The Boy with Two Heads
Published: June 2013 - paperback published May 2015)
NOTE: if you’re looking for the football-match, scroll to the bottom…
‘2Heads is the first of a two-book deal after ‘Trash’,’ says Andy. ‘David Fickling is the publisher, and his team has a quite unique ability to stretch and encourage, so it’s taken a while to get it perfect. I’m very excited to see it taking its first steps in the big wide world…’
So what’s about it about? Does some poor soul really have two heads?
‘Yes. The opening line is stolen straight from Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’. Instead of Gregor and his cockroach, we meet Richard Westlake, who awakes “after a night of unquiet dreams, to discover a lump in his throat”. The lump grows fast, and the boy finds he has a very different twin perched on his shoulder. Except it’s no parasite or homunculus – it’s Richard, too. Hostile, destructive, witty, demanding…racist, irreverent and achingly lost – the new head, christened ‘Rikki’, tears up every certainty Richard ever had.’
What are the critics saying?
The Daily Mail has called it 'an extraordinary examination of grief. A highly original, emotionally-charged black comedy / thriller' while The Daily Telegraph remarks that it's 'Mulligan's genius as a writer to weave such complex questions into what is ostensibly an oddball comedy thriller'. The Times calls the book 'a satirical horror novel by one of our boldest authors...' and The Booktrust describes it as 'an unusual blend of fantasy, horror, comedy, school story and thriller...complex and absorbing, using its extraordinary premise to explore bereavement, friendship, fear, and the relationship between parents and children, it is both intriguing and addictive.'
So it’s horror, or fantasy…or what?
‘It’s reality, I think. It’s set in a very real school, based on the one I went to, full of very ordinary kids. There’s a metaphor there too, of course – we’re all visited by demons from time to time, and we all repress and self-censor. Rikki’s the monster that we’d all like to be from time to time – he’s daringly outspoken, asking terrible questions. It’s about that dark place we get trapped in now and then, when security is stripped away. When something happens that makes you wonder if life is worth living. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a little bit of homage in this book to a hero of mine, the tortured playwright Dennis Potter. He’d tell a story about how he’d look up from his hospital bed. ‘Don’t worry,’ the nurse would say. ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’ ‘And of course I knew she was lying,’ he’d say.
So it’s a bleak book? Full of despair?
‘Absolutely not. There’s despair in it, and maybe more pain than in ‘Ribblestrop’ or ‘Trash’. But who’d write a children’s book ending in destruction? Richard and Rikki go on the most extraordinary journey, and they learn so much about friendship and survival. It’s metamorphosis and it’s growth, and I think it’s the most optimistic book I’ve written.’
…and for those who’ve read the book and are chasing that football video – all you need to do is get onto Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-b8WqLVxIo