The Lockdown Tales by Alan Whelan released in January in the Fiction – Contemporary genre.
Seven women and three men leave the city to avoid a pandemic. They isolate together in a local farm, where they pass the time working, flirting, eating, drinking, making music and above all telling stories. It happened in Florence in 1351, during the Plague, and gave us Boccaccio’s Decameron.
Seven hundred years later, in Australia, it happens again. The stories are very different, but they’re still bawdy, satirical, funny and sometimes sad, and they celebrate human cleverness, love, courage and imagination.
“Alan Whelan brings us a clever, sensual and sometimes poignant collection of stories that would make Boccaccio proud”
– Tangea Tansley, author of A Question of Belonging
“An old frame for a sharp new snapshot of contemporary Australia”
– Leigh Swinbourne, author of Shadow in the Forest
AMAZON AUS: https://amazon.com.au/dp/022884052X
My instinct makes me want to stay away from people who are too sad, and I keep Bob away from them too. I know that’s not the kind thing to do, but people who are very messed up frighten me. I have the idea – I know it’s irrational – that some of their sickness or disfigurement or bad luck will rub off on me, or onto Bob. So I often keep away, even when I know I should probably help.
But Tracy pulled me into her life, a little. I wasn’t a friend; I don’t think she had any friends. I knew her because she went to a mothers’ group in Petersham, and I went to their meetings too. It wasn’t a very practical group. Nobody swapped or passed on highchairs and walkers and other baby equipment, and no one really shared tips on looking after kids. It was just a bunch of women drinking coffee after school, talking about nothing much and watching the kids play together. Bob was two, and Tracy’s son Bylan was seven, so, like Tracy and me, they didn’t have much to do with each other.
She and I only had one conversation before her life started heading downhill. She spoke to me, I think, because I was the second poorest woman there, after her. I mean, the other women were income-poor but they’d mostly had better jobs, or an employed partner, or both, before they found themselves on their own with a kid. They had more stuff, like clothes and a car and so on. I didn’t, so although Tracy was older than me she saw me as closest to her.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Alan Whelan lives in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia. He’s been a political activist, mainly on homelessness, landlord-tenant issues and unemployment, and a public servant writing social policy for governments. He’s now a free-lance writer, editor and researcher.
His story, There Is, was short-listed for the Newcastle Short Story Award in June 2020, and appeared in their 2020 anthology. His story, Wilful Damage, won a Merit Prize in the TulipTree Publications (Colorado) September 2020 Short Story Competition, and appears in their anthology, Stories that Need to be Told. It was nominated by the publisher for the 2021 Pushcart Prize.
His book The Lockdown Tales, using Boccaccio’s Decameron framework to show people living with the Covid-19 lockdown, is now on sale in paperback and ebook.
His novels, Harris in Underland and Blood and Bone are soon to be sent to publishers. He is currently working on the sequel to The Lockdown Tales and will then complete the sequel to Harris in Underland.
Alan Whelan co-wrote the book, New Zealand Republic, and has had journalism and comment pieces published in The New Zealand Listener and every major New Zealand newspaper, plus The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald.
He wrote two books for the NZ Government: Renting and You and How to Buy Your Own Home. His stories also appear in Stories of Hope, a 2020 anthology to raise funds for Australian bushfire victims, and other anthologies.
His website is alanwhelan.org. He tweets as @alannwhelan.
His phone number is +61 433 159 663. Enthusiastic acceptances and emphatic rejections, also thoughtful questions, are generally sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your feelings now that the end of this pandemic is near?
My feelings right now aren’t about the end of this pandemic. I live in lockdown in NSW, Australia, because we have an outbreak of the aerosol-borne Delta variant of covid-19. It seems you can catch it just by walking past someone who’s got it.
Current lockdown rules allow me to leave home only to buy food, drink and go to the chemist.
Bars and restaurants are closed. I don’t see anyone else, except from a distance, from one day to the next. I was had a bookselling tour planned for the end of July and all of August. That’s off, of course. My book, The Lockdown Tales, is sitting in boxes, losing time and timeliness.
The Australian botched its two main jobs last year and this:
1- get vaccines; and
2 – distribute them so people can get vaccinated.
So far I’ve been able to get one shot of one of the least effective vaccines on the market, internationally. As a defence against the Delta variant that’s somewhere between negligible and marginal. I get the second shot in another three weeks. Two shots of this vaccine is, some studies show, about 60% effective, which is better than nothing but not the sort of odds I like.
I’ll feel ‘vaccinated’ after getting a third, booster shot from a more effective vaccine. I don’t see the Australian Government taking any steps at all to make this possible. So for me the pandemic has no end date. Not yet.
Because I’m a writer this doesn’t matter to me as much as it might to most people. Writing is a solitary job anyway. Writers need to mingle with people to stay sane, and to observe what people do and what they say. I’m not getting that fresh material at the moment, but fortunately I’ve got enough stored away to last me for years.
So my feelings on that are frustration, and anger at Australia’s useless, incompetent and lazy government.
I don’t know when the pandemic will really be over. The rise of the Delta and Lambda variants show us that to be safe we need to kill the virus not just in one country but throughout the whole human population. Otherwise the virus will continue to produce new variants, and we will have them in our countries.
We may get incremental relaxations as we go, but it may take until 2023 or later for this pandemic to be over. Until then, I will be as kind as I can be to others, I will intelligently avoid risk and death, I will stay brave, and I will hold out hope.
When the pandemic does end …
The single most important thing I want to do is go to a bar, ideally with live music, and smile at some nice woman and if I’m charming and lucky I’ll get to see her smile back at me. I miss that. I miss company, warmth, deep conversation and excitement. When I get out I will have my taxi light on.
Just before the pandemic hit, I was going to go to India. I wanted to visit some friends I made in my last Indian trip to India, and see the source of the Indus, and consider whether I can buy land on the Ganges or one of its tributaries. So, as soon as I legally and safely can, I’ll be travelling.
I want to be back in India. I’d like to say hi to my cousins the bonobos in Nigeria. I’d like to sit in a hot pool in Antarctica. I’ve never set foot on the continent of South America. For some reason the bit that calls me hardest is Tierra del Fuego.
So I will socialise and I will travel. Those are my priorities. I’ll see my family for the first time in years. I’ll sell my books!
The main thing I’ll feel, when the pandemic is really close to defeat, is hope. I’ll hope that we’ve learned a lessons about humanity, that to leave some people behind is to endanger yourself. So I hope for more kindness. I hope we learn to value knowledge and intelligence more than we do at the moment. I hope we learn that it’s better to take hard steps quickly, and have the courage to do that. And I hope that we never lose hope.
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ADD THE LOCKDOWN TALES TO YOUR GOODREADS SHELF
This post is part of a tour. The tour dates can be found here: https://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2021/05/nbtm-lockdown-tales-by-alan-whelan.html
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