I have worked like a trooper today and deserve countless gold stars, I'm sure. Well, maybe one anyway. For starters. First off, I must say how much I enjoyed the Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk
) meeting last night - it was really good in terms of (a) taking me out of my slough of despond, and (b) planning ahead for our two books of this year. It was also nice as Jennifer has read A Dangerous Man
) now and says she thinks it's the best thing I've written. Thanks, Jennifer - actually I think so too (if I'm allowed - as a UK female - even to type
that ...), though I know my two genres are very different. She might even be able to pop into the Book Circle discussion on Monday, which will be great as there's a woman who can talk (sorry, Jennifer!).
Anyway, our two books of this year are:
and which is, frankly, the best and raunchiest historical mystery you'll read in a long time. With a very punchy main character too. And I know because I edited it. It's available in June, but order now to avoid disappointment. As they say!
So this morning, I've typed up the Goldenford minutes and edited our autumn book, which is also our first non-fiction one - a quirky and extremely interesting book on weird and wonderful eBay sales entitled Sold ... to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop by Irene Black. It's great. I really enjoyed editing it. Wonderful pictures and stories behind the sales too. This one will be ideal for your Christmas reading/presents for sure. We're anticipating an August publication date for that one. So good for late summer hols too!
"Michael Jones, the dangerous man of the title, is driven by overwhelming ambition and desire: the ambition to make it as an artist, and the desire to show the world his true talent and vision by putting on the first ever exhibition of his drawings. (Surely a storyline that will resonate with many of us here on Writewords!) Michael is a complex and contradictory man: to begin with, here is an artist who seems to have a horror of colour. Indeed, the suppression of colour from his art is ominously intriguing. Colour, perhaps, is metaphor for truth, because the life Michael comes to live is only viable if he rigorously excludes the truth of his disturbing past. If art aims at self-expression, the artist who seeks to edit and trammel his self is heading for trouble.
What makes this scenario even more interesting is that Anne Brooke has chosen to make Michael her narrator. If there are things that Michael cannot admit to himself, then he’s certainly not going to share them with the reader. Connoisseurs of ‘the unreliable narrator’ take note.
There are layers of revelation and deceit in this novel. Confidences that are shared with some characters (Frank, the landlord at the Soho pub where Michael turns tricks to support his art habit) are withheld from others (notably Jack, Michael’s rich lover and benefactor). And then there are the things that no one is ever told, or at least not directly. But which surface nevertheless. We can’t help noticing the disturbing quirks of Michael’s behaviour, which hint at something dark in the past and something darker yet to come. The tensions that are set in play inevitably lead to violence, at which we may be shocked but not surprised. But there is also an uncontrollable outpouring of self-expression, a kind of rampage of artistic creation. Anne Brooke writes well about art, but of course we can never see Michael’s drawings. So we can never really know whether he has any talent as an artist. This is where her choice of Michael as narrator works particularly well. Is his self-belief justified? Or are those characters who are rather less enthusiastic about his work more to be trusted?
As we all know, the creative artist has to have a degree of self-belief, as well as self-will. Michael has both to excess. But does he have the necessary self-awareness? Possibly. At one point, commenting on his own ability to exploit an emotionally charged incident in his relationship with Jack, he confides to the reader: “Nothing we do is pure…” He then goes on to assert, perhaps protesting too much: “though I loved him, I swear it.” Michael’s best visual art, it seems, comes when he allows the difficult truth about himself to break through the emotional carapace that is, in fact, his greatest creation. But the process, of course, destroys him.
Anne Brooke tells a gripping story (at one point I missed my tube stop!) in a direct, conversational style that pulls you along. She is particularly good, I think, at delineating the power shifts and dynamics of Michael’s developing relationship with Jack. The honesty that a relationship demands is completely beyond Michael. The scene where Michael is introduced to Jack’s family is very well done, with the tension between Michael and Jack’s mother extremely well observed. Michael is dumbstruck by the family’s apparent ease together, even more than by their wealth. It turns out that the potential for happiness is a greater divider than class.
Although the author uses some of the tricks of a thriller writer to keep the reader guessing, I read ‘A Dangerous Man’ ultimately as a tragedy. Michael Jones may be guilty of wishing for too much, but we cannot help being moved by his fate. Given that he is in many ways a selfish and ‘unsympathetic’ character, this is a remarkable achievement."
Gosh, thanks, Roger. Hugely. More than hugely. And hey maybe it might tempt one or two more readers into the BSRS (Brooke Select Readership Society)! You never know. Come and join us ... you know you want to ... [cue creepy music and wild unearthly laughter, aha!]
Anyway, after all this I nipped into Godalming and bought a local paper and a present for my stepfather (birthday in May). I also bought a panicky last-minute present for a friend whose 40th birthday is on Tuesday, but I'd forgotten it was the big 4-0. Whoops. Ah well. It's in the post now, and I hope it's suitable, John!
My head is now throbbing with all this computer work. Might do some scribbling (by hand and on paper!) of The Gifting tonight, but don't count on it. I also have to think about the cleaning (argh, no, no!) and of course there's Friday TV comedy night to look forward to. And a weekend. Bliss.
Today's nice things:
1. Editing Irene's book
2. Roger's review of ADM
3. Being up-to-date with birthday obligations.