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I recently finished Westcliff based singer, songwriter and poet Phil Burdett’s debut novel ‘Maledictus’. It is a tome of wondrous prose, enchanting imagery and vivid imaginings. It’s unlike any other novel I’ve read, so it’s very novel indeed. It’s here I have to admit not having read ‘Ulysses’ - I know that the author is a big fan of it, so other readers may know more as to whether there might be any parallels.

The central protagonist of ‘Maledictus’ is The Troubadour and we experience this character in differing states of being at various times in his life. There’s a metamorphosis happening here and it culminates in The Troubadour’s other incarnation as Captain Rehab. Captain Rehab sails a ghost ship of past and future selves and it’s possible that he is The Troubadour’s post-corporeal being, but this is only my speculation. It’s a book that will, I suspect, repay a second reading but my initial impression is that it’s an exploration of the uncertainties in trying to understand this life and I’ve inferred that it’s suggesting our lived experience is just one small facet within a wider unconscious that exists in our dreams and the worlds beyond our perceived world. The boundaries between the conscious reminiscences, the dreamworld scenarios and the contemporaneous real-life happenings are sometimes blurred in ‘Maledictus’ but maybe that’s the point.

There are a whole host of colourful and interesting characters who are part of The Troubadour’s journey (that takes in Basildon, Southend, London and Amsterdam between 1978 to 2021), including the inspirational but unpredictable Degory Priest, the reliably profane Jimmy Red, the enigmatic Ursula Major and the wise, shamanic Radio Repairman. There is also Boo, The Troubador’s first love. She plays a cameo role but frequently returns in The Troubador’s memories and dreams. The Troubador’s psychotropic experiences in Amsterdam towards the end of the novel open up new doorways to his greater perception and his meeting with Theo The Sailor leads to the revelatory meeting with The Radio Repairman and The Troubadour’s eventual journey home, via the uncertain waters that influence his soul.

This is a novel that challenges any readers who like their fiction to follow conventional story arcs. It’s highly unorthodox in style and structure and you’ll also need a dictionary to hand for some words too. I urge you to give it a go. I’m going to be doing so a second time in the hope that I’ll be a bit more on the wavelength with it. And that reminds me, there are some clever musical references that permeate The Troubadour’s thoughts and I’m delighted to see that Phil Burdett, the Thames Delta Troubadour, will be playing live again later this year.


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Louise Kennenedy's Trespasses.Wonderful novel set in Belfast during the Troubles.Main characters are a 24 year old Catholic Primary school teacher and a middle aged Protestant Barrister involved in a doomed affair.
Claire Keegan's superb novella Small Things Like These ,set in the rural Ireland of 1985.Without giving too much away it's a modern Xmas story with the plot hinging on the Magdalen Laundry (Ireland's last one wasn't closed until 1996).Sort of reminds me of Paul Auster's wonderful Auggie Wren's Xmas Story,memorably filmed by Angie Lee as Smoke .STLT will make a wonderful film too I'm sure
Antony Beevoir, Downfall.
Horrific account of the final few months of the 3rd Reich.
The stuff the Nazis did! To the Russians, Poles, Jews and more they also did to their own people at the end, and then the Russians paid back in kind.
If the Red Army in Ukraine is anything like 1945 then heck there isn't going to be Queensbury rules.
Michelle DE Krester's Scary Monsters.Much preferred the first oart of this two part diptych ie a novel in 2 contrasting parts ,apparently-Mainly because it's set in Montpellier in the early 80's (a year before I was working there).Incidentally The SMs in question are racism.ageism and mysogony.A good read.
Just finished Svetlana Alexievich's harrowing Last Witnesses:An Oral History of the (Russian) Children of WW2,A timely reminder that while everybody suffers in a war ,probably children do the most,
Just finished Rob Spooner's Radio Therapy: A Musical memior .IMO it's a much better book than either This is Radio Binfielsd or Radios in Motion.The author's basic honesty and compassion shines through on every page,I'd have to quibble about the recollection of some family events but that's poetic licence for you. :Winking:

