An everyday tale of sex in Bucks and rock 'n' roll

Vanessa Thorpe meets the woman who has exposed the dark, seedy underbelly of, er, Aylesbury

THERE are pastel-coloured geese, not ducks, on the cover of the book, although they really should be ducks. After all, this is Aylesbury.

But then Animals, a new novel by first-time writer Tabitha Troughton, does not set out to present the Aylesbury of the common imagination.

Her tale of casual drug-taking, drinking, and deviant behaviour amid the respectable gabled shops of the market town has infuriated many residents.

The book, launched this week, has provoked a series of disgruntled phone calls and letters to her publishers Simon and Schuster.

Even the display copies in the local bookshop bear a stern warning to customers. "Some readers may be offended," it concludes, accompanied by five exclamation marks.

"We put the warning on because a lot of old ladies might be a bit surprised," said a sales assistant. "But it is going like a rocket."

The district council, too, has been moved to put forward an official response to the book.

"Aylesbury is a thriving, prosperous town and we're not sure many people would recognise Tabitha's depiction of it," claims Teresa Lane, head of marketing and information.

"Animals is very clearly her own personal recollection of Aylesbury. It is, however, a novel, and I'm sure if you ask a dozen people about their experiences of Aylesbury at that time they would all be very different."

Tabitha Troughton herself is happy to stand by her comic portrayal of the town's stultifying snobbery and of the boozy, druggy, sexually liberated antics of its teenagers.

"OK, of course it is fiction. But it is not wrong," she says. "I lived near Aylesbury in my formative years and I still have a love-hate relationship with the place."

The gamine 31-year-old writer argues that she suffered throughout her teens from "a certain in-bred, middle-class intolerance" that dominated the county town.

"And nobody ever smiles. Like many affluent market towns a kind of social morality restricts everything, an idea of morality which no one has ever actually agreed upon."

For the teenage Troughton, Aylesbury was a place where the boring orthodoxies of the Rotary Club and the church were to be overturned as often as possible. So she dyed her hair blue and tried hard to be bad.

In the light of this, the adult decision to go back and people the place with fictional drug dealers, flashers, and trans-sexuals - not to mention the charismatic Chiltern Goose Strangler - does look a little like sweet revenge.

And respectable Aylesbury is gratifyingly outraged.

"It sounds like the kind of book that would make me explode," commented one retired Aylesbury lawyer. "I think it would be unfair for any writer to pick on just Aylesbury."

Actually, the author agrees with this. Readers are welcome, she said, to substitute any other well-to-do market town for Aylesbury. "As someone said to me when they had read the book, everyone has their Aylesbury."

After studying English at Cambridge, Troughton was quite taken aback to find herself writing about the place where she had grown up. Her work as a TV researcher and a freelance journalist had, after all, taken her to plenty of far-flung alternative locations, including Afghanistan and the inside of a Peshawar jail.

"But in the end I realised the most interesting place to write about, the place that still made me angry, was Aylesbury."

Ms Troughton has had to defend herself on local radio and has now been invited down to face an inflamed public later this month.

She has accepted the invitation gamely and believes the people of Aylesbury should learn to be a little more broadminded.

After all, Roald Dahl concocted his lurid Tales of the Unexpected nearby.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas