Announce talent – huge, undeniable, great big balls of talent.
Yes, cfcuk’s finest; Mr Walter Otton has a new book out.
Entitled ‘Poppy’ and bedecked in a very striking cover, the book takes its title from the mother of the two main protagonists – Frank and Harry.
Frank and Harry are twins and Poppy, their mother dies after childbirth. Their Father Saul, grief stricken and severely provoked, is arrested for the grisly murder of a contemptuous rival. In the absence of their now imprisoned Father, the twins are brought up by their guardian Uncle Jake with significant input and influence from Barrington.
Thus an array of colourful characters supplemented by ‘Bullshit Martin’ and Kat the midwife amongst others are interwoven as we are taken on an intense journey through their troublesome and complicated lives.
Many of you will of course be familiar with Walter’s writing in cfcuk for many years and I for one nearly always turn to his articles first (contrary to what Tim Rolls may tell you!), so engaging do I find them.
Any of you who have regularly read Walter’s articles in cfcuk and indeed his previous books: “The Red Hand Gang”; “Shorts”; “#ROE2RO” and “Stuck on You” will instantly recognise his unique writing style. With his uncanny eye for detail and his intensely observational style; staccato like, sharp and pin-point in the characters he observes and the feelings about them that he evokes.
‘Poppy’ takes this on to a whole new level. Rather than writing in the first person of Walter Otton, he has now spread this to a plethora of diverse and complex characters. No mean feat and even more impressive when you consider the psyche of the characters involved and the journey Walter takes them through.
Like so much of Walter’s writing, ‘Poppy’ is almost cinematic as he takes you on a journey through the lives of his characters (and Walter himself perhaps) and how they see it, but more than that there is an energy and dynamism that shines through the writing. Edward Hopper did this through his art – Walter Otton does it with his words – both paint pictures and you see the story rather than just read or look at it.
This is a very ambitious piece of work – both personally and as a writer. Having previously conquered articulating his own and immediate peer group’s experiences on spiritual journeys from Stamford Bridge to Romania via the London Tube network, Walter now speaks for people whose lives (and minds) he attempts to inhabit and in doing so faithfully and authentically articulates them.
Ambitious it maybe, but triumph it certainly is. As always Walter draws on his own life experience using places, people and events familiar to him allied to the acuity of his observation. Whilst this is played out through fictional creations you can’t help feel that there is something intensely personal about the work. Ultimately what shines through is Walter’s fascination in and passion and love for people.
It is also a very brave piece of work, dealing as it does with painful and grim subjects such as violence; obsession; selfishness; the cruelty of life on the streets; hardship; death; loss and grief with a gritty realism. For some this may at times feel unbearable but Walter’s skill is that whilst he is brave enough to confront these issues, his underlying compassion for his characters and people in general envelops it so that even in the darkest moments you sense that there is always hope. And that hope leads to redemption.
In a sense you can feel that although this is a work of fiction, the numerous connections in terms of characters, locations and events make this something of a personal journey. You feel that Walter has gone on something of a therapeutic journey of his own and some catharsis in writing this.
Walter’s bravery in being prepared to explore his own soul by exploring the souls of his characters through the darkest wonderings of their minds spews forth from the characters he creates to the extent that they leap out of the pages and smack you straight between the eyes. It is powerful stuff.
In some ways the main feeling that the book evokes is struggle. Life is bloody hard, bad things happen; you are always susceptible to being drawn in to the abyss – will you be overwhelmed or not? Will you survive? As a consequence this is a book about real life, laid bare, warts and all. It is inherently therefore a book about the human condition and the conflicts therein. I know of few writers who convey this as expertly and compassionately as Walter does.
Laying bare the complex contradictions of the human condition and the fact that all of us have good and evil, light and dark buried within us is what makes this book such a pertinent and in some ways touching read.
Ultimately it is a book of great depth, very much like the author himself.
If we lived in a world where justice and meritocracy ruled then Walter will sell more books than JK Rowling, sadly we don’t, although no one will be more pleased than me if he goes on to do just that. That said, if Walter makes 10% of JK Rowling’s earnings from ‘Poppy’ he’d still probably give most of it to a homeless person sleeping rough on the streets of London and the rest of it buying his mates endless rounds of Bakewell Tart shots in the pub.
It’s a credit to Mark Worrall and his Gate 17 publishing house that he lovingly gives budding authors such as Walter and many others the opportunity get their work published and read by an audience. Be under no illusion – and Mark would not mind me saying this – the quality of Walter’s work and writing deserve a far, far, bigger audience.
I hope that one day, this will be the case and we’ll be waiting in a long queue to get the latest Walter Otton blockbuster signed by the author himself. When that day comes I’ll put a tenner on it now that Walter would greet us with a hearty “Oi Oi” and a “why don’t you just give me a C…”
I’m honoured to call Walter a friend and we should all be proud that there’s a proper Chelsea supporter among us putting work out there with the compassion, humanity and genuine quality of ‘Poppy’.
Walter Otton is most definitely one of us and most definitely very special – go out and buy his book; you will not regret it and maybe by reading it you’ll find a bit of redemption all of your own.