Wild Ride to Freedom reviews from friends and strangers

 

Hi Will

Sophie here! I just wanted to drop you an email because I have just finished your memoir; what an absolutely inspiring and spectacular story! I was well and truly blown away by not only your words, but your drawings too. It got me inspired to pick up my sketch book again, which I haven't done for about a year, so thank you. And, of course huge congratulations.

Sophie C

Dearest Will,

I didn't part with my copy of your book until I reached the last page.

It flew with me to Holland on a work trip, I missed my stop when reading it on the top deck of the no15, the cover and sides got stained with a Spanish olive oil dressing while combining lunch with another dive into the world of Modelo and Weeeeyaaam....

 

It's a wonderfully well written story, your eye for detail and warm heart made the characters and places come to live and almost tangible........ I felt your pain and was in tears when the guard put your sketchbook back in your suitcase and let you walk free......

 

An important book, thanks for writing it ! Anna K

Dear Will

Loved it!

It's pretty powerful stuff and must have taken some courage to get it all out there. I remember you relating bits of it back in the day, but reading the whole thing is scary, shocking and inspiring all in one.

 

I think that in telling the story, you have found a fine balance between events themselves and the psychological battles being fought inside your head. It is amazing that you made it through and finished up where you are, but I expect the point is that it was instrumental in so many ways in getting you where you are. Throughout, what shines out is your irrepressible optimism and boundless creativity, not things any prison could contain.

 

I shall be recommending it to all and, while I'll lend my copy to Buffy and Joe, anyone else who wants to read it, can bloody well buy their own copy; mine is signed by the author!

Mickey F

Dear Will, Really enjoyed it ... It’s quite a story!   The beating - you’re so lucky you recovered ok from that, horrendous!  and your memory is phenomenal!!  and I love the drawings, they make it really special  - and THE JOURNEY .  All fascinating and a great cathartic achievement - you should be very proud :-))  Also really like how you drop the odd bombshell of hideous childhood stuff but don’t dwell on it but the bigger picture gradually reveals...  Had I not known what happened to your siblings I would have been in floods at the end too.  So sorry they’re not around to read it. Suzie Z

Hi Will, Wow! I know you said you'd spent a couple of years in a Spanish prison, but you never filled me in. This book does it in spades. Your writing is really vivid and easy to read. The sections I really engaged with the most were the flashbacks to childhood and if anything I found myself wanting much more of that. The self-reflection there is so honest and I really feel for you as a young lad. What was really dramatic was the whole sequence right from your drunken bike theft to prison - totally gripping. So, there's drama, atmospheric and thought-provoking childhood flashback and the day-to-day survival. Different modes, a very rich memoir. I love that you have all the drawings and notes in there too to go with the text - lovely to see them. So sad that you have no siblings alive now. The moment you get into Hornsey Art College is really uplifting. Such a fantastic achievement, the whole thing… Anyway, it's brilliant. I'm in awe.

All best, Sarah G 

Hello Willy!

Just to say that I enjoyed your book so much………just finished it this week – goodness, I had no idea you’d been through all of this in your youth…… It is so well written – and thank goodness you still had all the original drawings!

– I will be recommending it to many friends!     I hope some of those ex-inmates you want to track down will now find you through the book.  It is a must for all of them to read for sure!

Did you say you were working on a follow-up book?

Cynthia L

Hello Will,

I wanted to send a little email because mama Coco bought your book for me and I've just finished it and I really enjoyed reading it! The friendships you made and all your experiences in prison were incredible and sometimes terrifying but how you stayed so positive and determined to get out and be happy really made an impression on me. Thank you for writing about it!

Catherine C

 

 

Will,

Hope all well. In the quiet and peace of a Portugese hotel I have been able to sit and read your book from cover to cover, savouring every sentence and every drawing. It's an amazing piece of work, very powerful and moving. It also put into context a lot of fragments and stories about your life that you've told me over the years. You've pulled off a real coup, therapy that also grips and entertains.

Just finished the last page and a bit sad it is over! Bring on the sequel!

Jeremy M

Will!!!  Book arrived today - I can't put it down!  I couldn't wait to contact you.  I've read about half, so I'll send more observations when I've read all.  It is brilliant!  Your prose flows beautifully from past to recent present, and your character portrayals are detailed but concise.  (The reader can fill out as he or she pleases.)  I'll send a more detailed critique having read the whole - if you like.  Love Allan xxxx  (see below:)

 

Compelling reading told with an honest candour. The prose narrative is from time to time interspersed with poetry of the highest quality which is a true part of the whole, never seeming intrusive - a genre best represented today by the Latin author Petronius, the inspiration of Fellini Satyricon. The many and varied episodes flow freely, one into another, and time is often blurred; are we in the present or the past? If sexual molestation of a child by an adult can be treated without sensationalism, it is so here. The book is illustrated with M's vivid and captivating, sometimes disturbing, art work; often hand-written text is included. (This can sometimes be difficult to read.) M's secondary characters fascinate; we want to hear more about his family, how did Jeremy manage to go to a posh school? Particularly is his mother, Stella, intriguing. A wonderful maiden voyage, let us have more! Allan K

 

Dear Susie,

I read Will's book on holiday and loved it. Amalie is reading it now and I am recommending it to likely takers. What an amazing story...

Anne D

William - what a terrific book!

 

I read it in two sessions. Couldn't put it down. So many extraordinary moments and so well told and expressed. Loved the way you wound the early life-story into the prison saga and evaluated it as you went along.

 

So many unforgettable images - the spider being pulled apart in the children's home, the kiss from the Auntie if the bus numbers added up to 21, the attempt to stay sane by quoting Hancock, Dylan etc, the fixation with the stove, burning the bugs out of the mattress, the episode where you smoke dope in the cell (so well written). I love the little tick where you lift your foot to let the lamppost line under like a skipping rope - all children have versions of that. All the dialogue is so well written. As is your picture of the dope-smoking hippie late Sixties, so evocative. So many great lines ...

 

A careless blob of ink turned into flamenco guitars, swirling dresses, a waiter's face and moonlit kisses.

 

My ragged nails attacked the chinche bite in an ecstasy of scratching until my leg was slippery with blood.

 

Winter had moved into the bricks of the prison.

 

The stones of the prison were so quiet at night I could hear the rustle of individual straws in the mattress.

 

It was a strange mixture of disinfectant and blancmange ... the smell of fear itself.

 

My past was as much a prison as Modelo.

 

Lovely image of the angel on your Dad's wingtip. Major congratulations on such a superb memoir. I was gripped, amused and really moved by it - all best, MARK

Hi Keren,

Really enjoyed Will's book - it's a feature film never mind an audiobook in-waiting! We're just getting the business sorted so when that is done it'd be worth meeting and having a chat. Thanks and best for now,

Peter C

Dear Mr McLellan, I've just finished your right riveting book. What with all those ghastly experiences up to your invitation to attend Hornsey, I'm amazed you turned out ‎so dang good. All that agonising and soul searching seems to have been cathartic in the end. You thinking of a second volume? I didn't know the book was out there until a friend, who doesn't know you at all, said "you gotta read this, it's a real page turner" and when I saw the cover I went "hang on a minute....that's my ol mate Will " Hoorah. Grim place that Modelo, quite Gormenghastly. Even now I feel like congratulating you on surviving firstly the beating then 7 months of medieval mind games Phew. Take care Will and huge congrats on the book and all your other achievements, I'm proud to know you. X Rob

Hey Will,

I just finished your book. You nearly had me in tears about your brothers and sisters at the end. You and Keren had mentioned it, to read it in detail was heart wrenching.

I was really curious to know what Boris and Mike did to end up in there in the first place. Funny about superman, Dennis degroot? Knowing him for years and finding out it was he who jumped out the bushes haha.

Regards Ed C

 

Dear Willy

 

I read your book in May. I enjoyed it very much and think it's amazing of you to have written it. It was a truly original, cool and smooth read...you are a talented writer. Congratulations.

 

I hope things are going well with the book. It was an inspirational read. 

 

Sending you my best wishes from Fanny J

Dear Will

I have started to read your book. It is very beautifully written - the very well judged simplicity and elegance of your prose powerfully reinforces the emotional impact of the events you describe and I must admit that I cried a lot reading about your childhood -- truly the book is a great achievement. 

Warmest regards,

Tony W 

Dear William

It was brilliant, couldn't put it down. I am an art teacher, the book is going around the whole department. Of course the story was so engaging but the Picasso references really connected with me, as I'm sure they do with all other people that went to art school.

Did you ever find Mike? I hope you did.

Thank you for writing your story. What a great career you have made despite the early setbacks. Rekha Teji

 

Hey Will 

I finished reading your amazing book about a week ago.  It was one of those fast enjoyable reads I really like in a book, very visual and well written too with an incredible memory for detail and natural flash back structure that made good sense in the story.  Breaking the cycle is an interesting concept and Ahh yes freedom… another interesting concept ;-)  Anyway congratulations Willy and thank you for a great read.

Lots of love

Mark S & Anna xx

 

Dear Willy, 

I hope you don't mind a random email like this but I have just finished reading your book, and really wanted to get in touch.  I found it riveting, disturbing and brilliant, but what got me to your book in the first place was quite bizarre too. 

 

We have been clearing out our loft and I found my autograph book from when I was about 11 in 1982 - there is a great signature of yours (attached to this email), from when I met you with your niece (?), Rachael, whom I was friends with at school in Bedford. I had never met anyone artistic and funky like you, so it made a bit of an impression. You also got me the Eurythmics' signatures and said they would be really big one day.....

 

Your journey has been amazing and inspirational; I had no idea of all the sadness when I knew Rachael.  It's been great seeing everything you've done on your website and I look forward to the next instalment of your book  - if there is one?!  

Warmest wishes Annie H

Hi Susie. When I was in London earlier this year my sister handed over the book she had just finished. I forgot what she said, but whatever, I’ve just finished it sitting up in bed when I should be hard at it working or what ever it is I do. So thanks to you I read a book which I thought very good and a change from the norm. Many of his experiences are familiar, that is apart from unloving parents and a spell in goal…. thank god.

Sending you best wishes and a gentle hug……. Howard

Dear Mr McLellan,

My name is Sarah M, I am a French master student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and I am about to complete my degree in Translation Studies.

 

The reason I am contacting you today is your recently published book, which I read last summer. I found it absolutely fascinating: the story of your experience was moving and the style very interesting and varied.

 

In order to complete a master degree in Translation Studies, I have to write a dissertation, which includes both a translation (into French) and a commentary. For my dissertation, I found that your memoir provided a various number of interesting translation challenges, in terms of style and cultural references.

Regards, Sarah M 

Hi Will,

Sooo good to hear from you. I've phoned a few times without reaching either you or Keren.

I wanted to say how touched I was reading your book and how much I enjoyed the brilliant writing and drawings, best book I've read. It was so captivating, felt like we were there with you. I never knew you had such a hard childhood etc What a talented writer and Artist you are as well as musician etc.

Lots of love, Parminder x

 

Dear William.

I am in the process of writing my memoir and after doing some research I bought yours in order to compare style and presentation issues.

Little did I realise that I’d end up deeply immersed in your writing; in fact, I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night in order to read it so that in just a few days (when I ought to have been doing a ton of other stuff!) I’ve read the whole book.

So, what started out as a ‘stylistic comparison’ ended up being entirely engrossing and hugely enjoyable.

 

First things first: in my opinion, you are a gifted writer, with an incredible ability to conjure up unforgettable images and profoundly compelling insights into human personality and character, both your own and others. I was utterly enthralled with your story and it’s a book that I will recommend widely and in particular to an artist friend of mine who I know will find it inspiring and challenging at a key moment in his career (I’ll be gifting him a copy when I see him next Monday). So, why am I writing to you?

 

Partly, to thank you for writing such a life-affirming memoir and re-inspiring me to tell my own story and partly to reach out and ask what advice you might give me as I try to move forward with my writing.

Whatever the outcome, thank you for your most excellent memoir and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, especially those of an artistic bent.

Very best wishes, Martyn J S

 

Hi Will,

   I have just got round to finishing your book.  I had been meaning to read it for a while but I found the time over Christmas and just finished it today.  I would obviously like to tell you all this in person but email will have to do.  First, I'd like to congratulate you on the book.  I think you did a great job and I'm sure it will be successful. You have always been very good with words and the way you express yourself.  You do really well describing things.  It was obvious that you really did needed to write this book as so much has happened in your life.  

           I have to congratulate you on the wonderful transformation you have made in your life Will and I really think you may have broken the chain in your family.  Many people in your situation would have sunk but you have risen and become stronger. I hope your book can provide people with hope.  I think it should be given to all prisoners free of charge! What do you reckon?

Your good friend,

Peter

Hi Will, it’s Andy. I’m just in the middle of reading your book at the moment and just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading it so far. It’s an amazing story and extremely captivating. Can’t wait to finish it off! Hope all is well, Andy

 

Hi Will

Hope all is well with you. I ordered 2 of your books. Then sent one to Gene Dunford in Bristol. I’m half way through and utterly captivated. Will – your voice in the book is so readable. YOU come across as such a gentle thoughtful man… Despite the brutality of the prison. Will, it’s so detailed…I’m there with you. Gene read it in one long sitting!!! Speak soon. Declan.

 

Hi Will

Just finished the book. Splendid. A fine piece of work on SO many levels. And it’s a film for sure. Peta x

(Peta also called Keren with daily ‘edge–of–the–seat’ updates, one of which suggested the book should have a TFL warning because she kept missing her tube stop!)

