Tuesday, 10 April 2012

ABIDE WITH ME: What's in a title . . . ?


When I finished the first draft of ABIDE WITH ME, I'd used the working title FORTUNES ALWAYS HIDING - a line from the West Ham anthem I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles.  I'd justified the title as I went along as it tied in with the crime fiction side of the narrative, but I knew it wasn't right.  I knew, somewhere, a title was yet to reveal itself.

Titles, I find, are sort of like naming your own children.  They sort of name themselves.  And when they do, you know no other name would do.  The same with titles.  I checked on Amazon, and a West Ham book titled FORTUNES ALWAYS HIDING was already taken - 'Fortunes Always Hiding: West Ham United from the Inside' by Kirk Blows, so that was out.

I wanted a title that encapsulated all elements of the book.  Trouble is, I was finding it so hard to nail down these elements even into a genre, to find a title that covered the lot seemed pretty impossible.  And then a friend of mine - Sue - one of my brilliant beta readers - told me the title. 

'ABIDE WITH ME, she said.  'That's the title'. 

Sue said it as if she knew, as if there could be no other.  I thought about it.  I liked it, I knew it was right. 

Not only was the singing of ABIDE WITH ME at the Cup Final part of a pivotal chapter in the book, I felt all the way through, the concept of 'abiding with' lay just under the surface of everything I was writing.  Take John, a young lad going off the rails, despite his best efforts to do what he thought was right.  John's dad, hurtling into the darkness of depression and not a thing he could do about it.  Thommo, John's friend, crumbling into a chaotic heap of confusion and admitted to a mental institution.  And then there's Kenny, committed also, hurled into darkness by a society that failed to see the shining light behind those dark, dark eyes.  All of these characters screamed 'abide with me' in every act, in every word.

And finally, there was me.  The author.  John was telling me the story.  I merely wrote it down.  John told the story the only way he knew how, in his East London vernacular, complete with colourful language.  When I finished the first draft, I realised my choice to take John's words down verbatim, as it were, might prove quite a challenge to the reader.  But I knew I had something here.  In this book.  But it was a risk.  I needed the reader to stick with it, to trust me.  And that's when I realised the title pertained to not only the characters in the book, but most of all, to me.  By putting my name to this book - on the front page, just under the words 'ABIDE WITH ME' - I was asking the reader to go with me to the end.

A couple of readers couldn't.  And that was fine.  I'm grateful they gave it a go.  For the vast majority, however, I hope the journey was worth it.

Thank you for all your continued support.

All the best,

Ian 

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