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Author Topic: The Great Rught Hope by Mark Jackman  (Read 1282 times)
Geoff_N
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« on: September 22, 2009, 09:16:26 AM »

The Great Right Hope by Mark Jackman
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Logical-Lust (24 Jul 2009)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1905091427
ISBN-13: 978-1905091423

That Middlesbrough is a crucible of the strangest vampires in fiction could explain a lot of social geography. To have a backstreet public house as the centre of action for vampires, their spies, vampire hunters, their spies, and above all, the much-awaited-yet-unaware vampire killer works surprisingly well.

Sid Tillsley is an unlikely hero, an unlikely antihero, and I remain puzzled how his fist, however mighty, can kill hardened millennia-old vampire, but he does. His slow catching on to the quips of his friends belies his life as an expert benefit cheater. Sid’s alcohol and tobacco consumption should have killed him along with his frustration at gays, women and humour, yet his OTT persona seems endearing and believable because we’ve met parts of him in our own lives. If not Sid, then his mates. Why should such a misogynistic, homophobic moron be lovable too? That’s writerly skill for you.

Besides the page-turning shenanigan behaviour of Sid there are the more sedate parallel stories involving vampire politics along with human-vampire associated agreements. In comparison these are more page-skipping in that the characters are so less engaging I couldn’t work myself up to care much for them. If I were the editor I’d have urged starting the book at chapter three. It’s not that the first 26 pages can be entirely dispensed with, but their importance doesn’t rate fronting the novel. In my opinion they are not the hook for this novel as much as the hilarious Sid.

I can attest to the veracity of the geography and to The Miners Arms public house as portrayed in this novel. At least as a template. I was the recipient of a haymaker when, as a teenager, I erred by addressing an ex-miner as comrade. I was at a 1960s socialist conference and we all called each other comrade but in a Middlesbrough pub, this burly chap took offence and knocked me out cold. Amusing in retrospect, Jackman’s literary accounts ring true. However, there is too much repetition of the urge for free drinks, disbelief in the poor Reece Chambers, trying to recruit and warn Sid of the evil vampires, the pub-demolishing fights and stereotyping of women. Halfway through the book I felt I was in a recursive loop. Sadly (or not if the reader eagerly anticipated it) the end fight is as predictable as it is inevitable.

Even with those cautions, this is a must-have read for literary vampire aficionados. Is this novel literary? Tricky to categorise but there symptoms. Lines I’d like to have written sneak in by surprise.

‘A horrible silence followed... and kept following.’
‘This is what their lives used to be. Every vampire’s life had been about running; either running to catch food, or running away from a lot of food.’
‘He threw a few devastating punches in mid-air. The air felt pain.’
Of all the vampire books I’ve read over many decades I can’t recall enco
untering a joke so esoteric that only a vampire could say it. On the vampire, Ricard, being told he might enjoy driving, he says, ‘I will have a suntan first.’ Brilliant.

The Great Right Hope raises more questions than it answers but that’s no bad thing especially with a sequel on its way. The title refers to Sid’s fist, mighty and somehow supernatural – in the strict sense of the word. The title is also a reference to bigotry to which this novel doesn’t pander but parodies. It is certainly the most unusual vampire book I’ve read and the most hilarious. Read it at your peril.



Geoff
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