"So what do the powers that be do? They build smaller, newer units that are more like hospitals, without the acres of grounds and the clock tower; just functional red-brick buildings that are seemingly fit for purpose. But they make a huge fuckin' mistake. They give everybody their own little room, their own fuckin' bedsit, and the beds are not like those squeaking morgue slabs you got in High Royds, no siree. This is sleep easy time. Got me own little wardrobe. I can shut the door and listen to me CDs on me ghetto blaster. I can read me books. I can be alone or I can join the catatonics in the lounge for a spot of Bargain Hunt. I have a nice little nutter's bedsit to see out me days, nurses to look after me; me own little pad within walking distance of the city centre. Institutionalized? Of course I fuckin' am. They'll have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming."
Page 22, Stickleback by Mark Connors
Alan Siddall, a young 68-year-old Black Sabbath fan who wears shades from dusk till dawn, has outstayed his welcome at his local Mental Health Unit. He's about to be shipped off to Willowbeck Gardens to see out the rest of his troubled days. But when he bumps into Cassandra, "the one that got away" years ago before his disastrous marriage to Babs, Alan refuses to go gently into residential care. He wants Cassandra back.
At the heart of this angry, moving and often hilarious novel is the message that, however hard it is to live in this world, hope will always survive.
It can be purchased from Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.
"A brilliant rollercoaster of a book. I couldn't get it out of my head." Helen Mort
"Connors is the P.G. Wodehouse of the working class, almost every sentence an elegant expression of comic vulgarity." 5 Stars - John Lake
"Keep tight hold of your sanity when you plunge into the maelstrom of filth that churns between the covers of this brilliant debut novel. It is a book that grabs you by the throat and shakes you." 5 Stars - Tim Ellis
"Funny, insightful - and harrowing if you stop to think about it too long - I romped through this book." 5 Stars - Rachel Kerr
"A really good read and, from my own experience, horribly authentic. Stickleback is not just a diatribe against the mental health system or the people who work in it - much more nuanced than that. Thoughtful stuff." 4 Stars - Adrian Sinclair
"As well as telling the compelling story of an antagonistic, rebellious man struggling to fit into expectations, Mark Connors has uncovered some of the complexities of mental illness and exposed them for people to get to grips with. Sticking with Alan Siddall throughout the experience of reading this book is like a window on the ups-and-downs of having a friend or family member with a mental illness." 5 Stars - M W Leeming
"Alan Siddall is one of the best comic creations I've read in a long time. I think this book is very perceptive about the modern mental health system, where "service users" have achieved some limited powers and are prepared to use and abuse them, but ultimately are no more in control of their destiny than they ever were." 5 Stars - Terry Simpson