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'The closer I get' by Paul Burston

‘The closer I get’ by Paul Burston

The Closer I Get, a book of our time (and literary events from 27 Aug, 2019)

A. Vasudevan reviews Paul Burston’s new book, published by Orenda Books.

There’s a point early on in Paul Burston’s The Closer I Get when protagonist Tom goes to the police to report that he’s being harassed. The female detective who interviews him is astonished to hear that he’s been stalked for about a year and not reported it. Why? she asks. I was embarrassed, he says. “A man being bullied by a woman – it’s a bit pathetic”, to which she responds, “Men can be victims, too.”

Drawing on the author’s own experiences of being stalked, The Closer I Get is an honest, very courageous book. Like Burston, Tom is a successful writer; Evie Stokes a fan – ‘short for fanatic’. But Evie’s love and admiration quickly turn to something far more dark, far more sinister, when she feels Tom has slighted her. Her tweets become increasingly vitriolic, littered with homophobic insults. She even accuses him of plagiarising her work, changing Tom’s Wikipedia page to reflect this.

Initially, Tom’s pride keeps him from reporting the abuse, partly because he thinks he can deal with it. It quickly escalates though, spinning out of control, and no matter how often he blocks Evie from social media, she finds a way through.The situation Tom finds himself in is a comment on our social media age in which ‘intimacy’ and ‘friendship’ are seemingly based on little more than the pressing of a button; where everyone feels they have a right to say whatever they want, however they want, with little or no recourse, shielded by the anonymity and distance of a virtual world.

Beautifully written, with an immediacy and pace that engages us from the very first page, The Closer I Get is also a painful, stomach twisting read that keeps us off balance. Told from both characters’ perspectives, we gain insight into Evie and Tom as the events unfold. Both are flawed, somewhat manipulative individuals whose actions and reactions are often fuelled by their own biases, fears and paranoia.
The anxiety and despair which Tom feels as Evie’s harassment spirals are far too familiar to those of us who’ve had similar experiences at some point in our lives. For me, it wasn’t cyberbullying but stalking by someone on the periphery of the group I ran with in my twenties, beginning with a throwaway conversation at a party I can barely remember and yet, at its height, resulting in my stalker living in a house across the road from me.

In a very candid article published in the Guardian, Burston said that while writing the book was daunting, “turning a traumatic experience into a work of fiction proved enormously therapeutic. Before, I was still consumed with anger at the woman who harassed me. Now, I feel nothing but pity for her. And that is far easier to live with.” It’s also far easier to read.

This is a compelling novel, smartly written and well-executed, Burston keeping us primed throughout as we watch breathlessly to see what next will unfold. It draws well-needed attention to a crime that is far too common in our society and from which we still don’t have adequate or comprehensive protection.

A must read. 

Paul Burston| The Closer I Get | Orenda Books | 11 July 2019 | paperback original | £8.99 |

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 Acknowledgements: Book text quotes © Paul Burston 2019. Cover image, Orenda Books. Article ‘Nightmare, flashbacks and contant fear: how a stalker brought me to my wits’ end,’ Paul Burston, the Guardian, 3 July 2019. This review was originally published on The Literary Shed [hyperlink], as part of a book tour.

Paul Burston at Hastings Litfest
Paul will be sharing his story, his writing process and his insights into the publishing business in conversation with literary critic and writer Suzi Feay at Hastings Literary Festival on August 31. For more information, please see Hastings Litfest – Paul Burston

New books

Amos, Steve and Bronwen Griffiths
Silverhill Press are delighted to announce the publication of two new works of prose, Bronwen Griffiths‘s Listen With Mother, and Steve Amos‘s Two Sides of an Indie Dad. More information and ordering on our website.
You can also buy these from The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards

Booth, Francis
Code 17
  (March 2019) – a thriller, published by Amazon
Code 17.2  (July 2019) – a thriller, published by Amazon

Donohue, Pete
Poetry is Feathers (July, 2019) – a collection of poetryorder locally or from

Robinson, John D.
Singing Arias (July 2019) – a collection of poetry, order locally or from Analog Press.


Hastings Literary Festival 30 August – 1 September 2019

It’s this week! Please see for information and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Lucy Cooke

Lucy Cooke

Sun 1 September 10.00 am St Mary in the Castle The Unexpected Truth about Animals a talk given by tv presenter and zoologist, Lucy Cooke. The talk, based on Lucy’s book of the same name, will be lifting the lid on some familiar animals which – it turns out – we don’t really know at all. The show is suitable for children aged 12 and above.

Tickets for The Unexpected Truth About Animals are available through Hastings LitFest website or from St Mary in the Castle.

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sarfraz Manzoor

Sat 31 August 19.00 – 22.00 at Kino Teatr, St Leonards Blinded by the Light a film about a teenager of Pakistani descent growing up in the 80s and finding comfort in Springsteen’s music. It is based on the autobiographical book by Sarfraz Manzoor who will be there to talk about it.

Tickets for Blinded by the Light with Sarfraz Manzoor are available from Kino Teatr or by clicking the link on the Hastings LitFest site.

See the recent Guardian article Bruce Springsteen changed my life and so did my best friend Amolak

For the full programme for the Hastings Literary Festival, please see: Hastings Litfest Programme

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Thurs 19 September 6 – 9 pm £2 entry Sheer Poetry – an open mic poetry night
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page and see what happened at the last Open Mic. There are little clips of poetry readings.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Mon, 2nd Sept. PM Book Club discussing Why I’m No longer Talking To White People About Race. 6pm at the shop.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at our Facebook page to see what’s happening.

The Literary Shed Writing Circle run by A. Vasudevan
Two-hour weekly writing sessions in safe, creative spaces in Hastings and St Leonards
Tues 3 Sept, 10–12 am (free) at Sea Kale, 29 London Rd, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN37 6AJ
On the second Thursday of each month, there is a writing critique group in which members share work.
For further information, please email:, subject: WRITE-INS.

Writing Courses from CWP with New Writing South
2 year Creative Writing Course
Advanced Writing Course
Autobiography and Life Writing Course
for details on all courses, please see  Creative Writing Programme in collaboration with New Writing South

See review Word of Mouth – marvellous creative writing courses from CWP and New Writing South

Taster Sessions on Sat 7 September at Sussex Coast College (next to the station)
Autobiography and Life Writing Programme (2-year) 10.30 am – 12.45 £10
Creative Writing Course (2-year taught in Hastings in 2019) and The Advanced Writing Workshops 1.30 pm – 3.45 £10
For further information on the two-year programmes and courses go to

Well, folks, that’s it for this week. For an update on my writing, please see Going down and coming up

Thanks for reading.

Angela J. Phillip

Book covers taken from
Images of Lucy Cooke and Sarfraz Manzoor supplied by Hastings Litfest


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Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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