Could also have done without some of the Coney Island/Albania stuff (but suppose that's just me being critical)
Just finished Rob Spooner's Radio Therapy: A Musical memior .IMO it's a much better book than either This is Radio Binfielsd or Radios in Motion.The author's basic honesty and compassion shines through on every page,I'd have to quibble about the recollection of some family events but that's poetic licence for you. :Winking:

Could also have done without some of the Coney Island/Albania stuff (but suppose that's just me being critical)
Now available via Waterstone's ...

Thoroughly enjoying 'Good Pop Bad Pop: An Inventory' by Jarvis Cocker - thanks, Phil.

Update: just finished it and here's a brief review ...

This inventory by Jarvis Cocker, 'Good Pop, Bad Pop', is an enjoyable read of reminiscences of the author's days pre-fame, growing up in Sheffield and forming the first incarnation of Pulp, 'Arabicus Pulp', whilst at school. The hooks of these reminiscences are the artefacts of Jarvis' loft. He admits to being a hoarder and there is a treasure trove of memories associated with the various objects he rediscovers up there. From the remains of the high class soap, Cusson's Imperial Leather, to various diverse and intriguing mementos of his early years, including an inspirational Scott Walker cassette tape given to him by an acquaintance whose name he cannot remember, Jarvis takes us through his fractured family background, his outsider status as one of the 'weirdos' at school, a fateful meeting with John Peel, the revelatory effects of having a serious accident that resulted in his being in hospitals for nearly three months, via a de-cluttering process of keep or 'cob' (chuck). As for this memoir, it's definitely a 'keep'.
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Jay Parini's wonderful memoir Borges and Me: An Encounter.Who knew that Borges was a big fan of the Scottish Highlands? Certainly not me.This is a first rate account,set in 1970 when JP was a post grad student at St.Andrews ,Edinborough.
Just finished 'Red Light London' by Terry Lander (Lyvit Publishing, 2022).

Terry Lander’s latest book, Red Light London, is a well-constructed and very enjoyable novel. It charts the development of an entertainment district in east London and the lives of people who are affected by it, including: - Cara, Elegance, Storm and Heidi, four friends who are sex workers hoping to benefit from the extra security afforded by the legalised premises where they work in the district, called The Haven; Malcolm, a determined opponent of the scheme, whose protests lead to life-changing events; Stewart and Jared, Councillors who are entrusted with pushing through the development, with eyes on the kick-backs; and Fraser, a recalcitrant construction worker on the plot designated for the new construction, who is made redundant at short notice. The author introduces the characters skilfully via use of a ‘revolving camera’-type technique before further events in the development of the district impact on their respective lives. The intertwining of the characters’ stories continues towards a dramatic denouement with a concluding serenity at what has happened. I’m not going to elaborate on that as it will be an unwelcome ‘spoiler’ for other readers, of whom I hope there will be many.

I inferred that the various stories contained in Red Light London suggest the arbitrariness of life events and how we can never be prepared for how this great journey will turn out. The descriptions of the various and varied intimate moments between the characters in the novel (as well as intermittent episodes of violence) were well-crafted and the dialogue felt authentic too. With thanks to Terry Lander for this introduction to his writing. I will certainly look out for his other works in adult fiction.

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The 25th Anniversary Edition of Don Mullan's Eyewitness Bloody Sunday.There no doubt whasoever that the Eyewitness accounts in this book prove Widgery to have been a whitewash.as I thought at the time.
Martin Dillon's The Shankilll Butchers.Recommended reading by the guy who took us around the political wall murals in the Falls Road +Shankill in Belfast a fortnight or so ago.Not my usual sort or read but certanly puts the spotlight on the depravity of sectarian violence in Belfast back in the 70's.