 

Hi Willy. Just read your book and it wasn't until you got to the Dave Stewart bit I realised we had met. My name is Tom and I am Rob’s bro in law. Loved the book so much I have just sent to my friend of 50 years for his birthday. A really great read. Tom B

 

Brilliant book. Enjoyed every word. Jacqui W and David

 

Hi, Just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic book, which I recently obtained and read about your experience in jail.  What a strong person you turned out to be after such a dreadful childhood.  I am so pleased that you managed to get into art school, that your talent was finally recognised and that you were able to make a success in music too.  What an amazing man and mind!   As a late artist myself I am 2017 in awe of your work!  Keep well, love and hugs, Sheila M

 

Hello. Just wanted to say I have just finished your memoir. My boyfriend had seen it when it came out and stumbled across it in a second hand store..

(How anyone could have let go of it is anyone’s guess..)

I found it a gripping, captivating read..soulful and self deprecatingly honest...

Excruciating, inspiring and cathartic (for you!)...and funny. Just brilliant.

Anyway congratulations on a book the likes of which I have not come across for a while ..made me cry!

Will the next one re cover territory, or is it a re-imagining?

Chrysta

Have lent it to my sister now, and we will circulate to accumulate!......

Hi Will, it’s Andy. I’m just in the middle of reading your book at the moment and just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading it so far. It’s an amazing story and extremely captivating. Can’t wait to finish it off! Hope all is well, Andy

 

Hi Will

Hope all is well with you. I ordered 2 of your books. Then sent one to Gene Dunford in Bristol. I’m half way through and utterly captivated. Will – your voice in the book is so readable. YOU come across as such a gentle thoughtful man… Despite the brutality of the prison. Will, it’s so detailed…I’m there with you. Gene read it in one long sitting!!! Speak soon. Declan.

 

Hi Will

Just finished the book. Splendid. A fine piece of work on SO many levels. And it’s a film for sure. Peta x

(Peta also called Keren with daily ‘edge–of–the–seat’ updates, one of which suggested the book should have a TFL warning because she kept missing her tube stop!)

 

Hi Willy. Just read your book and it wasn't until you got to the Dave Stewart bit I realised we had met. My name is Tom and I am Rob’s bro in law. Loved the book so much I have just sent to my friend of 50 years for his birthday. A really great read. Tom B

 

Brilliant book. Enjoyed every word. Jacqui W and David

 

Hi, Just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic book, which I recently obtained and read about your experience in jail.  What a strong person you turned out to be after such a dreadful childhood.  I am so pleased that you managed to get into art school, that your talent was finally recognised and that you were able to make a success in music too.  What an amazing man and mind!   As a late artist myself I am 2017 in awe of your work!  Keep well, love and hugs, Sheila M

 

Hello. Just wanted to say I have just finished your memoir. My boyfriend had seen it when it came out and stumbled across it in a second hand store..

(How anyone could have let go of it is anyone’s guess..)

I found it a gripping, captivating read..soulful and self deprecatingly honest...

Excruciating, inspiring and cathartic (for you!)...and funny. Just brilliant.

Anyway congratulations on a book the likes of which I have not come across for a while ..made me cry!

Will the next one re cover territory, or is it a re-imagining?

Chrysta

Have lent it to my sister now, and we will circulate to accumulate!......

CONVERSATION REVIEWS

 

Christine S glowed as she spent ages telling me how much she loved it in great detail.

 

Troy’s family says he often starts books, but never finishes them. He told me how much he loved it in great detail – twice!

 

Graeme T hardly ever reads, but he devoured the book and loved it.

 

Richard B loved it and quoted passages in detail, will recommend to all.

 

Christine M thought it was brilliant and gave comprehensive praise to all aspects of the message, the journey and writing.

 

Andrew and Cathy K loved, praised and devoured the book. So far Andrew has passed it on to two friends who both ripped through it and Cathy has passed it to a friend, with the same reaction.

 

Laura ran up to me in the park calling, ‘Will Will, I’ve read your book!’ She hugged me and told me how she adored it and that she’s buying it for Christmas presents and her book club now is ordering copies.

 

John P called to tell me how much he liked the book in great detail. He sent it to a friend who got his book club to read it and they all really enjoyed it – ‘It’s all over Peckham right now!’

 

Steve phoned to say how much he loved the book and how his wife couldn’t get him to do anything until he’d finished it. He gave me 10 out of ten on a great achievement.

 

Josh’s friend, Ollie, became obsessed with the book and his parents loved it too.

 

Helen P told a mutual friend she’d loved reading the book and was often in tears. Only when she got to the end did she realise I’d written it.

 

Baggie spent over half an hour telling me that as a magistrate she thought the book would inspire many of the young men who came before her. She couldn’t praise it highly enough both in terms of literature and a simply great read.

