Keith Gray introduces 'The List'

Keith Gray introduces 'The List'


Acclaimed author Keith Gray joins us on the blog for a trip down memory lane as he revisits the friendships that shaped his school years, ahead of the publication of The List. 

Here’s a list, in alphabetical order, of my closest friends from school:

  • Andy Briggs
  • Bub
  • Eddie
  • Steve B
  • Steve H

And here’s a list of the things we got up to back then that our parents are still yet to find out about:

  • (censored)
  • (redacted)
  • (secret)
  • (never to be spoken of in polite company)

And so on…

We weren’t ‘bad lads’, definitely not delinquents, pretty average on the rebellious scale of things, but I still believe we did a lot of our growing up behind our parents’ backs. As a small example: Who did I tell about my first kiss? My mum and dad? Or my mates?

Our teenage years can be exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating and frightening. It seems amazing how we manage to survive them. And as we do, it’s often because we get by with a lot of help from our friends.

      I believe there’s a time in life for many of us when we realise we obviously love our parents, but Good God, we don’t want to be them! It usually happens to us in our teenage years. As a younger kid we’d sit quietly, contentedly listening to our parents espousing their hard-earned, hard-lived views of the world – whether political, spiritual or cultural, whatever. We’d soak up their tastes and their ideas. We’d follow their pre-set moral compass. But then there comes that time as a teenager when we start to explore our own beliefs and virtues, and test boundaries – we are the Next Gen after all. And if we decide we don’t want exactly the same as what our parents want, we need to turn to the people who more closely share our newly discovered tastes and values: our friends.

If I was to make a list of the themes I most enjoy writing about, Friendship would top it at number 1. In my books - The Climbers, The Den and now The List - I’ve attempted to explore friendship in three stages, using three groups of teenagers. The Climbers is about finding friends; The Den looks at maintaining friendships; The List deals with separation and moving on. But all three are also stories about struggling with who you want to be, as you get older – despite your parents, or because of your friends.

We choose our friends. Maybe more importantly, they choose us.

      I was lucky with my school friends. But when even they couldn’t help with whatever exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating and frightening thoughts were whizzing around inside my head, I’d often find myself turning to books. I remember some of the books I read as a teenager like old friends. Fiction can be a superb safety net because it’s the characters who are testing the boundaries you’d never dare push at (or aren’t daft/callous/rebellious enough to break).

My hope is that the readers can find themselves, or characters they recognise, in these three books. I purposely wrote them as first-person point-of-view narratives so that my own voice intruded as little as possible. If the reader starts thinking about the middle-aged author instead of the teenage narrator, then I’ve not done my job properly. I don’t want to preach or teach. First and foremost, I wrote the stories to entertain! But I’d also love these books to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the reader - like good friends do.

      Friendships unfortunately ebb and drift as we get older. Or they revolve around dinner parties rather than tree climbing, den building, or graffiti-ing. Pity. So am I claiming I still write stories about Andy Briggs, Bub, Eddie, and the Steve’s B and H? Let’s just say, on top of everything else and all these years later, they’re still giving great inspiration.

The List publishes July 4th, 2024.


It’s the end of the summer and Denny is having to move away with his mum now that she’s found a good job, but he’s not planning on leaving quietly. He’s made a list of scores to settle and wrongs to right before he goes. He asks his best friend, Jake, to help.

Jake is absolutely gutted that Denny is leaving and worries what life will be like without him. Of course he’ll do anything to help, no matter how weird or unrealistic the items on Denny’s list might be. But the list is more powerful than either of them realise – it can make and break friendships ...