First of all, a huge thanks to Ansley Vaughan (http://www.myspace.com/ansley_vaughan) for such a lovely review of A Dangerous Man (http://www.flamebooks.com/), which I reproduce below, and which you can also find on Ansley’s blog of 26 June:
WARNING: Contains possible spoilers!
“Anne Brooke's compelling novel is not a comfortable read. I got through it in a few big gulps, although as it raced towards its inevitable denouement, I was almost fearful of reaching the end. Michael Jones is an artist and a rent-boy. He's a man with one searing obsession; to gain recognition for his talent. The book is about how this determination drags him down into madness and destruction. This is a chilling study of growing paranoia, of wrong choices all along the way. And in the background, there's the looming presence of London, and a feeling of place which, with the slow psychological development of the story, was reminiscent of Barbara Vine at her best.
This is not a feel-good book. I so wanted it to end differently, wanted some escape for the only truly sympathetic character, his lover Jack. But every page is dominated by Michael, a man who draws in black and white to try to quell the bright colours inside him – like someone bleeding himself in an attempt to stay fit. Brooke has created Michael as an individual almost without personality, without history, without education or aspiration. He reinvents himself as a blank sheet of paper. He's beautiful and desirable, but ultimately empty, and at one point I began to think of him as one of those autistic artists, what used to be known as idiots savants, who draw brilliantly and obsessively but are otherwise lacking in all social skills. In the end it's the past which catches up with Michael – in a literal and figurative sense. He is sunk by the emerging sketches of his earlier activities, of his crime, of the life of prostitution for which he is blackmailed, and by the childhood secret which has made him what he is.
And finally, this book contains my most potent nightmare; that one where you know you've committed a terrible crime, something which seeps into your consciousness and stains it. Something which will inevitably come out, bringing with it shame and destruction. Brooke herself describes the book as 'a gay psychological thriller' but in a way the sexual orientation of the protagonists is irrelevant. This is a study of blinkered obsession and the untold damage it can do. Read it. Don't expect to feel relaxed or happy at the end. Do expect to feel challenged and stimulated. But read it.
Anne Brooke's novel, A Dangerous Man, is published by Flame Books.”
Gosh, thanks, Ansley – I really appreciate that. Hugely. And it’s a wonderful counterbalance to Jay’s rather negative comments earlier in the week too!
This morning has been rather wild – I was supposed to be helping with the Student Care Services stall at the University Open Day this afternoon, but Sally’s car broke down so I had to step in this morning instead. I find these sorts of things get the adrenaline going, but it’s very exhausting and I feel very hyper after I’ve done it. Mind you, I was on duty with Jan from Additional Learning Support, and we had a great time. Apparently also, my usual symptoms of complete spacial unawareness (eg can’t describe how I get home from the office without real serious thought but I know it when I’m doing it, never knowing quite where I am on campus or how I got there, fear of going to unfamiliar places etc etc), plus my lack of balance (eg can’t ride a bike, can’t hit a moving ball …) point to being a Dyspraxia sufferer. But one with very good coping strategies. Hurrah! I have a label at last! And there was I thinking it was just me … Mind you, I’d need to have a proper diagnosis with a psychologist to be sure, and it probably isn’t worth it, but at least it’s nice to think that I might have a local habitation and a name, as they say. And still be just plain weird …
Ooh, and Penny (former work colleague) popped in with her brand-new green Ford Ka. Lovely. Hmm, really fancy a new Fiesta next year, but we’ll see …
Tried to pop back into the Open Day scrum during the afternoon, but was sidetracked by a lady who needed to use the Oak Suite lift, which wasn’t working. Eventually, we managed to get Estates & Facilities, and Security on the case (well done, lads!), but the man the lady actually wanted to see came to her in the end, so all’s well that ends well, phew. Except for the broken lift of course …
Anyway, tonight, it’s sherry night and we’ve got one of those lovely smoked salmon starters (bliss!). Then Lord H is at the Village Hall Committee (groan) and I’m planning some writing. And there’s “Rome” on TV – double bliss. Might do the ironing while I’m watching it and gain Wife Points, hurrah!
And, finally, we have Brown. Well, a change is as good as a rest, I suppose. But to make Blair a peace envoy to the Middle East does seem rather like putting Attila the Hun in charge of the nursery ... but then again who am I to judge? I do work in Student Care Services after all!
Today’s nice things:
1. Ansley’s review of ADM
2. Open Day conversations