** Long-listed for the UK International Novel Writing Competition **
“You see, the thing is, you can never win an argument with a stupid person, because the stupid person isn’t aware that they’re stupid and therefore always think that they’re right and clever, even when they’re clearly not. And that’s because they’re stupid. And the ironic thing is, they in turn think that you are stupid, because they don’t understand you. So to prevent conflict, the clever person has to pretend that they’re the stupid one to avoid getting a punch in the face. I just wasn’t prepared to do that last night… ”
Alex Sumner has had enough. Things aren’t going well for him. Not well at all. Forced to work with idiots, disappointment meets him at every corner. His job is under threat, his wife shows him no interest and his big break always seems to be on the horizon, never getting any nearer. Then one day something within him snaps and he is prepared to suffer these fools no more. On a path of self-destruction and paranoia, he finds himself in a secure hospital and reflects back upon the events that have caused him to be there.
And is any of this his fault?
The first draft of this novel was written in four weeks when John had time in the summer of 2014 between jobs. The first chapter was actually written in a pub near to Euston Station whilst he was waiting for a train back home after attending a workshop with the literary agent Jo Unwin at the Society Club in Soho! It is totally different in style and content to the previous two novels and written in the first person from Alex’s somewhat paranoid point of view. It is a contemporary novel, almost a black comedy, and John admits that he had a lot of fun writing it.
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Bookmuse (Jerome Griffin):
Mosquitoes is a rage against the machine struggle by an everyman frustrated with his life and the establishment. John McKay conjures images of a weary northern soul who is desperate to better the lot of his and his wife’s lives, but meets irresistible force after immovable object at every turn.
The story unfolds across two timelines. In the present, our protagonist, Alex Sumner, is incarcerated in a mental healthcare unit and his treatment whilst there delves into his recent past, which McKay uses to transport us to the backstory of how he has arrived at such a sorry situation. In these flashbacks we learn that he has grown bitter and impatient with everything in his life. His bosses are incompetent pen pushers, while his peers rise up the ranks despite their ineptitude and because they play the corporate three bags full game. Outside of work he is surrounded by morons incapable of holding a coherent conversation and at home his wife has almost become a virtual stranger.
In so many ways Mosquitoes is a snapshot of real life.
The one hope he has for his future is his novel which, by his own admission, is a brilliant masterpiece. It’s in the hands of a well-established agent in London who is bound to love it. It’s right up her street, or so he thinks.
Inevitably the last straw of annoyance cripples the camel and he embarks on a one-man campaign to shake things up a little and take control of his life. Just like Brexit only with more of an after plan! With every step he gets thumped ever harder by another wake-up call from his job to his marriage, and from his so-called friends to his shattered dreams. As each hit lands he descends further into a self-destructive path of mayhem, which spirals out of control at breakneck speed before arriving at his current location.
On one level, Mosquitoes is the tale of a regular guy trying to cope with his own existence, while on another it is a savage indictment of 21st century Britain.
McKay reminds us that we all have our own journey to make and none of us knows the route or destination. All we have is the steering wheel and the fuel. As individuals we can’t beat the system. By the same token, we can choose our battles and strive to find a path to our own peace.
A short and believable fictional novel, Mosquitoes by John R. McKay is told so well you have no idea how it’s going to turn out. As a person who has done therapy myself I really related to the experiences verging on a nervous breakdown. But this is a story that is also funny, funny in a great way that refuses to take itself seriously and just entertains you. I couldn’t put it down and was torn between being desperate to find out what happened next and not wanting the intriguing plot to end. Highly recommend.
Some Amazon UK review quotes:
“A beautifully written novel that should be up there with all the classics.”
“Makes you root for the anti hero. Well written and compelling. Enjoyed reading the story.”
“The best and most hilarious, thought provoking book I’ve read in a long time.
Excellently written , I couldn’t put it down. Never knew whether to feel angry or sad for Alex. A rollercoaster ride with laughs a plenty on almost every page.
“Very well written and was completely absorbed from the beginning.”