I don’t want say too much about the review in the picture at the bottom of this post, but unlike all the other reviews you will find here, this Echoes reviewer has completely, and very badly missed the point of my book.
I knew when writing Echoes it would be read by climbers, and of course they would be expecting a lot of climbing, but just because I am a climber I don’t think the book has to be classed as ‘a climbing book’. I don’t see why I should be expected to only write about climbing.
The book is a memoir, and as I didn’t begin climbing properly until about thirty years of age this means I’ve had quite a lot of life experience that is other than climbing. I am also a person with views that go beyond climbing, and I hope that Echoes reaches many people who are not climbers.
This was always my intention and the main driving argument of the book was not to tell a bunch of rip-roaring climbing stories but to tell the story of someone growing up, who at first was living a way that was expected of them, but who then, through finding something to be passionate about, manages to break free from what they had first perceived was their chosen path. This could’ve been a book about kayaking, if kayaking had got hold of me instead, but whatever … it was always going to be a book about escaping from prison, literally and metaphorically.
It also, I hope, has another driving argument: one that shows a person who finds something (climbing) which changes him and helps him grow as a person, and makes him better than the one he had turned into through doing a job that he really disliked. These things I hope are inspirational for other people, who may be in similar situations and who hopefully can take something from my message.
The thing that irritates me about this review by Terry Fletcher, a climber I presume as he is a member of the Climbers Club, and who is also supposed to be a journalist, is his obvious lack of knowledge, and his obvious lack of basic research about a climb called The Bells! The bells!
The Bells! The bells! was Britain’s first E7 climbed by John Redhead on the very famous and well known (to climbers) North Stack Wall at Gogarth. North Stack is also the home of The Cad, first climbed by Ron Fawcett, The Hollow Man and Wreath of Deadly Nightshade first climbed by Andy Pollit and The Long Run climbed by Pete Whillance. North Stack holds a high place for not only the standard of its climbs but also for its history and the climbers who made that history. Even those who will never climb the more difficult routes on North Stack know of it, they know about its run-out, they know of its history, its place in climbing.
In Echoes, my fascination about what drove people to want to place themselves in a position of facing the possibility of being killed, by climbing The Bells! The Bells!, features heavily; it is definitely a thick thread running through much of the second half of the book. One of the longest chapters is about my attempting to climb The Bells! The Bells! There is also another chapter about my first visit to North Stack.
In Terry Fletchers review he tells us that The Bell! The Bells! is a climb situated at South Stack. South Stack is actually quite a long way from North Stack and North Stack Wall, which makes me ask the question: did he actually read my book? It also shows how capable he is of totally missing the book’s main point. This irritates me, but it’s really not that important, it is only some quibble about some obscure geographical and historical content related to a minority activity. However, such hack journalism, that so often gets its facts wrong and crudely slants its argument really does need to be pointed out when it relates to something very important.
What really angers me about this review is Terry Fletcher’s following words: “In Bullock’s hands at times it feels like a prolonged whinge-fest about the sheer unpleasantness of working in the prison service. But is anyone really surprised that working in prisons, where society chooses to warehouse the sad, the bad and the half-mad, is by turns depressing, sordid and dangerous?” Perhaps Mr Fletcher should get a job as Tory spin-doctor (or is he one already?) – he seems very keen to sweep under the carpet the disgusting state of our prisons by trying to make out that I am merely ‘whinging’ about something that everyone accepts as ‘normal’. In my book I clearly describe my emotional attachment and respect for some of the inmates that I worked with, and my deep sadness at how our ‘society’, made by the likes of Fletcher, has failed them so very badly. Mr Fletcher and his kind of ‘society’ might ‘choose to warehouse’ human beings so they can be conveniently put out of sight and mind … but I do not ‘choose’ to be so heartless!
Here is the review.