Blog Tour: David Owen – Panther
Released on 7th May, Panther is the debut novel from author David Owen, and tells the story of Derrick, a teen who is coming to terms with his parents’ divorce and his sister’s attempt at suicide, while also attempting to track down a panther on the loose in South East London.
I was kindly invited to take part in blog tour celebrating the book’s release, and have an extract from the book to share with you. My review follows the extract.
The alley showed no sign of what had happened a couple of nights ago. The dustbins had been emptied, but the warm, sticky smell of ripened rubbish still remained. Derrick leaned down to peer through the hole in the fence. No sign of black fur.
The allotments seemed as tranquil as always. An overcast sky made it darker than usual. Through the sheds and beanpoles he could barely see to the back. Only the wavering branches of the oak tree stood out against the sky. A car alarm spiralled in the distance.
Anger had threatened to overcome him when he ran from the car. Now he began to relax. It was the allot¬ments. Somehow they drained his anger. They were the only place that he felt free. The Beast was on the loose here, free of the trap, free of the depression that had sealed away everywhere else in his life.
The wooden fence creaked as he leaned back against it. He kicked at a newspaper by his feet. Dad had depression too. The revelation wouldn’t sink in even now that his anger had faded. He’d never seen Dad crying or screaming or smashing things against the wall. Arguments with Mum had been heated. They’d always tried to keep it quiet, as if Derrick wouldn’t notice. Then suddenly the whispers would ignite into furious shouting like a struck match. Maybe it was the depression that made him behave that way. Maybe the depression was the real reason they’d split up. But Mum had done plenty of shouting too.
A father was supposed to look after their family. That’s what he was always told. Now that Dad was gone, someone else had to pick up the slack.
He scooped up the newspaper and read the front-page story about the panther. All sorts of people were coming forward with accounts of seeing it. It was on my garden shed eyeing up my pet rabbit, said one stupid woman. It peed all over my radishes and killed them, said an equally stupid man.
They were all liars. The Beast was there for him.
It was a sign that things were only going to keep getting worse. Now Dad was like Charlotte too. Derrick was the only person left who could do something about it. The Beast’s freedom felt like an insult.
He let the newspaper drop and it landed on his feet. As he glanced down at it, something else caught his eye. Their garden fence was mostly hidden behind overgrown bushes, but they were cut back around the gate enough to keep it clear. Reaching forward, he brushed his fingertips along the wood just inside the gate. A vertical mark, starting as high as his chest, had been gouged deep into the grain almost down to the ground. Wide, splintered grooves. The damage stood out in the dark like a wound.
He recognised it immediately. It looked exactly like the banisters at the bottom of the stairs where their cat liked to scratch. Derrick had read about panther behaviour during his Google searches. They were highly territorial. They’d scratch somewhere to sharpen their claws and mark their turf.
The Beast had chosen his back garden.
A harsh bark from the allotments jolted him out of his thoughts. Derrick froze, but it was only a fox. He was used to being woken up by foxes screaming at each other. Another fox answered, and the two barked back and forth from opposite ends of the allotments. (As a form of communication, he didn’t think it was wildly different to Facebook.) After a moment another fox joined in, and another and another.
The air grew thick with noise, a grating cacophony that tumbled over and into itself like rocks rolling down a cliff. He had to fight the urge to cover his ears. He wanted to record it and fumbled in his pockets before remembering that his phone was lost. The noise seemed to be woven into the fabric of the darkness.
Slowly, Derrick pressed his face into the cool metal of the chain-link. His breath came in shaky, irregular flurries. It sounded like a thousand foxes now, but he couldn’t see a single one.
The low growl cut through the middle of it all and the foxes hushed. It was a growl like a rumble of thunder, which seemed to roll in from every direction, simultaneously miles away and a breath upon his neck. It shook the air and quivered inside his stomach. He squeezed the fence so hard that the metal cut into his skin.
As the growl died away, silence settled once again over the allotments, as if nothing at all had happened.
Derrick turned and ran. He didn’t stop until the kitchen door was locked behind him.
An incredibly visceral read, Panther is a brilliant debut. It sensitively deals with the stigma of depression; how it affects those diagnosed, and in different ways, but also shedding light on how depression also affects the loved ones of those suffering.
Tackling difficult issues in a book whilst also letting the story shine through is not an easy task, but one which is certainly achieved in Panther. Through Owen’s excellent use of description (as evidenced above), the reader is immedately able to place themselves in Derrick’s brain, and to follow him on his attempt to renavigate the world; a world where, in addition to the panther, his parents have split up, his sister has attempted suicide, his best friend has deserted him for the popular kids at school, and his long-time crush is unaware of his feelings.
A quick read, but one that stays with you.
Many thanks to Grace at Constable, Robinson and Corsair for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and for providing a copy of the book for review.
For more information on David Owen, his website can be found here, or follow him on twitter, here.
Follow the rest of the tour (or what’s left!) below: