A British soldier struck down with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the death of a colleague in Iraq embarks on a new world record attempt this morning for the longest-ever book signing.
Neil Blower, the agency’s long-standing client, plans to sign 5,000 copies of his first novel over the course of the gruelling five DAY challenge.
The Royal Tank Regiment veteran, who turned to writing as a form of therapy, is making the attempt at the annual War and Peace Revival show in Kent.
He will spend up to 18 hours-a-day signing ‘Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins’ and has even vowed to eat and SLEEP at his table if it means selling more copies.
Each fan who attends will receive his signature and a short personal message printed inside the book.
A donation from each book sold will be made to the Royal British Legion and to the veteran’s mental health charity, Combat Stress.
The aim is to set a world record for the longest continual book signing, rather than to beat the existing Guinness World Record for the most number of books signed in a single session – currently held by the chess champion Anatoli Karpov.
Neil, who lives in Salford, Manchester, hopes the attempt will raise awareness of PTSD and the plight of those affected by it.
Speaking earlier this week Neil, who is one of the UK’s leading PTSD campaigners, said: “It’s not going to be a barrel of laughs – sitting, eating and sleeping in a marquee for five days solid is no one’s idea of a good time.
“But it will, I hope, go some considerable way towards bringing PTSD back into the spotlight. If we set a world record in the process, then that will be the icing on the cake.”
Neil was diagnosed with PTSD after his mentor and sergeant, Steve Roberts, became the first British casualty of the Iraq War. He was shot and killed by insurgents in March 2003.
The father-of-two, who also served on the frontline in Kosovo, found solace from a “maze of darkness” by taking up creative writing.
His first book ‘Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins’ – a semi-autobiographical story which he describes as a “light-hearted mix of Heart of Darkness and Adrian Mole” – was published by Firestep Publishing to critical acclaim in October 2011.
He has now become one of Britain’s foremost campaigners for PTSD, and is the brainchild behind an idea to place ‘Veterans Champions’ in every British local authority to support ex-forces personnel.
Neil’s record attempt begins this morning (Wednesday 17th July) and will end on Sunday 21st July – a total of 90 hours continuous signing.
But he hopes to submit evidence of his feat to a variety of other record accreditation organisations.
He added: “I’m not in this for a record – I am 100% focused on raising awareness of PTSD, pure and simple.”