I was one of the many who heard about a fire in Penistone in October of 2014. A man and his two sons caught in a house fire. The man and the youngest son Paul, aged 9 didn’t make it but the elder son Jack, aged 12 was clinging onto life, despite sustaining burns to over 60% of his body. Jack had tried to save his brother’s life and fallen into the flames from the loft. Jack was able to tell the police that his father had started the fire deliberately. Jack lost his life after a week. ‘He smiled at me, then the light just went from his eyes,’ said Claire, who didn’t move from his bedside. Her lad died trying to save his little brother. I know that gives Claire an atom of strength to go on, to keep breathing.
Why? Why did their father ‘unlawfully kill’ them? Why did he transfer the money in his bank account to a female ‘friend’ (yes, she kept it) and cancel the house insurance? Why did he go out and buy a swanky train set to lure the lads over to the loft in his house? Why did he set off 14 fires and barricade every door to make absolutely sure the boys didn’t get out? Why did he execute this methodical evil plan in the days preceding the tragedy? He did it to hurt Claire who had the audacity to leave her controlling husband. He didn’t just leave her with nothing, but with LESS than nothing because there’s a £50,000 mortgage to pay on that house and the bank are hammering on the door for it. Imagine having to carry on paying for a burnt out shell of a house in which your two children were murdered?
It’s the little things Claire misses: like ironing their white shirts and that the lads still held her hand (obviously when they weren’t in danger of being seen by their mates). And it’s the regrets that torture her, such as that she never got the kitten that the lads asked for because she wanted to wait until they were settled in a new home first. The little things seep between the cracks and hurt the most. She’ll see their friends grow up, go to University, get married, have children of their own… and she’ll think ‘that could have been my boys too.’ I have two lads and as much as they drive me INSANE I can’t imagine life without them.
The community of Penistone hold their arms around Claire. The unsung heroes have renovated that shell of a house to a beautiful spec. They’ve given over 1000 man hours of labour, skills, materials, all for nothing and they’re still giving. I’m in the public eye, they aren’t. They’ve worked far harder than I have, stringing a few words together.
Here’s an article to show what they’ve done. I confess, I thought ‘who would want to live in that house?’ But as Claire said, once there was a lot of laughter and fun and good times in that house. And it has been renovated with so much care, devotion and selflessness, that it has to have cancelled out that one horrible day. The house the lads died in has gone, what has come from the ashes is new and beautiful and has been put together with a huge amount of love.
I wanted to help in my own way. The story I’ve written is funny (fingers crossed) and poignant, hopeful and warm and I think I’ve got it right, because it’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve written. It’s a standalone story, but for readers who know my ‘A Winter Flame’… well, it’s set in Winterworld so Jacques and Eve and Effin and his gang put in an appearance. I’m proud of it and I hope this gamble to put it out there pays off. And I’m ready for the trolls who will think there’s something in this for me… and, trust me, there is nothing but the desire to help someone in the position of my worst nightmare. Yes, there’s a bit of my new book in the back for those who might want a sample. It’ll bulk up the book so you get more for your money. And if you do go on to buy my new paperback, thank you – because I have to earn a wage and pay bills like anyone else. Writing is my job not my hobby… and the more readers I have, the more chance I’ve got of being able to do a charity book again and it working. Yorkshire Cat Rescue next time. I promised them first dabs.
Some people have said that they ‘only read real books’. Or they ‘don’t read romance.’ Folks… this is 99p. The price of a third of a cup of coffee from Costa. I don’t mind if you hate me or despise my writing… none of this is for me. Not one penny. If you have a Kindle, it’s just an easy way to donate money – you don’t even have to read the book – it’s a throwaway, there if you want it. You aren’t buying the book really – you’re donating 99p. As for being ‘a real book.’ If we produced it in paper, the costs would be eaten up and we wanted to make the biggest profit we could. That’s why it’s an ebook.
I’m quite happy for you to stop me in the street and say ‘I don’t buy ebooks, will you give this £1 to Claire instead.’ I have a pot in my office for money that people ask me to pass onto her. And others have said ‘I’d like to give a bit more’ so, there’s a go-fund-me site here.
My publisher and agent even waived their fees as a one- off because this is a special book for a very special lovely lady. You will never meet anyone in your life like Claire Throssell, because if it were me, I don’t know how I’d carry on. She is gentle, dignified, still standing, but inside she is rubble… and you can help her build up her life bit by bit, 99p by 99p so she has somewhere decent to live, some quality of life and can look forward again to a different life to the one she thought she’d have, but hopefully a very good one. Every penny that book raises, in its lifetime – minus what the tax man takes – will go to Claire. And it will be fully and publicly accountable for.
And this is the book. (with the links to buy it on ebook/Kobo/ Amazon) It’s out on May 19th but you can pre-order. Please wish it luck! It’s available all over the world. Here are some links for ex-pats etc ( all versions are English btw) x Amazon Australia, Amazon France, Amazon.com, Amazon.de (Germany), Amazon Canada, Amazon India, If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know.
And let’s get this lady on her feet and make sure that murdering b*****d of an ex-husband doesn’t succeed in all that he set out to do to her. Please help her. Please help Jack and Paul’s mum.