✨ Guest Post ✨
Many years ago now I had a day off work feeling unwell. At the time, the new Channel 4 was showing old 1950s and 1960s British films on weekday afternoons, many of them well known at the time but mostly forgotten now. That particular afternoon it was the turn of a little-known drama (melodrama?) called Sky West and Crooked, made in 1965 and starring John Mills’ daughter Hayley and a young Ian McShane. I duly curled up on my sofa under a blanket with a mug of tea and watched the whole thing.
The film is set in a small rural settlement in England and features Mills as a young woman called Bridey who is suffering from some kind of mental breakdown after a childhood trauma involving the death of a young boy. (The film’s title is an old West Country term for someone who is mentally unstable.) Unable to communicate very well, she comes across as very child-like and has flashbacks to the tragedy although she can’t remember it clearly. The boy’s father blames her for the death and the other villagers, including her own alcoholic mother, offer little in the way of support. Obsessed by death, she encourages the village’s other children to gather up and bury dead animals in the village churchyard.
Only two people sympathise with her. One is the vicar, who’s initially testy about the burial of animals in consecrated ground but comes to understand why she’s doing it. The other is Roibin, a young itinerant man, played (rather memorably!) by a handsome McShane. He rescues her when she runs off after a show-down with the dead boy’s father, and persuades his traveller grandmother to nurse her back to health.
At the end of the film, with her mother dead and the villagers indifferent, she turns her back on them and with the vicar’s help, finds Roibin and goes off with him.
It’s a very long time since I saw the film (it doesn’t often seem to get repeated on UK television, perhaps because it may not have dated terribly well) and I’d forgotten much of the detail. However, the general feel of it has stayed with me ever since, particularly the sense of two lost souls or outcasts from society finding happiness together. And it was this aspect that I turned to when I first started writing ‛Run Wild, Run Free’.
My book’s plot is very different from the film, but the central characters are similar, although not based exactly on Bridey and Roibin. Joey has been born neuro-diverse rather than it being a result of trauma, while Billy, although also itinerant, is older than Roibin and more self-reliant, being used to the casual abuse doled out to gypsies in the 1950s, and (as the excerpt below shows) no stranger to heartbreak himself.
The two form a natural and almost instant bond that’s partly based on mutual attraction but also on shared interests (Joey’s almost obsessive love of nature) and similar ideology. Of course true love, even in such a short space of time, doesn’t run completely smoothly, but they help each other, and when Billy is unfairly accused of something he didn’t do, it’s up to Joey to rescue him.
I really enjoyed writing about these two characters on the edges of ‟normal” accepted society, and the way they find acceptance with each other when they can’t find it within their own communities. And I’m indebted to Mills, McShane and the producers of Sky West and Crooked for leaving me with that lingering sense of unusual people finding their own place in life, and like Joey and Billy, coming home.
Run Wild, Run Free by Fiona Glass
GENRE: Gay Historical Erotic Romance
LENGTH: Novelette / 16,225 Words / 57 Pages
RATING: 3 Flames
A stultifying existence, a straight-laced family.
Will ‟different” and art-mad Joey ever break free?
‟Growing up in a 1950s mining village in the English midlands is hard for someone like Joey, who’s known he was different since he was a kid. All he wants to do is run wild on the hills, watching nature and indulging his love of art. All his parents want is for him to settle down: marriage, a home of his own, a steady job down the mine, and not so much as a whiff of art college. But none of that appeals to him.
Everything changes the summer he turns eighteen, when the gypsies come to town. They’re here for the local farmer’s beet harvest, but the villagers resent them and Joe’s Mam won’t even let him speak to them. Dirty, lazy, good-for-nothing layabouts, she calls them. But when Joe meets Billy on the hill behind the village, the man isn’t dirty at all, just good-looking, good-humoured and surprisingly kind. Best of all, Billy shares his love of the natural world.
Unbeknown to his family the two become friends, and then more than friends. But when the farmer’s barn burns down and Joe’s brother Rob puts the blame on Billy, Joe must decide whether to stay loyal to his family, or grow up fast and risk everything he’s familiar with to help the man he’s come to love.”
“Come and meet Rosemary. You can give her this if you like.” Conjuring an apple out of a pocket, the gypsy led the way to a copse in the neighbouring field. Here the spare horses were tethered, tails a-swish, grazing or snoozing in the dappled shade. Rosemary was the oldest, a piebald grey with whiskers round her nose, who crunched the apple and let Joey scratch her head.
“She’s a great old girl. Belonged to my gran before me, and she’s been with me ever since she… Well, seems like for ever. She’s too old to pull the van now but I keep her anyway. Part of the family.”
“Like a pet? I always wanted a dog.”
“I’m sensing another but.”
He turned away, scribbling nonsense lines on the pad. It would spoil the paper, but it was better than meeting Billy’s accusing gaze. It would be too easy to criticise his family, but he wasn’t sure he’d feel good about himself afterwards. Relationships were so difficult sometimes. He’d rather have the foxes and the birds. He sighed and rubbed Rosemary’s wiry neck again. She nickered, turning her head and pushing her nose into his hand as though seeking more apples—or a closeness he couldn’t give. Only Billy would be around her long enough for that.
The thought caught at his throat and he swallowed, then buried his face in Rosemary’s mane. More than anything he wanted to forget that this was temporary; that Billy and his horses and his painted wagon would be gone by this time next week. That was reality, but he could dream, for a few more days at least. Dream that he and Billy were family, or at least firm friends. He wondered who the gypsy’s friends were. Those other men he’d seen him drinking with? Or someone else? Someone special, perhaps? “Who do I remind you of?”
“The other day. You said you reminded me of someone, only you didn’t say who.”
“Oh, that. One of the other lads. He was a bit like you. You know, different.”
“You said was. Did he run away?”
“In a way.” Billy scratched at Rosemary’s back, staring off into the distance. Then he took a short, quick breath. “It was a couple of summers ago. We were at a farm not that far from here and the farmer’s sons were worse than his pigs. Kept on and on at the lad, ‛till one day he disappeared. We just thought he’d gone off by himself for a bit. In a way, he had.” He paused again, eyes clearly focused on something other than trees or fields. “They found him a couple of days afterwards, face down in the farm pond. He, er, wasn’t breathing.”
“You mean he was dead?”
“Yeah. Story was he’d tripped and fallen in the dark. I still don’t know if that’s true or not. Doesn’t matter, anyway. Dead is dead.” He paused. “I miss him, sometimes. He wouldn’t have hurt a fly.”
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A pinch of history, a swirl of mystery, a cupful of romance… Most of Fiona’s books involve history, the paranormal and romance in varying (and varyingly weird!) combinations. They include gay ghostly romances December Roses, Trench Warfare, and Ghosts Galore, and gay vampire romance Echoes of Blood.
Fiona lives in a slate cottage within stone-throwing distance (never a good idea in Glass houses…) of England’s largest lake. She enjoys history, gardening and photography, and rarely has her nose far from the pages of a book – or a cup of tea.
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8 thoughts on “GUEST POST ~ Run Wild, Run Free by Fiona Glass #GuestPost #Excerpt”
Thanks so much for featuring me, Addison! x
…and I’m loving that graphic!
Aww, thanks! ❤️ I try, with varying degrees of success. 😂
Sure works for me!
You’re so welcome, Fiona! Thank YOU for such and interesting guest post! ❤️
Such an interesting background to your wonderful story, Fiona!