Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver!
Here’s a little info about the book:
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But, at the same time, they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People of Choice: a mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on a train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People of Choice are appearing around the globe. It becomes a movement. A social-media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers.
The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader who does not seem to exist …
And about author Will Carver:
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. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.
And here’s Paul Burke’s review of Nothing Important Happened Today:
I feel like a bit of a killjoy starting this review with a dour note because Nothing Important Happened Today is a rollicking high-spirited read. That goes whatever anybody says about suicide and multiple murder and dark themes. However, I do love dark themes, so there’s my starting point: This novel is about alienation and vulnerability, about people cut off and excluded from society. The vulnerable are always susceptible to influences, in this case to manipulation and even a mild form of brain-washing.
Nine people come to Chelsea Bridge from the north and south, they are numbers 225 to 233. They don’t speak to each other, they have no fear, there’s no need for a count down or a signal between them, they all seem to know exactly what to do. Lovers who no longer feel, nobodies you walk past in the street and never see, a doctor distressed by the nation’s self-inflicted health disaster:
“230 – Doctor would tell you – if she wasn’t resting in a metal drawer – that overweight people have overweight pets. They also tend to have overweight children. She says that these people usually put it down to genetics or bone density, but it’s not that; it’s the modern western diet is one of sugar-filled convenience.”
The ungrateful one and the poet. All were accepted, they became the People of Choice.
Let’s face it, these are not the best of times, everything is so polarised, Brexit, demagogic leaders, climate change, it all adds to the feeling of isolation and insecurity for the vulnerable. Everyone is searching for answers and sometimes they find them in strange places, or even, in paths that are very destructive.
Put a controlling narcissist together with a damaged soul and the alchemy is potent and dangerous. The dictum, “give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man,” is often attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. A religious order seen as a dangerous cult by its opponents inside and outside the Catholic Church. Jesuits aside, there is a measure of truth to the dictum. This is a novel about a cult that understands how to draw on the needs of the susceptible. Mind, it isn’t just people who we see as vulnerable, almost any of us who can be influenced, manipulated, and/or indoctrinated – if you’re sitting comfortably thinking it could never happen to me, think again, perhaps the circumstances haven’t cropped up yet. If I was a religious man I might say, there but for the grace of God go I. So what causes mass hysteria and why would anyone join a suicide cult, like the People of Choice?
A minor theme in Nothing Important Happened Today is how quickly we demonise ‘difference’, make cults out of benign communities. We project our own fears, exclude, and demonstrate hostility to those we don’t understand. So are we the problem? Carver likes to play games with the reader, this is a legitimate question but it is delivered by a sinister character. The point is then twisted, it’s disturbing how the leap from rational to poisoned debate is achieved. Personally, I think Carver is having tremendous fun here, I know I am. Most people will have a slightly queasy feeling in their stomach reading about suicide/murder but humour is a legitimate way of making a serious point. So may be a dystopian story for a dystopian age or a genuinely black comedy, or as I see it – both.
Anyway, brave calling a novel Nothing Important Happened Today, eh? It’s like opening a love song with the line:
‘I may not always love you…’ [Wilson/Asher]
God only knows how that worked out. Still, Carver disproves the nothing hypothesis with a tale in which quite a lot of important things happen. Carver is not just being ironic, the title carries a lot of meaning for some of the characters, those identified by numbers (people who don’t shout ‘I’m a name not a number anymore), so the title is integral to the plot.
This cult is malignant, it’s bat-shit crazy, pernicious and destructive. It preys upon difference, the excluded, the disillusioned, the despairing, the lonely, the trapped, the indebted, those alone in a room full of people or those locked away from the world – alienated and vulnerable. Because the ultimate aim of the People of Choice is to top the membership (aiding their shuffle off this mortal coil), recruitment is onerous. Yet, even though the susceptible may be a minority they are legion. Again, readers should avoid any smugness at this point:
“Anybody can feel like a nobody. Like the thing they are doing doesn’t matter. Like they wouldn’t be missed by anyone if they were gone.”
You might think Carver has a sick sense of humour, personally I’m happy with that, but this humour does point up a serious problem – the way we neglect the vulnerable (do you run away from the mumbler at the bus stop?).
To the best of my knowledge reading this novel hasn’t inducted me into a cult so I’ve discounted the possibility for you that this is the influencing engine for the People of Choice capable of sucking in the reader – you will be safe.
This is a suicide cult with no visible leader and yet there is a malevolent force at work. What if what happened at Chelsea Bridge is only a phase in a greater plan, one that has yet to realise it’s full horrible potential? Led from the shadows by someone who understands CIA mind-control techniques, the Stamford experiment, the lessons of Waco, Jonestown, Scientology, and Manson, neuro-linguistic programming and cognitive behavioural therapy. Someone who understands you have to listen first and believe what you tell your recruits if you want them to do as you want.
This is a chilling story, the monologues are deliciously subversive and quietly mad. The portraits of the people drawn to the bridge are credible damaged people reflective of deep concerns with modern life. Understanding what is going on is beyond the authorities, only Sergeant Pace (as in police and criminal evidence), suffering from PTSD and under therapy with Dr Artaud, can save the day, if only he knew he had to. Orton meets Murakami in this clever lightly experimental novel. Nothing Important Happened Today is skilfully crafted so that the clues are staring you in the face but are not obvious, the writing is edgy and, at times, tongue in cheek, the language can be deliberately dislocating/disassociating. Nothing Important Happened Today is witty and unsettling, it may terrify you, good, feel it but laugh too.
Paul Burke 5/4
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
Orenda Books 9781912374830 pbk Nov 2019