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The Novel

By Michael Kell Campbell

ISBN: 978-1-78382-165-5
Published: 2021
Pages: 295
Key Themes: Mental Health, Aspergers, Paranoia, Music, Humour, Mid-life crisis, Depression, Philosophy, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Residential care work, Anxiety


Peter Kane (A complicated man with a simplistic outlook) leads what one might describe as an ordinary suburban existence. He gets up, he walks the dog, he goes to work, he comes back home. He eats, he sleeps, he dreams, and he walks the dog again. And in between all this, he tries to fill his life with things that might possibly amuse him.

One day, at a car boot sale, he purchases a second-hand computer. In a document on the computer, he finds a diary. What he reads intrigues and disturbs him.
He sets out to try to trace the writer, hoping somehow to help a lost, wayward soul mate. This takes him off on a journey of self discovery and self questioning.
But he is about to find out… that no good deed goes unpunished.


The story is set against a back drop of suburban Essex. Where, the protagonist lives a dualistic life, revolving around his home environment with his dog, and his job as a care Manager. We witness the turmoil of him battling with modernity, and his sense of self belief, whilst trying to cling onto what he thinks he knows as truth….But in a world of ever changing linguistic labels tags and perspectives, just what is truth?

Humour can be used as a great coping mechanism, but also as a great weapon to control.

About the Author

Michael Kell Campbell was Born 1960 in Hainault Essex.

Michael is an outsider artist, AKA cadwollow-fink.
He worked as a sculptor for some years, and lived in parts of rural Essex and also North London and Cambridge. It was in Cambridge that he taught art and crafts to Adults with learning disabilities.

Feeling an empathy with his students, he decided to enter the Care Profession on a full time basis as a support worker. He eventually ended up Managing three different Care Homes supporting adults with LD, and a range of conditions such as Autism, Aspergers, Downs syndrome, Epilepsy, Dementia and schizophrenia.

Whilst back packing around America in the mid-eighties he was inadvertently involved in an incident with four under cover cops, and a deranged man brandishing a hand gun. Luckily for him he came out of it physically unscathed, but unfortunately took the full blast to the head emotionally.

Some time afterward, back in the UK, he was diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder, along with post traumatic stress. This subsequently led to a nervous breakdown.

He has since tried to find the answers of being at odds with the world, through philosophy, art, meditation and music, with little success.

Then one day after years of soul searching, he had an epiphany, and has since spent the last few decades trying to remember what it was.

Book Extract

I make my way down the hallway and open the front door and step out into the porch. I carefully and silently close the door behind me. God knows why, she’s out for the count. I view the contents of the porch. A few envelopes, a few trade papers, a few tiny plastic bags asking for second-hand clothes, a pair of smelly trainers, a pizza menu… and an irate wasp trying to get out. I turn the handle of the porch door, only to find it’s locked!
Oh, hell. I try again. Someone has locked it and removed the key. Oh, Christ. Oh shit! I push and pull on it repeatedly, but to no avail.

Christ on a bike, now what? The wasp appears to be getting more and more irate as it buzzes about. I know the feeling. I look around the porch and consider my situation. No window to open. No key to get out. Can’t get back in. It’s like one of those Edward De-Bono puzzles. The wasp makes a lunge toward me, then circles and comes back for another attack.

I start frantically swiping at it, as I back into the corner. This isn’t good. This isn’t good. I never thought I suffered from claustrophobia, until now. I can feel the panic welling up inside me, and the overwhelming urge to kick the window out. My heart rate goes up a few beats more as the wasp launches another reconnaissance mission.

1 review for Jaundice

  1. jeff lowe (verified owner)

