Incendiary: Chris Cleave
Having read Chris Cleave’s second novel (On the other hand) I was intrigued to read his first. Incendiary is a novel-length letter from a working class wife and mother to Osama Bin Laden, following the death of her husband and son in a suicide bombing of Arsenal football stadium, which ultimately claimed the lives of over 1000 people. As I worked my way through the story, the striking similarities with the dreadful bombings in London, now known as 7/7 (July 7th 2005), convinced me this was a fictional parallel story feeding on that event, which had claimed the lives of 52 people and injured 700. I had this confirmed (or so I thought) by the publication date on the front credits page, which was 2005, and I assumed this had been quickly written in the months following.
So it came as a big surprise to find out later that the publication date had, in fact, been July 7th 2005, the very day of the London bombings. My first reaction was that it had been an amazing stroke of coincidence, almost prophetic. In any other circumstances, this coincidence could have meant the meteoric launch of a new writing career, but for Chris Cleave and his publisher, it meant just the opposite. The trauma and carnage that stopped the country (and many parts of the world) in its tracks simply consumed all the available column inches in all the media, and a work of fiction from an unknown author was never going to poke its nose through the dense smoke screen.
However, undeterred, Cleave went on to write a second novel, and on the success of that his first novel eventually became a bestseller. Worth reading. I would recommend it highly.