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The Little Mechanic

Debut Novel

MATT JONES

After nearly drowning, elderly fisherman Louis Paulhan decides to tell the story of his remarkable life. But with no one else to listen, can his legacy be entrusted to the young thief who saved him?

France 1957: American youth Jack Reeves doesn’t care for old people, but when he saves the life of Frenchman Louis Paulhan he finds himself drawn to the enigmatic 73-year-old. Transported by his stories to Belle Époque Paris, Jack begins to identify with young Louis, while seeking old Louis’s help in finding the father he lost in World War II. Louis, meanwhile, is finally able to let go of his son who died in a tragic accident 20 years before. But Jack harbours a secret that will break Louis’s heart, and threaten the new life he has glimpsed for himself.

Inspired by the real-life exploits of aviation pioneer Louis Paulhan (1883-1963) – a former circus acrobat and steamship sailor who for four months in 1910 was one of the most famous men in the world – The Little Mechanic is a work of Literary Fiction reminiscent of William Boyd’s Any Human Heart and Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins about a hero the world has forgotten, a youth it largely ignores and their journey together into a distant past, in search of adventure, identity and meaning. 

An excerpt from Matt Jones’s debut novel The Little Mechanic:

Chapter 1

        And then he was running through a meadow on the Plateau de Langres, a place so quiet, so dull, so far from anywhere that even the River Seine escaped its ancient limestone home there to run away to sea, zig-zagging northward as if to evade pursuers.

        From the village he ran, glancing over a shoulder to check if his mother or sisters had noticed him slip away. Holding his cap down with one hand, with the other he pressed a hastily-packed satchel to his side to keep it from swinging as he moved quickly through the grass, leaping occasionally over a cow pat, mud patch or fallen branch. Sinking into the folds of the rolling landscape between Baigneux-les-Juifs and the Dijon-Troyes road, he lost sight of the passing circus he had noticed from his bedroom window. But he knew from the scent of overripe fruit carried on the early morning breeze that it was no summer mirage. There were lions and tigers on the road to Paris. Deeper and deeper he sank into the Burgundy countryside, his fifteen-year-old legs failing him as the ground beneath his feet began to explode into a million tiny bubbles.

       And then he was drowning again. No longer a boy, but an old man.

       What was at first an inconvenience, a dunking and lost fishing rod, became an increasingly frantic struggle for life, as an invisible anaconda tightened its grip around his chest, squeezing the life from him as it rolled and thrashed his body in the cold surf off Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

       Death really does have a grip, he thought. He escaped it in 1899, when he slipped from a tight-rope in Rouen. He escaped it in 1901, when he was almost swept from a steamship on a stormy East China Sea. He escaped it in 1910, in Denver, Colorado, when he was pitched headfirst from an aeroplane into a snow drift. And fighting in Serbia in 1915 he escaped it on countless occasions. This time, however, there seemed to be no escape.

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IN THE PRESS

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In The Press

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