Monday, November 7, 2011

Denise Meredith

D.E. Meredith read English at Cambridge, then ran the press office and the land mines campaign for the Red Cross, travelling extensively to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Rwanda during the conflicts. She worked as a consultant on media relations for Greenpeace and other worthy causes before embarking on "The Hatton and Roumande Mysteries" series for St Martin's Press (Devoured, October 2010, The Devil's Ribbon, October 2011).

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished Mixed Blood by Roger Smith. Normally I hate hard boiled crime but this blew me away. Roger Smith doesn’t put a foot wrong. There’s too much crime out there that‘s derivative with all that box ticking stuff but Smith creates a world that’s completely unique. There are elements of Coetzee (The Heart of the Country) with smatterings of Cormac McCarthy (I’m thinking, Blood Meridian) but structurally, it works like a seriously superior airport thriller. Incredibly fast and furious, it hooks you in from page one by the jugular and rushes you through to the end with lots of shock tactics along the way (big ones, not for the squeamish), laugh out loud humour, pathos, skin tingling dialogue. Especially from the diabolical Afrikaner Sheriff, Rudi Barnard and yet, despite the charging narrative, Smith’s tight control on his story never misses a beat. We get moments where he stops and shows you the beauty of Cape Town in gorgeously poetic terms. I got to the end slightly worn out, didn’t skip a word and was dumbfounded. I learnt a lot about pace from this book and how if you take risks, when it works, it really, really works.

Another surprise and great read was a book I won last week in a Twitter Competition, The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T Kelly. I’ll fess up, we share the same agent, but that meant I was very wary and worried that I wouldn’t like it. How wrong could I be? This book is a one off. Highly original, despite the fact the book is (in many ways) a homage to all things gothic – think Dorian Grey, meets Bram Stocker, meets Dr Faustus meets Dr Jackal and Mr Hyde meets I’m not sure what. It’s about three middle age men, once school boy friend’s, now medical doctors. One of them – Dr Forrest, a vain, sexy cosmetic surgeon – goes missing, presumed dead. The men have complex relationships with each other, mainly revolving around failed ambitions, lies, envy, ego and their relationships with women. It’s very intriguing on the last score, especially reading it as a woman. I loved Kelly’s emotional honesty, his take on London which was spot on from the slightly scuzzy impression of Parliament Hill and Hampstead heath to the oh so hopelessly middle class-ness of serving up scallops and salsa verde for dinner. As if. Only in Hampstead, darling! I relished the descriptions of cloying bourgeoisie pretension, overarched by howling at the moon kind of gothic. Just what the doctor ordered, especially as my current book’s set in London, too!

And finally, I’m half way through, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s had mixed reviews but I didn’t read The Time Traveller’s Wife so I had no expectations, I guess but what I will say is this – I love a writer who takes risks and does weird, envelope pushing things. She really does take risks. Big risks. It’s rare when you get a description of grief conveyed through the picture of a lonely man –how can I put this – masturbating over his dead lover’s shoes (best to say it straight). It’s slightly shocking but amazing. I’m enjoying her rendition of Highgate. I used to live there, have done the cemetery tour myself (for my current book – The Devil's Ribbon - also partly set in Highgate) and her descriptions are utterly charming. Her work is whimsical and her prose is flawless. It’s teaching me, I guess, that I need to examine my characters’ interior lives more and more to get to the heart of them. Niffenegger is all about what’s not said nor shown, but contained within. The reason I picked this up is that I’m working on a novel with a doppelganger. So far, so very interesting...
Visit Denise Meredith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Ribbon.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil's Ribbon.

--Marshal Zeringue