Writing for young people is always a challenge, but writing for reluctant readers is even more so. Lois Elsden taught English to young people not in school, but who had to take GCSE English which obviously involved reading. Re-engaging these students who were completely capable of reading but just didn’t want to called for some lateral thinking… and resulted in Lois writing three short novels .
Here is an excerpt from ‘Screaming King Harry’ – Chapter One starts with Jo-Jo finding her English teacher in his classroom, shot… The story continues as a flashback leading up to this. Chapter four has an unexpected awakening for Jo-Jo and her parents in the pub where they live:
My mum was shrieking, yelling her head off, tears streaming down her face. My dad was bellowing, mainly at me and I was yelling back.
All of this as we struggled to open the fire door at the back of the landing upstairs. We were struggling to open the door because although we often used it as a way out of the pub when we didn’t want to go through the bars, for some reason it would not budge even though it was unlocked.
We were shouting at each other because we were almost deafened by the fire alarm ringing and we were trying to open the door because smoke was billowing upstairs. The pub was on fire.
“It’s no good!” Dad yelled. “The bloody thing won’t shift!”
“Front window – the fire brigade will be on its way!” my mum yelled back.
“No, my room, through the window onto the garage roof!” I dragged my mum’s hand.
It was an easy escape, I’d been out in the evening that way many a time. We ran into my room and threw up the window, it’s an old fashioned sash type.
“Careful, Jo-Jo!” Mum cried but I was already out and stretching my hand to her.
She didn’t need my help; she plays in the first team of the women’s soccer league and is fitter than most of our customers and that includes the Old Bill.
I slithered down the sloping room to where the drain pipe leads down to the water butt. I could hear the two-tone of the fire engines and shouting and noise from the road at the front. I jumped down into the yard, landing where King Harry had been talking to the man.
“Out the way” and my mum shoved me aside as she jumped and then Dad was with us as well, thank God.
We slid the bolts on the back gate and staggered round to the front, coughing and choking now. There were loads of cops milling around as the engines arrived and it didn’t seem long before the flames licking at the broken window were out and there was just a revolting wet smoky smell in the air.
“It was arson, Shane,” said one of the cops to my dad as we sipped our tea in the police station canteen.
My dad said a few four-letter words. We had other people’s fleeces round our shoulders, we were bare-foot, in our night clothes.
“Are you in any sort of trouble, Jo-Jo?” asked a policeman sitting down beside me.
“No, of course not,” I replied in astonishment.
“Only there was some graffiti sprayed on the front door; a petrol bomb went through the window into the bar but there was something written on the door.”
My heart seemed to stop, my hands were suddenly very cold and my mouth was dry.
“What… what did it say?”
“Watch your effing lip, Jo-Jo,” the policeman said.
I looked at him outraged until I realised that it was the graffiti, it was what the graffiti said…
WATCH YOUR EFFING LIP JO-JO
Lois’s novels for adults are available as e-books: