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Alex Jenson

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The Serotonin Grand Prix
by Alex Jenson   

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Category: 

Action/Thriller

Publisher:  Chipmunka Type: 

Copyright:  2008 ISBN-13:  9781847478801
Fiction

Chipmunka
The Serotonin Grand Prix

You’re stuck at the back of Life’s starting grid; how badly do you want to win The Serotonin Grand Prix?

he Serotonin Grand Prix is a volatile race through the paranoid mind of Marko, a young man detained on a community mental ward, who is convinced he has been targeted for assassination. His only ‘friend’ is a toothless, psychotic heroin addict who wants the shirt off his back. Most of the staff couldn’t care less. How would you survive your worst nightmare? 

The Serotonin Grand Prix is a psychodrama that fuses elements of horror, black comedy and non-fiction in an uncompromising and gritty exploration of the paranoid mind.

You’re stuck at the back of Life’s starting grid; how badly do you want to win The Serotonin Grand Prix?

Excerpt
The deadly eye of authority stared through the round glass window of room 303 in the new annex of West Royd Community Mental Hospital. It surveyed Marko’s bedroom, as if it was glimpsing through a porthole onto a nightmare ocean, frothed darkest bloody red by nature's callous predators.

Marko rolled around on the bed in mental agony. He peered over the edge of the bed sheet, his cold hands shaking. He saw the eye, but immediately squeezed his own eyes shut to avoid its gaze. In Marko’s ruptured world, for a heart-pounding, irrational moment, the eye was just that; an eye without a socket or a head. The eye appeared to be free-floating in an anguished, Hellish corridor. There was no love in it, no empathy, no feeling. It was a passing globule of white and blue; orbital and sane; cold and clear; like a marble abandoned in a winter puddle. Marko hated that eye, and he hated the voice. The only thing he hated more was his inability to respond.

The door clicked open. Marko sunk beneath the sheets. He waited for that soulless voice of authority.

“You can't stay in bed all day you know. Come on, up,” the nurse said, coldly. This was the third rude awakening in the past four days, and Marko had begun to grow hateful towards this man who had never formally introduced himself.

Who is this Nazi bastard? Marko wondered. Where did he spring from? Some Fascist hole in the ground? A direct tunnel link from Auschwitz?

He’s Mengele's cousin, Goebbel's mate…Goering's sidekick…he’s up to his neck in the mechanics of mass murder. He must have shunted a few thousand souls into the 'showers'. Wait til I get him in the showers.

The possibilities streamed through Marko’s rattled head…..a good, firm kicking; a fatal neck injury caused by a loose bar of Cusson's Pearl. The things he could do to that little Nazi.

Both of the nurse’s eyes were now sunk back into his bland, pink head. Marko stared at him and wondered how that lone eye in the window had found its way back into its socket. He rubbed his own eyes, in an effort to clear his vision. He did not want to dwell on the fact that he had hallucinated again, so he engaged in a brief mental exchange with himself, to convince himself it had really happened.

Maybe he’s a German illusionist…A Third Reich Houdini…Maybe he made the Berlin wall appear out of nowhere… walked through the solid bricks. Fascist bastard.

“Come on. This isn't a bed and breakfast,” the nurse crowed. No, but you look like a fry-up gone wrong.

Marko waved him away and rolled back under the bed sheets. The nurse’s cold, dark eyes narrowed in disgust. He glared at Marko for a long, cruel second, turned and marched away with a self-important swagger and slammed the door. Marko imagined his goose-step march to the pill room, past the TV lounge and the exercise mats, up to the smoke room with the congealed blood on the carpet, where the 'paedophile' had been head butted into oblivion by the new patient. Marko breathed heavily. His heart vibrated like a boulder lashed into the funnel of a tornado; a huge lump of earth suspended in a windy netherworld. His mind was a winter solstice rank with poverty and hunger; only threadbare rags covered the naked flesh of mental instability….but his thoughts were laced with strong flashes of reality. He was not mad. No. He was not.



Professional Reviews

Leeds Student Arts Review
A sane view of insanity

David Hayes talks to Leeds graduate Alex Jenson about his new fictional exploration of mental illness, The Serotonin Grand Prix.


In a cosy corner of the Hyde Park Pub, Alex Jenson is telling me about his decision to turn experience into fiction and write his first novella, The Serotonin Grand Prix. ‘I’m not trying to be original,’ he insists. ‘Mental illness has been written about before, but I felt compelled to write.’

His honesty is refreshing. He speaks of his writing with passion. And he is on a mission to use his experience to help people. ‘Society looks at people with a diagnosis and writes them off. I want people in that situation to know that there is a way back.’

Jenson is 34 and graduated from the University of Leeds in 1999 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He is extremely open about his history as a mental heath patient. ‘I had a breakdown,’ he says. I’m shocked by his bluntness, but soon realise it’s how he works. As a man and a writer - he tells it how it is.

Jenson lost his best friend to cancer in the final year of his degree and, a year later, was diagnosed as mentally unstable and sectioned as a mental health patient. Almost ten years on he is fully stable, and in a slick 120 pages has crafted, in his own words, ‘a sane view of insanity’. And it is brilliant.

The story follows Marko, a patient suffering from schizophrenia and severe paranoia, struggling with life in West Royd Community Mental Hospital. Marko’s character is strongly reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Yossarian - a man suffering from the relentless paranoia that everyone is out to kill him. His only friend is Byron, a racist thug with ‘eyes bloody red and black’ and teeth ‘fucked up beyond dental repair.’ Byron’s character is impeccably depicted, and it is easy for the reader to hate this cruel beast of a man. But Marko’s character is ambiguously drawn to him. I ask Jenson about their relationship and he admits that ‘being alone is the worst part of life in a mental hospital. We all crave people.’ It seems that there is an explicit sense in the relationship between Marko and Byron, and indeed throughout the rest of the book, that in a mental hospital another man is company, and that is what’s important, no matter how awful a person they may be.

Jenson admits that the characters in the book are loosely based on real people, and it is clear that Marko is his own fictional persona. I ask him how much of himself he sees in the character that is haunted by polar bears with guns in his dreams, and he smiles. ‘Marko is a very dynamic character. There are definitely parts of his character that are not me … but paranoia is the central issue, and that’s all me. I experienced that.’ This doesn’t surprise me. There are stream-of-consciousness passages in the book so overwhelmingly convincing, that only someone who knows what real paranoia feels like could have crafted them. Jenson’s ability to make this paranoia tangible to a reader who has never been in his position is one of his obvious strengths as a writer, and makes the reading of this book a thoroughly involving and educational experience.

With his first published work, Alex Jenson has produced a thoroughly compelling, comically dark, dynamic and thought-provoking novella. It is a triumph of honest experience, and one from which Jenson hopes, and I believe, everyone can learn.



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