The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick Age 81
You may better know JB Morrison as Jim Bob, lead-singer of legendary 90s indie duo Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. However, while Carter are finally winding down (they play their last ever reunion gig this November), Jim Bob is turning heads as a novelist.
Having written his memoirs of life in Carter and followed it with two novels (Storage Stories and Driving Jarvis Ham), The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick Age 81 completes Jim’s transition from popstar to writer.
His previous books were penned under the moniker Jim Bob, whereas this latest story sees him publish for the first time through Pan MacMillan, under the very grown-up name of JB Morrison.
The narrative follows Frank Derrick’s life in the aftermath of being run over by a milk float. With a broken arm, a fractured foot, and with only his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) and a stack of DVDs to keep him company in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea, the weeks ahead are set to be long.
It’s only when care-worker Kelly Christmas enters his life that Frank gets a spring in his step, or, indeed, his hobble. She is the breath of fresh air that he needs and gives him reason to push through the four walls of his flat and seek adventure in the world.
Morrison’s tale is one of loneliness and friendship. Of age and youth. Of weakness and strength. Frank is funny but sad, kind but cantankerous, strong but scared, furiously independent but desperately lonely. The tone of the story is typical of Morrison’s wry but sympathetic take on the world and his observational humour is beautifully gentle, as you would perhaps expect from a story about an 81-year-old man with a broken toe. Clever repeated gags and subtle pay-offs punctuate what is, essentially, an everyday tale of growing old.
Indeed, Frank’s life isn’t really more extraordinary than any pensioner you see struggling to drag their aching frame onto the bus on your high street, or shuffling round your local charity shop. And it’s this sense of familiarity that makes the story work so well. The narrative brilliantly depicts the frustration of trying to fill endless, humdrum days with an active mind but a body that refuses to work anymore. There’s a lot of Frank Derrick within our parents and grandparents and, some day, there will be within ourselves.
This sweet, sad, truthful, very funny, life-affirming and uplifting story serves as a reminder that, ultimately, life is for the living, whether you are 18 or 81.
The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick Age 81 is published by Pan MacMillan on June 5th. Buy it here.
Review by Bobby Townsend