The Boy with 2 Heads
'2Heads was 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 took a while to finish. Of all the books I've written, I think I'm fondest of this one.'
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 head perched on his shoulder. 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 remarked that it's 'Mulligan's genius as a writer is to weave such complex questions into what is ostensibly an oddball comedy thriller'.
The Times called 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. The book's, 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 at work in the transformation, 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. There's a little bit of homage in this book to a hero of mine, the playwright Dennis Potter. He'd tell a story about how he'd look up from his hospital bed, and the nurse would be there to reassure him that everything's going to be all right. I knew she was lying,' he'd say. 'It never is.'
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 self-destruction? Richard and Rikki go on the most extraordinary journey, and they learn so much about friendship and survival.
I think it's the most optimistic book I've written.'
THE BOY WITH TWO HEADS is published by David Fickling Books, and is available at all good bookshops, or through the usual on-line stores.