Patient's diary notes inspire debut novel
Diary notes written by a patient at a mental hospital in the early part of the 20th century, and secreted in a hollow
tree, provide the basis for a Knaphill man’s debut novel.
The Asylum Soul, by resident Mal Foster, tells the harrowing account of Thomas Compton, whose life was ‘ripped apart’ when he was sent to Brookwood
Hospital by his mother because he had a speech defect. Mr Foster said: “There is some horror in it, some happier parts and a little bit of spicy stuff as well.
“There is some fact and fiction, because
some of the diary notes were missing and you couldn’t read all of it. Essentially, though somewhere between the lines and within the surviving script, there was a unique and harrowing story waiting to be told.”
was more than two decades ago that a tree surgeon discovered a rusty old tin containing the diary entries of the 23-year-old patient while clearing part of the former Brookwood Hospital grounds during the redevelopment in 1994. Contained in the tin, there
was a lock of red hair, a dictionary and most importantly, some leather bound books filled with diary notes of Mr Compton, who resided at the asylum as far back as 1929.
Upon the discovery, the tree surgeon handed it to
his foreman, who returned it to its rightful owners in Camberley.
Mr Foster said: “I have been sitting on the story for years and I retired last year, so I thought now is the time to write it.
never written a novel, let alone a 330 page-long novel. I took a writing crash course, which also taught me how to proof read – I’m not saying it’s flawless.”
But the Knaphill-based retiree is no
stranger to writing. Between 1976 and 2014, he wrote a selection of poems, published in 2012 as Travelling with Strangers and Knaphill (All in One Place), which tell the a history of the village.
Mr Foster began writing
The Asylum Soul in July last year and completed the novel in six months.“I’m excited and nervous for people to read it,” Mr Foster said. “My former wife has read it and she has been a big help. I have actually had quite a lot of interest
from people saying they can’t wait to read it.”
“I knew there would be quite a lot of people interested in it because I haven’t stopped talking about it,” he added.
The paperback is available from www.lulu.com and www.amazon.co.uk