To visit Peter Dorward's author page, please click here.
On the second of August 1980, at 1pm, a bomb placed under a chair in the second class waiting room of the international railway station in Bologna exploded, resulting in the deaths of eighty-five people. Despite indictments and arrests, no convictions were ever secured. Exactly a year before the bombing, a young British couple disembarked at the station and walked into town. He - pale-blue eyes, white collarless shirt, baggy green army surplus trousers – and twenty yards behind him, the woman whom, in a couple of years he will marry, then eventually abandon. He is Don, she is Julia. Within twenty-four hours she’ll leave for home, and he will wander into a bar called 'the Nightingale' – and a labyrinthine world of extreme politics and terrorism. More than twenty years later their daughter Rosie, as naïve as her father was before her, will return to the city, and both Don – and his past – will follow …
Praise for Nightingale
‘Nightingale is a gripping and intelligent novel; it takes an unsentimental and vivid look at the lives of a small group of Italian terrorists and the naive Scottish musician who finds himself in their midst in Bologna in 1980. Full of authentic detail and texture, Nightingale is written with clarity and precision. Peter Dorward tells this tragic story with huge confidence and verve.’
'A gripping read ... moving, chilling and all-too-plausible... The writing is vivid, economical, varied. It is alive to nuance and suggestion, dealing in emotional, cultural and psychological credibility.'
Andrew Greig, The Scotsman
‘A richly imagined novel ... grippingly alert to the passions and fashions of its time.’ Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
‘A gripping study of innocence lost ... a thriller writer’s feel for pace but a poet’s sensibility.’ Adrian Turpin, Financial Times
'A narrative that is utterly convincing and powerfully characterised.'
For a review in The List, see the following link: http://www.list.co.uk/article/5417-peter-dorward-review/
About Peter Dorward
Peter Dorward was born in St Andrews in 1963. Having been a hop-picker, international aid-worker, pub musician and a runner for a film crew, he now works as a GP and medical teacher in Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner Deborah and their two boys. Peter Dorward is a winner of the 2000 Canongate/Waterstones short story prize and the 1997 Fish short story competition. Nightingale is his first novel.
An extract from Nightingale
But the carnival has brought out the crowds. A parade of children, masked as animals. There are rhino, hippos, lion, zebra, drifting in slow herds down the asphalt. Parents follow beside them on the pavement; the odd, mad car is caught, trapped and squealing, immobile in the current. There are men dressed as beasts, dancers, fire-eaters, jugglers, lorries with open tops carrying bands of men from the south in black suits, swaying and playing drums and trumpets and trombones. A man in denims, brown stack-heeled cowboy boots, cigarette between his fingers, stinking of sweat and carrying a megaphone, blocks his way and calls to a raucous child in the crowd. A section of the crowd calls back and the noise is crushing. Crossing the road, he is immediately carried by the crowds in the direction opposite to the one he wants. He feels himself sinking, drowning under those waves of frivolity, and it takes him a minute to reach the other side.
He faces the crowded square with its lines of densely-clustered Vespas and ice-cream stands, sellers of hot dogs and cones of what smell like almonds roasted in honey. A child in a queue drops her money, cries, calls to her mother, but her mother isn’t there. Someone taps him on the shoulder and he spins round, ready, irrationally, to strike – but it’s a woman in a bright nylon headscarf, dark skin, violet eyes, a dirty cupped hand held out for change, a baby at the breast. ‘Bambino … affamare… ’ she whines in a language which isn’t her own, and he wastes more time digging into his pocket, digging out more little coins which he tips into her fist, and she frowns at the smallness of his pity and spits on them.
The air smells metallic. In a moment there will be a torrent of rain. A gust of cooler wind shakes the branches of the oleanders that line the square, giving a little relief from the humidity. A seven year-old girl with long brown hair, olive skin, pale blue checked dress and a sweet smile, hands money to a man who gives her something – a soft toy? – wrapped in crepe and red streamers, and the child, rushing for a train, or perhaps just to shelter from the coming rain, sets off at a run across the square, trips on the cobbles but doesn’t fall, picks up her step again, runs up the station steps, under the arches, into the crowd in the station, shouting out ‘Mamma!’
Six minutes to go.
The breeze rises again, cooling the air; and the sound of rain drops is momentarily audible, rattling through the leaves of the trees as the noise of the crowd stills.
He had never wanted to leave, but now he has no choice.
He starts to run across the square, reaches the bottom of the same steps that the little girl climbed a moment before. He wonders for a moment who she might be, her fragile child’s smile lodged somewhere in a crevice of his memory.
He gathers himself to leap the ten steps to the station archway, and the bell of the Torre degli Asinelli strikes one.
And the world cracks. And shimmers a moment; exhales. The world emits a long, terrible moan.
Lying at the bottom of the steps, surrounded by the densest silence, Don looks up at the now dark, gathered sky; the falling, silver rain-drops. There begins a far-off noise, a whistling or ringing in his ears which will never afterwards leave him. There is a gradual returning of life: of sound; of movement in his limbs; the sensation of pain in his neck and shoulders where he landed, when he was blown, head-over-heels, down the steps.
He stands. He runs his hand through his hair, feeling for blood, but finds only dust. He climbs the steps, slowly this time, enters under a dark arch, feet crackling over what feels like broken glass, his nose and throat now full of smoke, the stink of burning plastic and some darker, uglier scent behind that. He looks around himself, peering through a world suddenly fogged. He sees shifting shapes, movement in the smoke; hears, far off, alarm bells ringing. He hears a long, sad cry, then another, elsewhere, answering. He sees on the ground thick shards of coloured, reinforced glass. He looks up at the roof of the station and finds it gone; sees instead the sky, full now of falling leaves, ash, fragments of paper.