Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave, Richard Williams, Graffeg, Fiction

Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave by debut author Richard Williams

Pembrokeshire – 1994. Mostyn Thomas is an ageing farmer, down on his luck, on the brink of bankruptcy. When he runs into Jethro, a young raver, his fortunes appear to take a positive turn. The pair hatch a plan to solve Mostyn’s money problems by holding a rave on Mostyn’s secluded land. Secretly mobilizing the locals of the village pub they plan the greatest money-spinning event in the history of Little Emlyn: Lewistock.

But not all goes according to plan. As we count down to the August bank holiday rave and young revellers begin to pour in from all corners of the county, the tension ramps up. Moneylenders, drug dealers, the county council and the bank all set a collision course with Mostyn and Jethro. It’s not clear who will get out alive…

A powerful portrait both of a struggling Welsh farming community and the unstoppable rave movement of the 1990s, Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave is also a poignant, warm-hearted novel about redemption, unlikely friendships and lucky escapes.

‘A terrific debut, warm and emotive without being sentimental. This is a gripping tale of darkness and light with flashes of hilarious dialogue throughout.’ Daren King

‘Richard Williams perfectly captures the brooding landscapes and complex characters of Pembrokeshire. A treat from cover to cover.’ Jamie Owen

‘This gripping story connects, improbably but with a reporter’s eye and ear, the worlds of faming and youth culture in rural West Wales. It’s a Welsh cross between Star Wars and The Archers but better than both.’ Ian Hargreaves

Richard Williams, author

Interview with author Richard Williams

Did you go to university after school?

Yes I went to Exeter for my undergraduate degree and London School of Economics for my masters. Both degrees were in International Development Studies.

What was life like at university?

Fun! I was a mature student (24) going into my undergrad. I’d been living and working in Australia and backpacking around Asia since I finished my A levels at 18 so it was nice to get back to the UK, to routine and to academia. I loved my course as it tied in well with my experiences and motivations. I also met my wife Jess at uni, so all memories are good.

How did you start your first business?

Jess and I both worked at the UN and we both felt a bit disappointed with the whole experience to be honest. And we had noticed a huge lack of good quality take away food in Geneva (this was in 2008). I’d worked for a few years in a fish market/fish and chip shop on Sydney’s northern beaches and had acquired a few kitchen skills and picked up a few recipes and concept ideas from around the city, which was booming at the time with its ‘modern Australian cuisine’ (Aussie/Asian/Mediterranean fusion). So we put a concept together, quit the UN, and opened a tiny eight-seat gourmet burger take-away shop called Holy Cow! in Lausanne with our UN pension and a small bank loan.

You’re now living and working in Switzerland – tell me about your typical day in the life of Richard Williams?

In the restaurant business, days are rarely typical. There are so many variables with staff issues, delivery and stock issues, things to always fix/improve etc. My main task is to maintain the safety, quality and consistency of our foods in the restaurants and to develop the menus. So I’m around all three of our Blackbirds restaurants most days checking things and speaking with staff. I also try and do a few shifts every week on the grill.

We’ve got two sons, eight and three, so the work really begins when we get home! They are active and love their sports, so I’m at the pool or football pitch a few evenings a week. My writing time is from 9pm-midnight. I’ve tried writing in the daytime but it rarely works. After the kids are in bed I go down into the cave and put my lamp on and hope some inspiration comes. I’d say it’s 50/50!

Did you read much as a youngster?

I always read comics as a kid, then got into Fighting Fantasy books as a young teenager. They were great, especially for boys, as “YOU become the hero!” – a kind of choose your own fantasy adventure storybook. They had great names too like The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom. After that I remember reading quite a few Dickens books, then some Wilbur Smith in my late teens. River God really opened up my imagination. After that I somehow gravitated to mid-twentieth century writers, particularly Steinbeck and Orwell, who remain my favourite authors.

Were there writers who inspired you to write? 

Yes. Patti Smith. I read her book Just Kids, about her time living in New York in the 70s with Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a beautifully written story and is just that, a story – simply written but truly engaging. After reading Just Kids I knew I didn’t need to come up with smart metaphors in every sentence. I just needed to write an engaging story. It was then that I signed up for the creative writing course at UEA.

Tell me about your writing, is this your first book?

Yes, this is my first novel. I’ve been dabbling in creative writing now for about two years. I took a short fiction writing course with Anjali Joseph at UEA a while back, which really opened up a can of worms with regards to finding stories in everything around us. The final project for that course is actually the prologue of Mostyn.

Prior to that I worked as a technical writer for a UN agency in Geneva. I was mostly writing executive summaries on health reports that would end up at national health ministries worldwide, so I had UN lawyers tearing into my writing for years. After four years of that I had learned to write quite succinctly!

What made you write about your experiences as a young person growing up and living in Pembrokeshire?

I think by living away from Pembrokeshire and going home only a handful of times per year I could really see a noticeable decline in the general community spirit of Pembrokeshire life over the past twenty years. Of course this is not endemic to Pembs, it’s happened all over the countrysides of the western world. I think my generation were probably just at the very tail end of the rural community golden era, which is when the story is set. This was also a very colourful time economically, politically and socially with all sorts of events, movements and disasters going on: Thatcherism and neo-liberal economics, the start of the EU, rave culture, BSE, mass decline of church-goers. All national issues, but all felt out west in rural Pembrokeshire.

What’s also interesting about this time is that the early-mid 90s were the final years before mobile phones took hold and changed the way we interact. This was the last time period in which people truly engaged with each other and were actually reliant on one another.

So in consideration of all this I thought I’d have a go at writing a story that addressed these issues.

Tell me about your first rave?

We used to go up to Swansea to a fantastic club called Martha’s in the very early 1990s. I remember after one night we joined a convoy in Pont Abraham services, very exciting, and snaked our way to a rave in some out-of-town building somewhere not too far away, maybe Ammanford. The atmosphere in those early days was epic. It was all new and everyone was so happy!

What do you want people to take from your book?

I just hope people enjoy it. If it reminds or informs readers of the benefits, virtues, fun and satisfaction of living in a close-knit community of often disparate characters, it would be a great.

And the next book or two, what’s the story there?

I’m almost half way through my second novel – The Sheriff of Geneva. It’s about a young Englishman called Peter Grout, born into a sheltered life of privilege in Geneva but ultimately ill-equipped for the realities of life. He gets tangled up with Mr Bonjour – an international Swiss man of mystery and Ernesto and Eugenio Gomez – psychopathic Colombian guerrilla twins, over a cache of stolen Venezuelan gold bullion. It probably falls into crime fiction, but hopefully satirises the world of international organisations and ex-pat life, just a little bit.

Following that I hope to write a second novel based in Pembrokeshire, this time focusing on the maritime culture and a catastrophic maritime event that took place not so long ago.

Mostyn Thomas and the Big Rave is published 8 November 2018