Combining Beatle fandom and a love of Alternate History

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Hi folks. Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my brand new website. I’ve been meaning to get an author site up and running for some time now, but social media has been my platform of choice for so long that I didn’t think a website was necessary.

Yes. I was being lazy.

But as you can see, I changed my mind about the website. (And this is a good time to say thanks to my brother Robert, who did most of the hard work setting things up here)

If you’re wondering who the hell I am by the way, go to the ‘About Me’ page. I’ll even wait for you.

Having said all that, let’s get on with the first post.

This website has been launched to coincide with the release of ‘FAB’, my Alternate History novella, which asks the question – ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’ The book itself has been released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the killing of John Lennon on December 8th. Yep, 35 years have passed since the world was robbed of one of its finest musical talents, not to mention one of its most interesting personalities.

So why have I written the book?

First off, I’m a huge fan of The Beatles. Such a huge fan that even in my late twenties and early thirties, if a family member had to buy me a birthday or Christmas present and didn’t know what to get, they’d usually just pick up a Beatle book. Mark will like that! In fact, before I moved to Australia in July 2015, I had so many Beatle books back home in Glasgow that I could have started my own shop. Unfortunately, luggage restrictions meant that I had to give them away. I hope they’ve gone to good homes. Who knows? Maybe somebody reading them might even be inspired to write their own Beatle Alternate History book (What If Thomas the Tank Engine Hadn’t Been Narrated By Ringo? – something good like that)

John Lennon was always my favourite Beatle. Why? Well, as the main character in ‘FAB’, Jagger (not Mick) comments at one point, Lennon was the craziest of the four. And I’ve always admired a little crazy in a person. I also had an Epiphone guitar as a teenager, which I made sure was the same colour as Lennon’s. Even now, I have an Ovation acoustic because that’s what Lennon had. I just liked him.

And what Beatles fan doesn’t want to envision a world in which Lennon wasn’t shot by a total dick/wretch of a human being? It was such a waste of a life. And another thing that makes Lennon’s death particularly sad is that in late 1980, at the time of his death, he was the happiest he had been in a long time. I did a lot of research for the book and there are plenty of archive interviews available on YouTube (film and audio). If you compare the earlier interviews with the 1980 equivalents, you’ll notice that Lennon is in a much better state of mind in the later ones. It’s true; he seemed genuinely happy, which makes what happened to him all the more gut-wrenching.

Which leads me onto the other thing.

I’m also a big fan of Alternate History. Be it films or books or whatever. I guess Fatherland by Robert Harris was the first AH book I remember hearing about. If you don’t know, Harris’s book is based in an alternate reality in which the Nazis won the Second World War. A lot of other authors have been inspired by the Second World War too, and it features frequently in Alternate Histories (Check out The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson) The American Civil War is used by AH writers too. As you can probably guess, the possibilities are endless and it’s a great exercise for the imagination to run riot. For me, it combines my own love of both History and English. For those who are new to the Alternate History genre and are interested in exploring some of the titles out there – Uchronia – is a useful site, which lists over 3200 AH novels, stories, essays.

I’m particularly interested in the history of popular culture – music, films, sport etc. One thing I find strange is our historical obsession with iconic pop culture figures who died young: Jim Morrison, James Dean, Kurt Cobain, and Che Guevara, to name just a few. More recently, there’s the actor Paul Walker, who like Dean, tragically died in a car accident. Expect poster sales of Walker to skyrocket by the way.

It’s hard to pinpoint why we revere the young/dead/famous celebrity so much. But from an AH perspective, it’s fascinating to ponder what might have happened had these people lived longer. Going with James Dean for example, what would have happened if he hadn’t died in that car crash in September 1955? Personally I’ve always thought James Dean was a bit overrated and little more than a Marlon Brando imitator. It was tragic that he died at such a young age, but it was his death that made him a ‘legend’.   Had he aged, would we remember him as fondly as we do? What if Marlon Brando had died at a young age? What if Brando had been the one to die in a car crash not long after making On the Waterfront? We would never have seen the old and obese Brando, wasting his talent in many dross movies. Might James Dean have gone a similar way?

It’s the same with John Lennon. While not quite as young as James Dean when he died, Lennon had only just turned 40. For Beatles fans, it’s fascinating to speculate on what he might have achieved in the 1980s and beyond had he not been gunned down. Would the Beatles have gotten back together? Would he still be with Yoko today at age 75? That’s what ‘FAB’ is all about. Do I think the events depicted in ‘FAB’ are how things would have turned out? Probably not, but who knows? Given our obsession with celebrity and with the reality that was the Terminator Governor of recent years, anything is possible. Especially in America. It’s the speculating that’s fun.

So why did I write ‘FAB’?

Maybe I wrote it because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to saving John Lennon. Which is something every Beatle fan wishes they could do. If only time travel was really possible. I could hop into a flying DeLorean, set the Time Circuits to December 8th, 1980, 10pm, and find myself standing on West 72nd Street, New York City. Then all I’d have to do is find Lennon’s killer loitering outside the Dakota. That’s when I’d unleash the meanest Glasgow Kiss that’s ever been bestowed upon anyone. Drag the unconscious would-be-assassin away and John Lennon comes safely home that night.

Imagine that.

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  • Fairy Godmother

    Hey You,

    Just found out about your book in the funny roundabout way that internet thingy works. And ….(are we still not allowed to start a sentence with ‘And’???)…. you are grossly undercharging! I haven’t read it yet but I’m sure it is worth a whole lot more.
    Hope you are having a ball, I’m sure moving to the other side of the world will be the best thing that ever happened to you after meeting your lovely wife.
    Merry Christmas both of you
    Love from your
    Fairy Godmother

    • Mark Gillespie

      Hey FG! Good to hear from you. Well, pricing is a constant experimentation. But when you read, you can let me know what you think I should be charging! 😉 Oz is great. A very different (hotter) Christmas awaits. Hope you’re all well back there. Have a great Christmas and New Year X

  • Pingback: Spotlight: ‘FAB’ by Mark Gillespie | A Bookaholic Swede()

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