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Jonathan Buckley: Contact

Dominic Pattison leads a happy life. He has a good job as the owner of a design company, which is expanding. He is happily married to Aileen. They have no children but do have a nice house. One day, he hears from the manager of one of his branches of an aggressive young man who has visited the branch looking for him and insisted that Dominic phone him. Eventually he phones and, reluctantly, agrees to meet the man who claims to have important news for him. The important news is that the young man, Sam Williams by name, is his son. The man is the son, so he says, of Sarah Williams, who recently died. Dominic had had a brief affair with Sarah while living with Aileen in Canterbury. The affair had ended, without Aileen every finding out about it. However, Dominic is sure that Sam is not his son, not least because he feels that Sarah would have told him. Sam had been put up for adoption, as Sarah did not want a child, and he had been well looked after by a couple in Birmingham. By his own admission he had been something of a hell-raiser. He had ended up in the army, first in Northern Ireland and then in Iraq. Clearly, this had had an effect on him as he was by his own admittance very aggressive and that his had got him into lots of trouble and led to his losing jobs.

Sam now worked in the building trade around the country. He had tracked down Sarah before she died and it was she who told him who his father was and she produced evidence, which Sam showed to Dominic. This included a birth certificate, with Dominic’s name written on it, in different writing from the rest of the certificate, which Dominic is convinced is a forgery, and photos which Dominic does remember. Dominic is convinced that Sam is not his son but Sam manages to inveigle himself into Dominic’s life, without Aileen finding out. He meets him, accompanies him to visit Sarah’s grave and listens to his stories – laced with swear words – about his life. He hears about his activities in Iraq, in graphic detail, and learns that Dominic’s greatest thrill has been killing someone. He even witnesses Sam’s violence in a road rage episode. More and more he is convinced that Sam is too completely different from him to be his son. But Sam is not easy to get rid of.

Buckley’s story of how the somewhat unbalanced Sam worms his way into Dominic’s life, even though Dominic is convinced that Sam is not his son, is very effective. Anyone who has dealt with an unbalanced character who seems at times to be perfectly normal and logical and at others to be unbalanced will understand how Dominic finds it difficult to get rid of him. While the ending might not be entirely unexpected, Buckley does leave a few possibilities open for us and keeps us guessing to the end.

Publishing history

First published 2010 by Sort Of Books