Australian Writer Shane Worrell Releases Tom Climbs The Fence

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12th April 2010, 01:16pm - Views: 1572
Tom Climbs the Fence is the debut novel by Australian writer
Shane Worrell, released through Melbourne's Roadside Books
on April 12, 2010.

An honest, raw story of how drug addiction affects
not just the user but also those around them,
Tom Climbs the Fence is told from the perspective of
a neighbour and close friend trying to understand and
ultimately save a lifelong friend from heroin.

Jack returns to his empty childhood home seeking a
quiet life but is instead thrust into an epic battle to
help save neighbour Tom from his addictions. Amid
a cycle of violence and desperation, Jack falls in love
with Tom's sister Amy an old friend and the two
rediscover a special bond as they nostalgically reflect
on the past and bravely confront the present.

Through Tom Climbs the Fence, author Shane Worrell,
who hails from Bendigo, Victoria, draws on his own
experiences to produce an honest account of the grim
realities of trying to help a family member or friend
fighting addiction.

"My sister died in 2007. She committed suicide. This followed almost 10 years of heroin
addiction, alcohol abuse and prescription medication problems. And there were probably
undiagnosed psychiatric problems too,'' he says.
"There was so much anger and desperation for years. It ripped our family apart. It's so painful
to see someone you know and love going through this. It was impossible to deal with a lot of
the time, but when it's happening, you just have to.

"And it seems to me that so many other people are going through stuff like this. And none of
them have any easy answers. Not much is heard from them. There's a stigma. I felt I needed
to capture not only the pain of it all, but also the humanity of people involved in a situation
like this, whether they're on drugs or not.''

Tom Climbs the Fence is a combination of frightening reality and lost innocence, as the chief
characters -- Tom, Jack and Amy -- try desperately to deal with their present-day problems in
front of a backdrop of Bendigo, a quiet Australian regional city in central Victoria, the place
they grew up together and shared countless special childhood moments.

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"This element is strong," Shane says. "It's more than just childhood nostalgia. For these
characters there is a genuine sense of loss -- they had something special as children, but all
they have as adults are struggles, pain and desperation, and essentially it has all spawned from
Tom's addictions. Consequently, they've always got one eye focused firmly on the past, for
comfort and release."

Unlike many depictions of addiction, Tom Climbs the Fence focuses more on the emotional
consequences than the graphic drug use.

"Anyone who has a family member or friend with a drug addiction often knows only half of
what's really going on. There's this whole other world you don't know about. All you see are
the consequences of this. Your sister or brother, or it might be your son or daughter, or your
mother or father, or your friend, coming back from wherever it is they get their hit.

"Then you see the consequences, the desperation, the anger, the violence, the sickness. All of
a sudden it's affecting your health too. All of a sudden you have problems. So, what do you
do? What can you do?

"Jack and Amy, the two characters who are faced with either helping Tom by enduring his
violence and witnessing his suffering, or not helping him and basically leaving him to die,
are locked in indecision. They're both trapped by this problem and memories of a beautiful
childhood. As the story unfolds, hopelessness brings them closer together. The only thing
they can do, as simple as it sounds, is fall in love. So that's what they do. They fall in love."

Despite being a frank account of drug addiction, Tom Climbs the Fence steers away from political
or moral assessments of drug use.

"There's no judgement on drug use in this book," Shane says. "All I've tried to show is
one character's experience with heroin, pot, alcohol and prescription drugs, which is
overwhelmingly a negative, destructive one -- with the message that this is something that
could happen. It could be you whose life is destroyed. Or it could be someone you care about.
It could be the kid next door you've watched grow up.

"My focus is the consequences of Tom's drug taking and his inability to say no and take control
of his life. To me, the hardcore stuff isn't the drug taking, it's the battle to get off drugs once
you're addicted, or the battle to put up with your brother or friend when they're trying to
kick the shit out of you, or blaming you for their problems or threatening to commit suicide
-- that's the hardcore stuff. And it's stuff that doesn't need exaggerating, or glorifying. It
happened to me, and I've recreated it in this book."

Shane Worrell works as a daily newspaper sub-editor and has worked as a print reporter and an English
teacher. He has university qualifications in literature and post-graduate qualifications in education and

For more information about Tom Climbs the Fence or to arrange an interview,
email [email protected] or call Shane Worrell on 0409 623 765 (in Australia)
or +61409 623 765 (outside Australia)

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