Walpole Cross Keys author explores wartime effects on creative minds

Jon Lawrence who has written a play about mental illness. ENGANL00120130409115110
Jon Lawrence who has written a play about mental illness. ENGANL00120130409115110
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An author and playwright from Walpole Cross Keys has just released a new novel that sees him indulging two of his passions for the history of the First World War and classical music.

Jon Lawrence, 38, has published a semi-fictional account, The Pastoral, of British composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth during the war, after both witnessed the horrors of the trenches first-hand.

Jon uses a historical account of their experiences, Williams in the medical corps and Butterworth fighting in the Battle of the Somme, to explore the concept of how the unimaginable horrors of war might affect the creative mind.

He said: “I lecture in music and have always been keen on the music of Vaughan Williams. I hypothesise about how the war might have affected his creative mind and he develops a case of writer’s block. He sees the horrors every time he tries to write music and all he can hear is this two-note tune, much like a bugle on the battlefield.

“Butterworth is different, he is very optimistic and patriotic, he was later awarded a military cross for bravery in the Battle of the Somme. I’ve always been very interested in the First World War and I love the poetry of that era so it all just came together.”

Although the book addresses the violent truth of the conflict, Jon also describes it as a powerful story of friendship, courage and the power of hope.

Much of the novel is based in West Norfolk, particularly around the coast, where Vaughan Williams collected folk song in 1902.

Jon said: “There’s a lot going on in this book with two split stories, but it has been in my head for a while.”

This is his first released since he published his fifth play, The Wallflower Cafe, about love, grief and the power of mental illness, which was inspired by his own battle with bipolar disorder and the loss of his friend in the Twin Tower bombings in 2001.

He said: “The Wallflower Cafe is gently selling copies and hopefully someone in Norwich is interested in staging the play.”

He is already starting work on his next book, Playing Beneath The Havelock House, which is based on a poem Jon wrote about his time in New Zealand, and is due out in a year’s time.

You can buy copies of The Pastoral from Amazon and find out more about Jon’s work at www.jonlawrencewriting.moonfruit.com