Good Girl – Norman Hall

HER DAD TOLD HER SHE WAS A GOOD GIRL…

“Love, loss and redemption – a thought provoking novel.”

NJH

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Norman Hall was born in Newcastle upon Tyne but brought up in Glasgow.  After a 40 year career as an accountant in industry, he retired in 2017.  Modestly he says that he is “disinclined to list any achievements as an accountant as they can be of little or no interest to anyone, save to say that they allowed me to indulge myself in making a feature film”.

Although Norman says he is no movie addict, he admits to a long-term fascination with the movie-making process.  However, he became increasingly disappointed by the offerings of professional film producers and their formulaic outputs, believing that massive budgets, large production staff and use of special effects was more often than not overwhelming the actual art, which he felt lie in the storytelling.  “I resolved to make a full-length feature film all by myself, with minimal budget.  I confess it was also intended as a two fingered salute to the movie business in general”, he says.

The whole project took 3 years to complete and Good Girl premiered in April 2018 to family, friends, cast and crew.  The film is now free to view either on the Varium Films website or on YouTube.  It was never meant to be a commercial venture, and Norman is adamant that it never will be.

Once the dust had settled on the film project, Norman’s wife persuaded him to write the story in full.  “I never planned to write a novel and in the first few weeks, struggled to make progress, but once I got into a rhythm, it became quite addictive.

Norman still doesn’t regard himself as a writer any more than he does a filmmaker.  Despite this, hot on the heels of Good Girl – the novel – comes the sequel; The Awakening.  Will there be a film sequel?  Who knows?

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Twenty-three-year-old Jessica Anne Khalid, alone and penniless, thinks she has reached rock bottom.  But within forty-eight hours things will go from bad to worse.

In the face of extreme adversity, she summons up the courage to take back control.  Abandoning what little she has left, including her identity, she sets out to seek a better life.

Elsewhere, lonely widower and retired army officer Peter Jeffries, stricken by grief and racked with guilt, contemplates his limited future alone. When their paths cross, she discovers a kindred spirit, he sees his last chance to make amends, and together they learn the true meaning of unconditional love.

Excerpt

Jess felt the movement before she heard a sound. The boat had rocked slightly as if its weight had shifted and she could only guess what it meant. Before she could react, she heard the distinct clatter of bolts: one, two, three, and then the rattle of wooden doors thrown open, light flooding into the cockpit, and with mounting horror, realised she was not alone.

Peter took two more steps on the wooden ladder, bringing his head up to the level of the cockpit, and peered into the gloom, intrigued but unperturbed.

“Are you all right?” he said with an insouciance that suggested incidents like this were a regular occurrence on his boat. The person lying flat on their back with their head towards him and arms and legs outstretched like a crucifix was clearly not a threat. Jess was still struggling to come to terms with what she imagined might turn out to be the biggest misjudgement of her life.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” was all she could manage, and then, “I didn’t know there was anyone here.” She gabbled incoherently. “I’ll go.”

Peter realised instantly that he was dealing with a young female so made every attempt not to react to the crass nonsense she was babbling and tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.

“Wait! You can’t go back out there! Here, give me that,” and before she could do anything he reached over, grabbed her sodden rucksack and dragged it down the steps into the saloon below. She twisted onto her front and made a vain attempt to reach out and catch hold of it before it disappeared, but she was too late and saw him striding off down the boat, rucksack in hand.

“You’ll need something warm,” he shouted from the galley as he reached for the kettle and started filling it. She could see the man was old and grey-haired but bulky and fearsome, and all she could think was how she was going to extricate herself from this mess; not least because he had taken all her belongings.

“Come on. Come on!” he bellowed from the galley, further aggravating her fear. She crawled further towards the hatch opening so she could see a little better.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to bother you,” she said limply, thinking the first step perhaps was to placate the old boy. He was having none of it.

“Look. You’ll catch your death out there. Come down at once!” Realising resistance was futile, she swung her body around and climbed backwards down the steps into the saloon, where she stood shivering, arms around her body, head down in submission, lank wet hair dangling over her face.

She heard him approach and was momentarily afraid he might attack her, but to her surprise, he moderated his aggression, sounding suddenly concerned as he took in the image before him. He thrust a towel under her nose and she took it, burying her face in it and then using it to rub the back of her head.

“Goodness me, you’re soaking! Have you got anything to change into?” Head still down, she sniffed, and not daring to look at him, mumbled through her dangling hair.

“In the rucksack, but I expect it’s all wet. Don’t worry, I’ll soon dry off,” she said without conviction.

“Hmm,” he snorted at this latest piece of nonsense and marched off, huffing and puffing. After a moment or two, during which it sounded as if cupboards and drawers were being ransacked, he returned clutching two items of clothing in one hand.

He thrust them at her. “These are the best I can do, I’m afraid. Go up for’ard, take that wet stuff off and put these on,” he said, poking a grey tee shirt and green woollen pullover in her direction.

She hesitated but then thought it best not to argue. She swept her wet hair back to see what she was doing and turned to face him for the first time, holding out one hand to take the clothes. He froze.

They stood for a moment staring at each other and she thought her worst fears were about to be realised. What’s the matter? Why is he looking at me like that? She felt the panic rise again and her heart begin to thump. He remained immobile, transfixed, eyes cold and dark and disturbed, as if he were in a trance. They stood, gripping the clothes like protagonists in a tug of war: she, terror-stricken by his numb expression; he, rooted to the spot, frozen by her hypnotic spell. She decided not to make any sudden movements, simply draw back slowly. She gulped and broke the awkward silence.

“No. It’s okay. I’m fine, thanks,” she said guardedly, lowering her hand. The trance ended and he exploded.

“Now look here!” he bellowed, shoulders back, standing rigidly to attention. “I’m captain of this ship and whilst on board, you will do as you’re told. I will not tolerate insubordination on my vessel!”

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