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Coffee Talk Writers , Interview , Mystery/Thriller , Paranormal , Release Announcement , Reviews , Reviews by Michaela Miles , Science Fiction 🕔August 3, 2014 0 comments

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by Kerry J Donovan

THE TRANSITION OF JOHNNY SWIFT is the story of one young man’s fight to save his family from a threat nobody else can see or understand.

Frank Brazier—the book’s lead character and narrator—is a successful racing driver a single step away from the big time. After a night celebrating a win, he takes the train to London with his sister, Paula. The train derails and sends Frank into a hellish world of pain and confusion.

Three days later, Frank wakes in hospital with horrific injuries. Blind in one eye, suffering intense migraines, he can barely move. Worse still, he hears impossible voices that cannot exist.

In the next room, Paula is on life support. The doctors say she’s dead. They want to pull the plug on her machines, but Frank knows better—one of the voices he hears is Paula.

The book follows Frank’s slow recovery from his physical injuries and his battle to save both Paula and the rest of his family. The doctors dismiss his clams as the wild ramblings of a man with brain damage. Neither his father nor girlfriend believes him either.

Only his imagined, elusive friend, Shadow-man believes. But is Shadow-man real? And if so, is he there to help or harm?


Amazon | Kobo | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Inktera | Direct from Kerry (up to 50% off!)

Review by Michaela Miles

Note: Michaela is a member of Coffee Talk Writers and guest reviewer.

I’ve been reading The Transition of Johnny Swift since day one, and each time I read it, I find some new clue or piece of information I didn’t find before. Kerry J Donovan cleverly takes the reader from a championship-winning, romance-kindling high, to the spectacularly sensory and visceral realism of a horrifying train crash. But that, as they say, is just the beginning. We run a gauntlet of doctors, neurosurgeons, and psychiatrists, all while being courted by the mysterious Shadow-man. Who is he, what does he want, and is he even real?

To tell you that would be more than a spoiler, however I can say that the characters are well-rounded and easy to identify with and the plot orchestrates a masterful struggle between reality and fantasy; life and death. But the attention to detail is something I really love about Kerry’s work. Kerry is meticulous with his research and draws on his Doctorial and scientific background to add depth and realism to his writing that is lacking in a lot of books in his genres.

The Transition of Johnny Swift also has a lovely romantic thread woven through and it too has its share of struggles.

This book really has something for everyone, and is an intelligent and compelling read. It’s a fascinating trip into the blurry line between science-based fiction, psychological thriller, and the paranormal. And I can’t wait to do it again when it’s published.

I give it five Coffee Mugs.



15 – Characters

15 – Plot and Pacing

10 – Setting

8 – Technique and Editing

Total: 48/50

If you liked this review, see more reviews by Michaela:


Meet The Characters From The Transition Of Johnny Swift

'Fiery' Frank Brazier

‘Fiery’ Frank Brazier

Occupation: Racing driver
Age: 24 Height: 6’2”
Description: Broad-shouldered, slim-hipped, powerfully built. He has pale green eyes, shoulder-length, wavy brown hair, and a winning smile. Hates shaving and sports ‘designer stubble’.

Background: Frank is the adopted son of Pete Brazier, owner and chief designer of Team Brazier Racing (TBR). Thanks to Pete and his engineering team, Frank’s bright yellow TBR MKIV is the fastest in the F2500 championship–almost unbeatable in the hands of a master.

Frank’s nickname stems from his driving style and his surname, not his off-circuit personality. In the car, he focuses on the win. He’s determined but fair. Off-circuit, he’s cool, considered, and charming. He has to fight off an army of female fans. He agrees, it’s a tough job, but he can take the strain.

He spends hours in the gym, and believes that physical fitness is one of the keys to his driving success. A ‘never-smoker’, Frank hates junk food and Paula, his adoptive sister, describes him as a ‘health food Nazi’. Frank is very protective of the nineteen year-old Paula.

When we meet Frank for the first time, he’s sitting in the cockpit of his TBR, awaiting the start of the final race of the F2500 season. He needs one point to secure the Championship title and earn a place in next season’s F1 circus. He’s aiming for the big leagues. There’s a problem though.

Frank keeps seeing things that can’t exist….


My fingers play an impatient drumbeat on the wheel. The heat built up in the tyres over the three stop-start warm-up laps is dissipating—less heat, less grip. I glare across at the first bank of three red lights over the starter’s box, daring the next bank to flick on. Once the third bank lights up, there’ll still be another delay before they turn green.

Come on. Come on.

A blink to moisten dry eyes and clear my vision, and I’m ready for battle.

Oh, fuck no. Not again! Why now?

He’s back. Sitting cross-legged on the TBR’s nose cone. Facing me. Haunting and silent.


I guess shadow is the wrong name for him because he’s dark grey, not black. His narrow shoulders are hunched, and he doesn’t have a face.

Semi-transparent arms reach out for me. He’s like those wire frame animations they use to create the skeletons of movie avatars, before adding skin and clothing. A hole where the mouth should be moves in silent speech.

Jesus! Not again. Not today. Please, not today.

I close my eyes. He can’t exist, never existed.



Chas Cottam throws a cheesy grin to the TV camera. This interview is being beamed straight to Sky Sports, BBC News Centre, and dozens of screens on the racecourse. With luck, and if Chas pitches it right, the national news shows will give it a ten second airing tonight on the late evening roundup.

“What are your plans now, Champ?”

Jeez, man. I wish he’d give me a break, I’m knackered.

“Party with the best bloody race team on the planet.”

Pete, Bill, and the rest of Team Brazier are fifty metres away, the other side of the paddock. I lift the large silver trophy to them.

“See those guys, Chas? They’re the ones who deserve the congratulations. They gave me, pound-for-pound, the best damned car on the planet, and kept it running sweet as a nut, even though I did my best to tear it apart. They’re the real heroes.” I grab the mike and yell. “This one’s for you guys—you beauties. Pete, you and me, we did it!”

In the distance, Pete raises a clenched fist and Bill pulls him into a tight embrace. The mechanics dance like a bunch of drunken kids.


Pete Brazier

Pete Brazier

Occupation: Owner and chief designer of Team Brazier Racing (TBR)
Age: Early 60s, but looks younger
Height: 5’ 11”

Description: Slim and vital. His mouth forms a natural frown but he has warm eyes. His hair is long and wavy (like Frank’s) but salt ‘n’ pepper.

Background: Widower, Pete lost the love of his life, Laura, to bone cancer three-years ago. He dotes on his children, Frank, whom he adopted when aged four, and Paula, a miracle baby, born seven months after Frank’s adoption.
Since Laura’s death, Pete has devoted his life to his children and his racing team and it looks as though his dream of helping Frank into the big league of Formula One is about to come true.
Paula doesn’t come second to Frank, but Pete’s an engineer and Paula’s a musician and he doesn’t understand the artistic mind. Apart from funding her studies, Pete can do nothing for Paula but stand in the wings and listen in stunned admiration to her music.
For nearly a year, Pete has kept a secret from Frank, but now the season’s over the secret’s out…


Pete watches from the pits as Frank Pete Brazier frowns in concentration, his eyes dart between the video feed from the trackside cameras and his telemetry screen. The data stream shows Frank easing up on the revs as he approaches the turn into corner six. The engine note drops as the lightweight sports car, Pete’s baby, steps inside to avoid the bits of rubbish.

Good man, Frank. Bring my car home.

The telemetry shows everything Frank sees on his steering wheel and more: engine revs, oil and tyre temperature, fuel level, slew-angle, torque settings and fluctuations, and g-forces. Apart from the red hot tyre, everything’s perfect.

Frank flits smoothly down to first gear—55 kilometres an hour. The slowest he’s been since the race start. Pete allows his relief to show in a thin smile and slow nod. ‘Fiery’ Frank Brazier doesn’t always listen to advice.

The TBR rockets out of the corner, but Frank clips the inside kerb and slides across the track.



My back aches from sitting in rock hard chairs through the night, taking two-hour vigils in turn with each child. I lost plenty of sleep in times past, when Paula suffered her fair share of the normal childhood illnesses, but I was younger then, stronger. Frank though, was different. He was uncannily immune to the dreaded lurgies. Come to think of it, I can’t remember a time when Frank was really sick. To see him now, strapped to a hospital bed, is all the more shocking and hideous. Gut-wrenching. Things are worse even than three years ago, sitting at Laura’s bedside during her final, agonised, end-stage days.

To go through the same torture now, with both my kids is more than any parent should have to bear.

My spirit is being murdered by an overdose of lost hope.

Paula might be asleep but for all the internal damage she’s suffered. Her only movement is the slow rise and fall of her ribcage as the life support machines help keep her alive. Frank is in his own world of pain, suffering the torment of the frightened and the damned. He screamed and thrashed so much after his head operation, the doctors had to sedate and strap him down. He’s been slipping in and out of consciousness since the crash, but there’s clearly something going on in his head. He’s talking to himself, muttering, swearing and I can’t do a thing to help.

Laura, help me.


Paula Brazier

Paula Brazier

Occupation: Student, Royal Academy of Music – London
Age: 20
Height: 5’9”
Description: Slim, bordering on elfin. Dark, shoulder-length hair, normally tied in a ponytail. She dresses for comfort, flat shoes, smart office casual, doesn’t wear make-up.

A naturally gifted pianist who sings in perfect pitch, Paula won a full academic scholarship to Royal Academy of Music in London, where she has just started her second year. During the end-of-season party, Frank persuades Paula to play for the crowd.
Frank calls her ‘Screech’ from her high-pitched voice as a child, and she constantly tells him off for doing so.
To Frank’s amusement, Paula claims to have premonitions, and is so terrified when Frank races, she can never watch.

She doesn’t foresee the train crash…


Knowing Paula was coming, I made sure the piano was plugged in and the microphone hot. From his chair, Pete puts fingers to his mouth, and blows an eardrum-piercing whistle—one we’d recognise anywhere. Paula shakes a mock-angry fist at him before sitting at the piano stool. The team cheers and the rest of the crowd shuffle around, wondering what’s going on. Paula flexes her fingers and rubs her hands together—a master performer milking her audience. She adjusts the mike.

“You can blame my brother for this interruption to the proceedings,” she says pointing at me. “Yes, you know. He’s the one with the scruffy hair, broken nose… and the shiny new trophy.” This earns a unanimous roar.

Paula hits the power button, sets the volume, and starts with the wonderful mellow opening stanza to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. There are at least two hundred people in the hall, and each looks enthralled. Paula shoots me a wicked smile as if to say, “plink-plonk highbrow music, eh?” and then launches into an enthusiastic, high-tempo P!nk number that brings the crowd to its feet and couples onto the floor.



I know what’s happening here, but don’t want to believe it. Pete’s body language says it all. I move closer to the bed. They’ve taped Paula’s eyes closed. Her chest rises and falls in time with the pump. Her pale skin is translucent and her lips, the part not covered by the hooped breathing tube, are grey.

There’s something else. Something worse. A faint aura similar to the one surrounding Shadow-man, but pale blue in colour. Barely discernible in the bright light screaming through the sunlit window, but it’s definitely there. It’s draped over her like a delicate shroud, billowing around her nose and mouth.

Words. Too faint to hear, whisper through my head.


I concentrate hard to bring the pleading sounds closer.



“Where are you? I’m lost. Help me.”


She’s scared. Lost and terrified. Can’t find her way home. I feel her pain and her loneliness.

Paula, I’m here. Listen to me. I’ll bring you back.

“I’m tired Frankie. So tired.”


Jenny Barratt

Jenny Barratt

Occupation: PA to Pete and Girl-Friday to Team Brazier Racing (TBR)
Age: 20
Height: 5’7”

Description: With his customary lack of originality, Frank calls her ‘drop-dead gorgeous’. Jenny is curvaceous, titian-haired, blue-eyed, and very self-assured, at least superficially.

At work, she wears ‘ugly-arsed glasses’ and dresses like a librarian to fend off the unwanted advances of the team’s mechanics. Frank sees through her disguise, and she wants him to.
Jenny and Frank have flirted since the day she joined TBR, three weeks before the start of the novel. But she made it clear that nothing can happen between them until Frank wins the Championship and leaves the team.
Initially, Frank is unaware that Jenny and Paula have been best friends since school, and Jenny’s had a crush on Frank for years.
At the-end-of-season party, Frank tells Jenny he’s been offered a place on a Formula 1 team for next season and he’s leaving TBR. Jenny smiles and moves closer…


Her hand is small, delicate, and smooth under my calluses. It fits as though made for the job. We face each other. I have ten centimetres on her and she cranes her neck to catch my eye.

“Well?” she asks. “What are you waiting for?”

I lean close, high on the fragrance of her perfume. “Erm… Paula’s right. Don’t have a clue. Help.”

She turns sultry, half closes her lids, and steps in close. “Put your arms around my waist. No Frank, that’s my bottom. Up higher. Right. A little tighter, I won’t break. Now, listen to the music, sway with me. Keep in time.”

“There’s music playing? Didn’t notice.”

Corny perhaps, but I can’t help it.

She reaches up and drapes her arms around my neck, presses closer, and we touch. Jenny is warm, pliant, and melts into me. I hope she doesn’t notice what’s coming between us. I’m having so much trouble controlling my emotions, it’s becoming an embarrassment.

Jenny flushes, but her smile doesn’t falter. “So you are pleased to see me. But you need to move with the music or people will stare.”



Jenny’s slow, steady breath ruffles the hairs on my forearm. Her perfume is subtle and familiar, but I still can’t give it a name. I only know that it’s designed to appeal and it’s doing a fantastic job.



“Are you okay with everything?”

She kisses my chest, where the pyjama buttons have come undone. “So long as you come back to me, safe and sound. I’ll be waiting.”

While studying the gentle rise and fall of her shoulder, and feeling the press of her breasts against my ribs, I consider her words for a moment. I’m absorbing the idea of her being here for me. It’s scary to be so dependent on a girl I barely know. Wonderful and exciting too.

“Why didn’t you run when you had the chance? I gave you an out, but you didn’t take it.”

“Love you, Frankie. Now shush… tired.”

“Love you too, Jennifer Barratt Kelly. My darling little jackrabbit.”




Occupation: Unknown
Age: Unknown
Height: Variable
Description: Frank sees him as semi-transparent, “Like one of those wire frame animations they use to create the skeletons for movie avatars, but before they add skin and clothing.”

Unknown. No one can see him but Frank, and then only when Frank’s in a state of stress, usually during a race.


“Save her.”

The first thing I remember.

Words in my ear. No, no, not in my ear—in my head. Words inside my head. More than a thought. A voice. Thin, metallic, talking into a tin can far away, sounds hollow.


His words break through my agony and weave through the waves of hurt.

“Help her.”

Help who?

“You know. You remember.”


“She needs thee.”

Huh? Who needs me?

“Wake, boy. Wake now!”

Who am I?

I try to open my eyes but something soft presses against the lids. As I raise my head, the sharp pounding throb increases to a jagging hammer drill intent on cracking open my skull.

The pain… so strong… can’t concentrate. Pain so strong it hurts to breathe, hurts to sweat, hurts to be alive.

Let me die. For pity’s sake let me die.

Behind the agony there’s something else. Loss. But I don’t know why.

Give me peace.

Wake up. She needs thee.”

Don’t know how long I struggle and tread the line between pleading for death and struggling for life. Weeks? Days? Hours? Scattered scraps of memory fade in and out.

I wake, blind, a crushing pressure in my hip, a stabbing pain between the ribs, and that damned jagging throb in my head.





Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin, Ireland, but spent most of his life in the UK. He is proud to hold an Irish passport and is often accused of being a ‘plastic paddy’ – by his brothers!

A highly skilled cabinet maker, Kerry also holds a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. He brings a scientific approach to his book research, and a artistic eye into his writing.

Kerry now lives in the heart of rural Brittany, France, in a stone cottage which he renovated with the help of his wife. He writes from a small office in the loft, and his window overlooks fields, woods, and little else.

Writing has been Kerry’s passion forever. He fully expects to die either at the keyboard, or on one of his regular cycle rides.

Citing authors such as Alistair Maclean, Desmond Bagley, John Grisham, and Michael Connelly among his favourites, Kerry predominantly writes crime fiction.

Kerry published The DCI Jones Casebook: Raymond Francis Collins, in May 2013, and the second Casebook installment, Ellis Flynn in November 2013. Both are available in e-versions (from this website for a discount), and you can buy Ellis Flynn in paperback.

In August 2014, Kerry’s Sci-fi/Thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift, was published and is available in e-versions (from his website for a discount) and paperback.


To find out more about Kerry, Coffee Talk Writer Michaela Miles interviewed him during the book launch for The Transition of Johnny Swift, and you can read it on her website.


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About Author

Who wrote this article

Michaela Miles

Michaela Miles writes. By day she is a mild-mannered copywriter and web designer, but by night she is consumed by the characters in her head and writes to set them free. In her spare time, she is primary carer and chief wrangler for a husband and three children, the big boss at her web design company and photography studio, and is completing a Bachelor of English Literature.

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