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Tragedy inspired sister to write first book

WELL READ: Candace Bertram and her book

A WOMAN whose older brother was stabbed to death when she was still a teenager has channelled her grief into writing her first novel about a fictional couple who take the wrong route in life with tragic consequences.

Candace Bertram’s book, The Life He Chose is not about the life story of her brother Leon Francis, but she says it was inspired by his death.

Now 27, and a mother herself, Candace wants her book to be a wake-up call for young people who can become caught up in a gang lifestyle or simply follow the wrong crowd, leading to heartbreaking situations.

“I am not here to condone my brother’s way of life, but I want to spread the message through this fictional story that what happened to my brother can happen to any family whatever their background,” Candace told The Voice.

“Although knife crime plays a role in my book, it is not the only focus. Love, deceit, infidelity and organised crime are also touched upon.

She explained further: “Leon was killed in the early hours of December 27 2007 when he was just 24. The effect on my parents and our family has been devastating. I was only 19 at the time and had never before lost a family member who I was so close to, so I found it extremely hard to grieve.

STABBED: Leon Francis

“We are a very tight-knit family – I am lucky enough to have two very supportive parents but we have all gone through so much pain. However, I found writing the book was a healing process. It’s not all about anger. I am passionate about getting my message out there.

“My brother was a joker – as immature as hell. His name was Trix and this was given to him when he was a little boy as he was always playing tricks on my mum and dad.”

Candace, who is planning to write a sequel, added: “Leon’s girlfriend was five months pregnant when he died. His daughter is now seven years old and constantly asks questions about the dad she will never meet. Her bedroom is a shrine to Leon and she wants to know everything about him. It’s so sad.”

Candace, who works in event management, says the book’s title was inspired by a song called The Life We Chose that Leon and his friends had released shortly before his death.

“That was my way of including Leon’s own lyrics within the book. It tells the story of how two characters meet at 16 and enjoy a flashy lifestyle funded by taking illegal risks and breaking the law and, of course, it doesn’t end well.”

She says she found it extremely hard to write about a stabbing scene. It recalled the horror of seeing her brother being resuscitated several times in hospital only to lose his fight for life after being stabbed through the heart.

>The book will be published on November 5 and will be available at £6.99 on Amazon and in good bookshops.

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