Books by John F. McDonald
The Girl Who Made Me Dance
Gabby Pereira, a well-established London professional, discovers she only has two years left to live, and decides to go on a voyage of self-discovery. This takes her on an exhilarating journey through Europe, Africa, Asia and America. Each location answers questions about her past, family secrets and her own undefined identity.
Mia, a free spirit and a psychologist, offers Gabby a new lease of life and teaches her to dance. The women plunge into a tempestuous and dangerous affair and Gabby becomes obsessed by Mia.
Explosive scenes of passion, desire, deception, hedonism, suffering, fear, pilgrimage and atonement create a riveting and provocative tale that touches upon some of the wounds that permeate our society: ethnicity, gender disparity, sexuality, and emotional and physical addiction. Each character’s journey, along with elements of magic realism, will absorb your thoughts and emotions to the last page.
Read more from Gill Prates
TRIBE is the story of a year in the life of a semi-domesticated Gypsy – Owen McBride. Owen still works with his itinerant ‘cousins’, breaking and selling horses, even though his Gorgio girlfriend, Ann, wants to drag him into the settled post-millennium mainstream euro-life, with house, car, tie and ‘steady’ job. He is reluctant to cut the final thread with the disappearing Gypsy world – the hard and discriminated-against life of Romanys, Tinkers, Gypsies and Travellers. This world is described accurately and authentically in TRIBE and the attitudes and humour of these colourful people are explored without compromise.
The novel also enters the deeper waters of identity, as Owen stands with one foot in the Gypsy world and the other in the Gorgio world and struggles to decide what he really is. He doesn’t seem to belong in either world and circumstances continue to intervene, to make the inevitable decision even more difficult. Owen and his demolition-man friend, O’Connell botch a robbery for a group of dangerous gangsters and that’s when the trouble really begins. The problems and passions caused are explored in a serious, yet blackly comic mood and the main characters’ skirmishes with this menacing Gorgio underworld are vividly painted.
After falling foul of the Gorgio gangsters, O’Connell is murdered and Owen is forced to hide out with the Gypsies and begins to feel at home with them, breaking horses and hunting and eating hedgehog by blazing campfires. He meets Tolui, a Mongolian horse-breaker and philosopher, who teaches him how to accept who he really is. But this life is not to last. The Gypsies eventually move on, as they inevitably must, leaving Owen alone again. He must resolve his problems with the gangsters and he does this with the help of Mad Mary, a homicidal middle-aged woman with a grudge to settle.
Owen also has a brief affair with a Romany Gypsy woman, Litzy, who’s married to a bare-knuckle fighter, Felix. Litzy is so remorseful about her one-night stand with Owen, she attempts suicide and her husband is looking for the culprit, to kill him. Owen manages to convince Felix that it was the gangsters who caused Litzy’s attempted suicide and Felix takes his revenge out on them.
When the dust settles, Owen has had enough. He knows when he’s beaten and he makes a decision – he’s been left a house in the will of his close friend, O’Connell and he and Ann plan to move in and become a normal, settled couple.
Tribe illustrates the conflict at the meeting point between the commercial culture of high technology and the dying life-style of a people now almost extinct.
The book is fast, provocative and written with a brisk dialogue bias which has converted effortlessly to screenplay format.
Talking to God
Nobody knows what causes Schizophrenia. Modern psychiatric methods are improving all
the time, but we are still in the dark ages when it comes to understanding, diagnosing and
treating this disease. What is known is that the disease affects one in every hundred people
throughout the world. It is a greatly neglected illness whose devastating effects swamp
millions in misery.
Schizophrenia is not a single condition, but rather a wide group of conditions under one
umbrella title. No two schizophrenics experience exactly the same symptoms and the disease
can range from mild to chronic. In some sufferers, it is never detected at all. The symptoms
described in Talking to God are genuine and accurately painted. I have used material from
The National Schizophrenia Fellowship and The Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain
in my research of the subject, along with books and articles by leading psychiatrists in the
field and by families of schizophrenics and schizophrenics themselves.
Talking to God allows the reader through a door – into the mind of one fictitious
schizophrenic, Francis Page. His experiences are not everybody’s, but they are authentic
nonetheless. Francis is a 40 year-old London doorman. He is nearing the end of his shelf-life
in the bouncing game and he wants to make some real money before he retires. Francis is
unhappily married with two daughters. He also has a black girlfriend who is HIV positive.
Things go downhill for Francis, his wife leaves him and his plans to make money come to
nothing. Francis is eventually tempted by Yardies into smuggling drugs to make his nest-egg.
Francis gets caught and sent to prison, where his violence is misunderstood and treated with
strong tranquillisers and neuroleptic drugs. He kills a warder and is eventually sent to
Broadmoor Secure Psychiatric Hospital where he is kept on a high drugs regimen. Francis
escapes from Broadmoor and finds out that his eldest daughter, Fiona, has become an addict
and his girlfriend, Glendora, has been murdered. Francis goes on a revenge spree, killing
everybody he believes responsible, whether they are or not. He is spoken to by many ‘voices’
who tell him contradicting things. He can’t make sense of it all and eventually he commits
The main theme takes a harrowing, yet sympathetic and realistic look at the way
schizophrenia affects the lead character, Francis Page, and how society views and treats
someone in his situation. It is both topical and controversial and paints a surreal picture, full
of strange landscapes which are alien to most individuals, but which are a very real part of the
The novel is set in the club-land world of London doormen, gangsters and ‘tough guys’, as
well as New York and Amsterdam. The language of this world is strong and
uncompromising and the characters observed at first hand.
Maximilian Moeran is an American Senator in Washington DC. He’s ambitious and intends to run for the White House. He’s also a crook, a womanizer and an ex American-Football star. Maximilian is a popular man with the people and his colorful character and reputation for rubbing shoulders with lesser mortals antagonizes his political-insider peers. He’s street-wise, charming, calculating and totally without scruples. He also has a sexual affair with Esmé, a young girl of school age and this is the only thing that troubles his conscience.
The action of the book is set around Maximilian’s political agenda, which includes getting Congress to pass a bill giving genetic engineering to the masses – a Congressional sub-committee debating putting wild animals back into selected areas of national parkland to combat the menace of an uncontrolled and growing population of insects – and the China crisis, where China is rapidly becoming the world’s greatest superpower with the US in decline – issues which are realistic enough.
Just before the Presidential election, Maximilian escapes from his secret service ‘minders’ to attend a football game with a couple of corporate hosts. After the game, Maximilian stays behind in the stadium. He takes a nostalgic walk down to the touch-line and out onto the field-of-play. Right out to a black circle at the very centre of the 50yard line. The stadium lights go off and Maximilian is alone in the dark.
Then something very strange happens to Maximilian Moeran – out there on the field – at the circle in the middle of the 50yard line. He encounters himself – who he really is – what he really is. When he returns, Max is a changed man.
Maximilian becomes completely honest – he understands more than he’s ever understood before – sees beyond his humanity. He tries to impart some of his new childlike candidness to the political community in DC. They don’t understand. He’s frustrated by the attitudes of those close to him and tries to spread his knowledge further afield through the media.
Maximilian is believed to be having a nervous breakdown. He fails to win the Presidential election and his political career goes up in smoke. He admits his affair with Esmé and is viewed as a dangerous eccentric, if not a criminal. Charges are brought and nobody wants to be associated with him. His wife leaves and his children boycott him. Despite the fact that Maximilian is a far better person than before, everybody preferred the old Maximilian and shuns the new one.
Maximilian becomes an outcast and a recluse, living on a remote estate in West Virginia. Esmé eventually comes to see him, seeking some kind of redress for the innocence he took from her. She is older now and after they communicate, Max reverts to his old self again.History repeats itself and Maximilian, this time, does become President – only to die at the inaugural ball.
Childeyes is more than a satirical look at politics in America. The book incorporates several themes and asks some big questions – all set against the background of American politics and the insider-culture of the most political and media-obsessed town of them all – DC. The world of Washington DC insiders has similar charisma and popular appeal to the world of Hollywood stars, though as yet fairly untapped in literary terms. But ultimately, the book is about our concepts of good and bad – and guilt. It also takes an honest and objective look at human relationships – the Lolitaesque affair between Maximilian and Esmé is controversial and taboo-breaking, but it is also treated sensitively and without hysteria.
Otherwise Kill Me
Mohammed Sharif is a Kashmiri geologist and a devout Muslim. He has revenge on his mind for the murder of his family by Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a militant Islamic faction involved in the dispute over the sovereignty of his homeland. Sharif’s father is a moderate Muslim who practices the gentle, compassionate form of the religion which is preached in the Qur’an. His family pays for their opposition to the fundamentalists with their lives – all except Sharif.
Daniel Hutten is a Jewish man, living in New York. He is indebted to an ultra right-wing faction, because they helped him get to an Ivy League University and expect him to be politically useful to them when he graduates. Daniel, instead, goes into the precious stone
business and the right-wingers are disappointed with his liberal views. They threaten to ‘take action’ against him or his family if he can’t ‘buy himself out’.
Christian Childe is a cynical trader in the Bangkok financial district. He comes from a privileged background in Buckinghamshire and a sinister grandfather who is involved with neo-nazis. However, a liaison with his superior’s fiancé brings him to grief. He is manipulated into a bad financial decision and gets the sack. Christian is used to the good life – he has an expensive apartment, a flash car and a certain lifestyle to maintain. He soon finds out that he has become persona-non-grata in financial circles and he has to look elsewhere for
Sharif is invited to Burma to retrieve some emeralds for the Karen rebels who are fighting the military junta there. He discovers a ‘miracle stone’ at an excavation site in the jungle and wants to keep it to help his own cause back in Kashmir. In the proc