 

Anthea S said she loved every word in my book and wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Josie F was gripped throughout, totally empathising with the young man’s fight for survival.

 

Hilary found it exciting, riveting, hugely enjoyable - and many more superlatives I can’t remember.

 

Paul Martin A told me that his photographer friend, John came to stay and picked up my book. He couldn’t put it down and read it all through the night. (Paul also gave it a really great review)

 

Parminder called (she’d already written to say it was “the best book she’d read”0. Her recollection was impressive as she talked about her favourite chapters. She’s getting her book club to read it and will be recommending it to other clubs she knows. 

5 out of 5 stars

A really great read

A really great read, thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the sometimes heavy topics discussed, the witty and intelligent style of writing makes it an uplifting memoir. I took it on holiday with me and couldn't put it down. Would definitely recommend!! MPJ

 

5 out of 5 stars

A really good read

Annie from the wood 6 July

A really good read.

 

5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommended. 

By Alex G

A very well-written and endearing book that at times reads like a thriller. This is the moving account of extraordinary journey (in more ways than one) that took the author to art college. It is a good example of how true life stories like this can often be much more captivating than fiction. Very highly recommended.

5 out of 5 stars

Portrait of the Artist in Jail. 

By Harry H

An autobiographical account of a mad, youthful escapade, and one that went badly wrong when a wildly naive and optimistic dream turned into a nightmare in a Barcelona jail.

This is an intriguing and absorbing picture of a resourceful and imaginative young man’s response to a frightening, uncertain and very uncomfortable time in his life. The author paints his fellow inmates and even his jailers in warm colours. We are gradually informed of his chaotic childhood in a series of flashbacks interwoven with the prison narrative. We share his developing awareness of the roots of his propensity for reckless and even violent acts which seem to condemn him to a life at odds with society.

The tale is illustrated. Throughout his ordeal he kept a visual diary of daily life and events in the form of a book of complex, often dreamlike drawings. Convoluted and hallucinatory they are highly individual and convey the author’s shifting moods of despair and hope against the menacing and claustrophobic reality of his everyday environment. The book became a talisman for him in his yearning for release.

In the end the story is optimistic. The threat of a withered spring turns into a renewal of optimism and enthusiasm. The future moves onwards and upwards. I enjoyed it hugely.

 

5 out of 5 stars

Nicely written. I'm very glad it was recommended to me By Jane

A thoroughly entertaining book, nicely written. I'm very glad it was recommended to me.

 

5 out of 5 stars

A great story brilliantly told, 

By Michael F

I was fascinated by this story of a wild character coming to terms with his traumatic start in life and taming his demons in the unlikely setting of Barcelona’s Modelo Prison. McLellan’s own contemporary illustrations reveal his inner turmoil and help bring to life the harsh conditions experienced by prisoners on remand in Franco’s Spain. An inspiring read and definitely recommended.

 

5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful and gripping read,

By David R

A wonderful and gripping read, a great story of triumph against the odds - you are so on his side, wanting him to be freed from this dreadful Spanish prison, but it is hard to see how that will ever happen. At the same time the book is funny and poignant - and illustrated with the author's superb drawings made while in prison.

5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic account of William's early life and then incarceration in Franco’s Spain

By Nick C  

Fantastic account of William's early life and then incarceration in Franco's Spain. An experience that would have destroyed a lot of less hardy folk.

I knew the basic premise of the book before reading and even knowing the punchline still hugely enjoyed it. I found it very hard to put down ultimately optimistic, engaging and funny. A definite 5 star.

 

5 out of 5 stars

Honest, direct, fizzing with life - a full-on read

By Ruth M

Anarchical, mouthy, funny, incurably optimistic, a creative force to be reckoned with - the early years described in this quicksilver autobiography could have been archetypal 'misery memoir' but Will McLellan turns them into something else. Warm, honest and sometimes wildly funny, this is a dazzling account of the journey from serious neglect in childhood to a life lived fully if not always exactly as intended (see chapter on Spanish prison). Author's drawings are an added bonus.

 

5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating memoir of triumph over adversity,

By Keren L

A wonderful, unput-downable read. The moving story is beautifully constructed. The underlying theme examines the struggle to understand how the author's childhood traumas lead to prison and how his determination to realise a creative life finally paid off. The book is illustrated with drawings from a diary kept while in the prison and these add authenticity and an extra dimension to a uniquely inspiring story

 

5 out of 5 stars

I loved this book, 

By Jessie H

I loved this book. It is very well written, funny and moving. I couldn't put it down for three days - one of the best books I've read in a while.