June 12th, 2008

breaking bad

Death of a Murderer

So I recently finished Death of a Murderer by Rupert Thomson, who wrote the 'humours' book I referred to yesterday. I see he has written quite a few novels. On the whole his work seems to be grim realism with surreal fantasy touches (this is just from reading summaries and reviews). ninebelow pointed me at this article about Thomson in the Boston Review. This includes a comment by Thomson which I like:

Whenever I start a new book I have nightmares. Night after night. For a long time I didn’t understand why. Recently I came up with a theory. To write fiction of any power and authenticity you have to draw on the deepest, most secret parts of yourself. That’s where fiction comes from, but it’s also where dreams are made. Small wonder, then, if there’s a certain amount of cross-fertilisation between the two. I often think of Louise Bourgeois in this context. She once said, I trust my unconscious. The unconscious is my friend. . . . You might say that I want my fiction to have that relationship to reality. I want to be able to look at reality from a standpoint that feels unpredictable, surreal, and yet, at the same time, entirely cogent. I seem to be attracted to ideas that allow me to do this.


Death of a Murderer is about a policemen who is assigned to guard the body of Myra Hindley in a mortuary overnight (her name is never mentioned in the book, but that's clearly who it is, and her photo is on the cover). The entire book is less than 24 hours of his private thoughts. It is quiet and introverted, not much happens 'on stage' and the fantasy element is very limited. The book is well written in two ways, firstly the prose is good, and secondly the overall atmosphere and structure is coherent. In that respect it is like a good film or TV show where all the minor plot strands build into one strong composite whole.
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