‘The Road to Cromer Pier’ by Martin Gore
Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after forty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.
The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.
Martin Gore’s second novel is, I think, going to divide opinion. If you share his characters’ affection for, and nostalgia of, the great seaside holidays of the past in places like Cromer and Hastings and Bracklesham Bay, then you will adore this book.
If, like many others, you think the reason that these places are dying a slow, strangulated death is because what they offer is over priced, miserably devoid of entertainment and plasticy crap, then you’ll find it hard to engage much with the central dilemma of whether the show will go on and the theatre saved. I grew up in one. I know they don’t need to be saved.
What Gore creates extremely successfully here is a world. This is a town where celebrities on the way up or the way down converge to put on a show which keeps the end of the pier theatre going.
Gore populates this world like a soap opera: the stand up comedian with a dark secret, the former talent show starlet struggling to put together a life and a career, the mother and daughter team holding the thing to together with sticky tape and glue all the while attempting to evade the shark like attentions of local worthy, and seedy adulterous businessman, Lionel Penrose.
Into this cast of characters as shop soiled and seedy as the seafront town they inexplicably want to keep going, washes up disgraced former football manager on the run from his own troubles and a lover of the head strong Janet, who has some secrets of her own.
This is a novel which walks a bit of a tight rope as I mentioned. If you like the characters, then the ensemble nature – cleverly structured to the mirror the type of show they are building up to at the end of the pier – will allow you to swoop in and out of their stories to satisfy your curiosity. However, this becomes a high wire act as a reader can struggle to stay engaged if there is not a clear protagonist, or at least pair of protagonists to hold on to.
The version I reviewed was an audiobook and this lead to one or two other issues which might not be such and issue in print.
Certainly I once read that a writer should avoid having characters whose names begin with the same letters. I must confess that at times I struggled with Carol and Karen but this somewhat went into overdrive when, in such a large cast, there is a Lec, a Les, a Lauren and a Lionel. I ended up gravitating to the Paul and Janet story just because I could remember who the hell they were.
Additionally, the narration of Penny Scott-Andrews is variable. She renders the Welsh lilt of Lauren with beautiful precision and does a very sleazy Lionel too. But it does grate when a novel about showbusiness has a narrator who pronounces Captain Mainwaring as Captain Main-Wearing. Dad’s Army isn’t that obscure a reference even these days, surely?
Overall, however, I enjoyed diving into the underbelly of a failing theatrical enterprise and the setting was enhanced by rooting the piece so firmly against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crash. This is light, simple story telling, well told and engaging the big themes in life. I rather hope Mr Gore gets back on the Road to Cromer Pier in future.
Author Bio –
I am a 63 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.
When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.
I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.
The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on: https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore
Pen Pals was my first novel, and a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, is now available in all three formats. It was officially launched on Cromer Pier itself, coinciding with the new season of the Summertime Special Show.
I’m active on twitter @authorgore and on Facebook Martin Gore Author. My website is www.martingore.co.uk.
I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.’
Social Media Links
Twitter – https://twitter.com/AuthorGore