some blurrrrrrrrb:
Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.
Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.
When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.
But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.
A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…
Before I get into the whole BookChatz thing, let me give you a brief rundown of what this book is all about:
Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave… oh, bugger it, that’s just rehashing the blurb. I thought it sounded familiar. Okay, I’ll dive straight in.
Firstly, I asked if anyone had actually read the book. Huh, I would’ve looked a bit of a twit if no-one had, plus I hadn’t got a back-up plan for this review. H’yuk, that would’ve been totes awks beans.
Oh, btw, you may notice that in all of these screenshots the time remains the same. Erm, that’s because, um, it’s due to, errrr, an anomaly in the, umm, space… time… continuum? Oh, just go with it.
Okay, after this @trollhunter got a little bit narky, harping on about bots and trolllllzzzzz [sic] and all manner of things that ground his gears, so I moved on to the topic of the characters.
The Closer I Get predominantly features two main characters: Tom Hunter, a writer whose first book was a thundering success, spawning a hit movie starring Ryan Gosling no less, but whose second book tanked. He is struggling to get his writing chops back and is stringing along his agent Lucinda with the promise that he is working on the next book. Then we have Evie Stokes, a superfan. She ‘befriends’ Tom after meeting him at a book signing, but her idea of friendship is one of the stalkery kind.
This went on for a bit longer, but I’ve left that thread dangling there for fear of spoiling shizzle. That’s the trouble with social media, people can spoil the fun for others, advertantly or inadvertently. As mentioned above, Paul has written characters that you become quite emotionally invested in. Evie in particular is a complex and difficult character to wrap your head around. Her parts are told in the first person via her letters to Tom and later through her journal entries. You really do get into her head and Paul skilfully peels the layers back as the book progresses.
There are other characters in the book of course; it’s not a Tom and Evie 1-2. There is the aforementioned Lucinda King, Tom’s literary agent; DI Sue Grant, a detective with the Hate Crimes Unit who is sympathetic to Tom’s plight, and Emma, his best friend who encourages Tom to go to the police in the first place. Along the way we meet several others, all of whom have their part to play in the story (well, like, d’uh! They don’t pop in and say, “oh, terribly sorry, I appear to be in the wrong book. Is this The Lonely Planet Guide to Bangkok?” 🙄 but you get what I mean).
One of the overwhelming themes in The Closer I Get is about what can happen when social media relationships go wrong.
I think you can see where that discussion was heading, even without the bot interrupting. Despite my best efforts we descended into comparing film stars and who was the best Grant; Hugh or Cary (*cough* Cary *cough*), but I think you get the gist of what we were trying to say earlier.
The relationship between Tom and Evie is a complex and intricate one that is handled superbly by Paul. Evie Stokes is a woman who, as noted by @levelheaded1, is broken in many ways. Her personal history is one of tragedy and abandonment. It’s little surprise that she is the way she is. Her obsession with Tom is a toxic one, but Tom isn’t blame free in this matter, as you’ll discover when you read the book for yourself 😉
We briefly touched upon the LGBT aspects of the book. Paul Burston is gay himself and is the founder of Polari, the literary salon held at London’s SouthBank Centre, and at venues around the country, that celebrates LGBT+ writing across the literary spectrum (where authors and speakers have included such bookish heavyweights such as Jake Arnott, Val McDermid, Sarah Waters and Derek Farrell, to name only four).
Once again the conversation descended into a who’s who of celebrity buffness, this time settling on which Superman was the most buff: Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill or Dean Cain (fair to say that Christopher Reeve shat all over them. Not literally…. 😳).
To wrap up I thought I’d ask the BookChatzzers – seriously, who came up with that name? – for their final thoughts on The Closer I Get.
So there we have it. The world of social media has spoken. For what it’s worth, I agree with all of the points made above, especially those made in the summing up (except for @brandofans69‘s comment, the filthy, filthy boy. I would never do such a thing. Bodily fluids would soak right into the paper and likely ruin the ink!). Paul’s book is a real corker and is most definitely one that you should be adding to your bookshelves, whether physically or electronically, as soon as is possibly possible. It’s a real bugger to put down so I would suggest that you take a comfort break, etc, before starting. Oh, and turn off any social media you may have open, or at the very least tighten those privacy settings 😉😅
The Closer I Get is out in eBook from the 11th May 2019, whilst the paperback will be out on the 11th July 2019. You can pre-order, or purchase, it from the magical linklets below.
I wish to thank the wonderful Karen Sullivan, the Queen Bee and Wielder Of The Red Pen, of Orenda Books for sending my copy of this great book. She did it without any asking from me and all views, even those of the other users of @BookChatz, are my own. And a huge thank you to Paul Burston himself for writing the thing. Salut! XXX