I was thrilled this week to read a truly encouraging review in the popular Huffington Post for my novel Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love from Dr Michael Petry, the director of London’s Museum of Contemporary Arts. It was equally encouraging and terrifying as it came just before the announcement of the short list for this year’s Polari Prize. I was lucky enough to appear on the long list of 12 books and next week I will discover if I’ve made it to the short list of five. I keep telling myself it is great even being on the long list so I’m turning my face to the wall but not holding my breath. Whatever the outcome, it is so pleasing to receive such an understanding review from someone who obviously “got it” as far as I’m concerned. It is great to have my work compared to that well-known author Philip Hensher too. I know that my much put-upon character Stephen Dearsley would have been happy to have known that he has a such a supporter in his troublesome life trying to find himself in the late 1960s.
Here is a section of Michael Petry’s article:
“Hensher is well known and highly regarded with his The Northern Clemency being shortlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize and Kitchen Venom winning the Somerset Maugham Award. His The Emperor Waltz is a wonderful read across many time periods. Early Christians in the 3rd century clash with young artists at the Bauhaus and young men in the 1970’s at London’s first gay book store. How they all link together is rather complex and like David Mitchell’s The Cloud Atlas a brief description does them no service at all. But there is a neat surprise at the end of the waltz through time, which involves signed copies of a novel. As a book collector myself, I know how exciting it is to find a signed copy or better still, one inscribed to a mysterious person whose identity I will likely never know. But holding those physical objects is another link across time, and as long as physical books exist I am sure there will be people like me who want to have them. An e-book is not quite the same, and is there a first edition of a digital book?
Colin Bell’s Stephen Dearsley’s Summer of Love is on the longlist and I do hope it makes it to the next stage. It also cuts across time as the young fogey Stephen, who is uptight, and upright, finds love, drugs and the facts about the mysterious Austin Randolph who’s biography he has been commissioned to write. Like Hensher’s the form of the book is alternating chapters of time and characters, that gather together to create a whole picture of various times and lives. Randolph proves to have been one of Oswald Mosely’s Blackshirts, yet a highly charismatic figure who everyone, including his own half brother was in love with and lusted for. Stephen’s summer of love in Brighton is well observed. Bell and Hensher easily convey a sense of what it must have been like to have been at the many times described. Bell is published by Ward Wood (a small UK company) while Hensher works with Harper Collins (a large international publisher) and their coverage has subsequently been very different. I don’t really like artistic competitions as they are inherently based on the personal biases of the judges. What I think, matters to a few friends, but I hugely enjoyed reading both books and hope others do too.”
Dr Michael Petry
Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London
Huffington Post 4th September 2014.