    I came across this book by chance and as they say some of the best discoveries, like Fleming’s penicillin or indeed the diary entries in the second hand purchased computer, which form the beginning part of the story in this book, were found by chance.
    After a humorous, colloquially delivered, and cleverly incisive potted history of Essex, and one hellish car journey, the story starts with a visit to a car boot sale. This is where, care home manager, Peter Kane buys a second-hand computer. After employing the technical wizardry talents of Paul, his “caustic rather than toxic” mate, to unlock the security code, he discovers a rambling piece of text; a personal diary or letter written by someone to themselves.
    I’m sure the notion of someone finding a diary is similar to finding secret code, letter, poem or treasure map, and will have resonance with Jungian architypes. As a storytelling device it always gives an air of mystery to the story. That mystery then often morphs into serendipity or even fatalism. (While Fatalism is condemned in the modern world as belonging to superstition, to a head scarfed Romani gypsy reading a crystal ball, the argument for inherited DNA personality traits begs to differ; unless we’re careful we’re all fated to live out the same mistakes of our predecessors.) In the case of Peter Kane, after his dog has attempted to mark the computer for sale as his own territory, it seems he is fated to meet his soul mate in the diary entries of the troubled mixed-up world of Linda Edwards.
    But if Peter Kane is the reluctant emperor of a lost Essex mental health world fighting the good fight of lost causes with his comical deputy warlord dog “Lugs”, then Linda Edwards is the modern-day conspiracy-theorist-fruitcake version of the Essex Celtic warrior Boudicca. She is one angry woman. An angry woman with a fierce intelligence at odds, like Boudicca, with any ruling authority. In the same way Nero considered withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain when Boudicca attacked Colchester, Peter Kane, although feeling he has met a soul mate, wonders if he should withdraw his empathy and curiosity for her; he fears he might just be getting in over his head.
    The last time I read a book where a protagonist accidentally finds manuscripts and letters in a second hand purchased piece of furniture was Soren Kierkegaard’s Either Or. Interestingly, if one chose to read Campbell’s Jaundice through the lens of Kierkegaard’s philosophical account of existence in Either/Or it may enhance one’s understanding of the deeper subtext of the book. “Existential anxiety” (a seldom properly understood but over-used phrase) is at the heart of what the two main characters in the book are experiencing. Each individual, in the absence of religion or societal morality, is responsible for giving their life meaning, but the proposed liberty is sometimes too much to bear. It is through this kind of anxiety that the drama of the novel finds expression. After trying to save a fledgling bird that has fallen from its nest, Peter Kane takes it home to feed it and let it convalesce in a shoe box:
    “I wipe a tear from my eye. Did I do right? Its mother might have returned. Its mother may have been there all along in the shadows of a tree…Shit! I knew this would happen. I should’ve walked away”.
    Although Campbell is not one of those using the phrase “existential anxiety” in the glib way it’s banded around these days, it would take a PhD thesis, however, to unpack the multitude of philosophical, sociological and cultural issues arising during the dialogues between Peter Kane and Linda Edwards in this story.
    On finding someone’s diary on a computer purchased at a car boot sale, most people, I think, would probably delete it in order to feel their new purchase had a clean slate. But Peter Kane is a man, like Kierkegaard, with a sense of humour who hasn’t yet let his anxiety about his existence extinguish his curiosity. Aware of the dangers of curiosity, much like the cat of the well-known phrase, it’s something he can’t resist. As he enters into the world of the personal dialogue he finds written in the computer, he finds many of his own experiences and thoughts about life reflected back to him:
    “I hated Maths and English, but most of all sports. I could never compete never wanted to compete. What is this thing about winning what does that mean, what does that stand for? Why is it so special to win? I always came last.”
    “Know the feeling”
    “Another set of teachers telling me what I should or should not do. What was good, what was bad. I just wanted t be left alone to do my painting. At the end of it, they took a photograph of me wearing a silly hat holding their beloved certificate. I burnt it the following day, mother was suitably upset. Who are they to tell me what beauty is? Beauty is not objective. Beauty should not be intellectualized or objectified.”
    “Yeah…Stick it to em”
    But as he descends further into the text, he discovers some her more profound moments are marred by a deluge of anarchic self-destructive outpourings:
    “Life without pain is meaningless…Cut myself cut myself life is sweet, life is good life is …Take this knife and cut slowly and blood appears in little red lines. I slice the other way and make a cross. Criss cross, criss cross, criss cross. The pain tingles like little electric shocks. Criss cross, criss cross…Serves you right serves you right.”
    He’s a carer by profession, a manager of a care home, a job he’s been doing for many years. He has to deal with the very real world of people with serious mental health problems. As stated on the Amazon page, he deals with “a range of conditions such as Autism, Aspergers, Downs syndrome, Epilepsy, Dementia and schizophrenia”. So, Linda Edwards, for someone with Peter’s experience of mental health problems isn’t really a problem, right? I’ll leave the story element of the book right there for you to find out.
    Frustrations with overly zealous social workers, and the straightjacket of political correctness, he confesses, sometimes gets the better of him. But honesty regarding his failings to fully understand and to sort out all the problems, which in turn reflects the limitations and failings of the mental health system, is a powerful subtext in the book. But don’t get me wrong, if this book is critical of the Mental Health System, then its aims are to provoke thought provoking awareness rather than leave the reader with an apocalyptic vision of hopelessness. It is a truthful compassionate book, and the honesty and trenchant sense of humour that colours even the darkest moments cannot fail to entertain.
    There are few books I’ve read where I could open it at any page and find something interesting, something to spur you on to read more. Michael Kell Campbell’s Jaundice, however, is one of those books. But while there is never a dull moment for the reader, for Peter Kane the monotony of living day to day in an angst-ridden world almost designed to be irritating, pours out of nearly every sentence. But anyone reading this book may well find the monotony of their own lives relieved by the fresh analytical perspectives Peter Kane has on just about everything. They may also find themselves warming to him through the accompanying boisterous, sidesplitting humour permeating nearly every page. It’s a novel that deserves wide readership, an electrifying achievement containing enough charge to spark an epiphany, or at least a rude awakening in the minds of our culturally homogenised, sound-bitten, over technologised societies.

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