In an autocratic society that refuses to let her move forward, can Poppy stay ahead of the pack?As expensive steam-powered automobiles speed across the land, Poppy Orpington is trapped and going nowhere – until her father reveals his secret project, a petrol-fuelled car ready for the race track. But will they even be allowed to compete?Racing is the preserve of the wealthy elite and few will welcome a working class family onto their hallowed ground. Can Poppy overcome social prejudice and conformity, or will her one and only chance of a better life be crushed before it can even begin?Full Throttle; book one of a Steampunk motor racing adventure set in a world of division, intolerance and inequality that modern readers may find disturbingly familiar…
‘Cripple!’ taunted Darren Weldon as he jumped around Poppy, laughing and hooting in the playground. ‘One arm! One leg! You’re a crip!’
‘Leave me alone!’ snarled Poppy, swiping at her tormentor. Unfortunately, despite her tall and stocky frame, it was difficult for Poppy to defend herself with just one arm, while her lame leg affected her balance when trying to swing a retaliatory punch.
‘Stumpy, stumpy!’ screamed Weldon in delight, playing to the crowd of laughing children who had gathered to watch Poppy’s pain and misery. ‘You’re Poppy Stumpington! You’re Poppy No-Leg!’ High above, a series of airships passed through the bright blue sky, oblivious to the jeering mob of ten-year-olds below.
‘I do have a leg,’ shouted Poppy, tears running down her face. She tried to spin around and punch Weldon but her weak knee made swift movement impossible.
‘You haven’t got a leg to stand on,’ yelled Weldon before savagely kicking at Poppy’s good leg, sweeping it away from underneath her. He laughed in triumph as Poppy collapsed with a howl of pain and misery.
‘And you’ve only got a stump!’ screeched Paul Hibbert in spiteful loathing, pointing at Poppy’s right arm which only went down to the elbow. ‘Stumpy, stumpy!’1
‘She’s Poppy No-Mum,’ shrieked a skinny, red-faced girl near the back.
‘Yeah, your mum’s dead,’ said another girl with vicious enjoyment.
‘Don’t forget her manky leg,’ insisted Weldon in glee, kicking Poppy’s dress up to reveal the leg brace strapped to Poppy’s knee. It was supposed to help strengthen her knee joint, but the brace was cheap and the gears and cogs frequently jammed or fell apart under the pressure of movement.
‘You can get a job at the freak show,’ crowed Hibbert in delight.
‘Yeah, you’re a circus freak!’ screamed Weldon. Instantly a chant went up around the playground. ‘Poppy is a freak, Poppy is a circus freak!’
‘What is going on here?’ demanded the petulant voice of Miss Godfrey, who had been ignoring the shouts and screams until they grew so loud they were threatening to disturb the headmaster.2 ‘Poppy Orpington, why are you rolling on the ground? Get up at once.’
‘He kicked me,’ yelled Poppy, clutching her leg in pain. Both Weldon and Hibbert, however, had already disappeared into the crowd.
Thank you, Jon Hartless and Love Books Group
About the author
Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, a steampunk motor racing adventure examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019, both published by Accent Press.