Author Archives: Tom Fleming

Big Bad Ones

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘Every little girl wants to play with the wolf, wants to see if she can get the best of him.’ These are the knowing words of Francis Clemmons, recalled by his adoring daughter, Margy, as she remembers the panicky thrill of the wolf games she played with him, ‘until I got big enough and wouldn’t […]

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Sex Between The Races

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The short biography of Coleman Dowell on the sleeve of White on Black on White reveals that he committed suicide soon after the novel’s 1983 publication, ‘depressed at his lack of literary success.’ Upon reading the book, it’s soon apparent why he wasn’t more widely acclaimed. Not that he wasn’t good – Dowell wrote like […]

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And You Think You Have Problems?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Mike Feder is a Jewish New Yorker, married, a father of two and plagued by a traumatic family background. These facts present the skeleton of a radio show he hosts, unpaid, in New York, almost as an adjunct to his therapy. Motormouth Mike has dropped out, flopped in college, battled and parleyed with demented and […]

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A Manual For Students

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Mary Morris, like many American authors, pursues an academic career in tandem with an authorial one, in her case at Princeton University and more recently as a ‘writer-in-residence’ at the University of California at Irvine. The idea of having a campus scribe or redbrick bard on tap at an academic establishment is still more prevalent […]

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Over-Examined Apple

Posted on by Tom Fleming

A couple of years ago it was the done thing to wail about the number of self-indulgent English novels about Hampstead angst. Look at America, it was said, with some justification. Why can’t we be as cosmopolitan as them? Well, the time has come for a new outcry: why oh why oh why is every […]

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Scots Ulysses

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Todd McEwen’s first novel revealed how horrible Boston is. His second, McX, tells us how depressing it is to be Scottish. McEwen, an American, has also travelled in the Soviet Union and Holland, so it may be that we can expect future bulletins on the forlorn condition of the Russian soul and the tedium of […]

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Eeh, Idn’t It Luvely?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Out of their cupboards they come tumbling, the skeletons thrust there in haste, or tucked neatly in, locked away by several or furtively concealed by one. William Trevor has brought out a new book and a skelter of skeletons. Family Sins is a clever title for his latest collection of short stories, earlier published in […]

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Probably Reads Better in Polish

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In order to control the world, one must first name it,’ says the Captain to the Engineer, whose name, we learn belatedly, is Henry. The other human characters whose rocket has crash-landed on the planer Eden do not have names, only titles: the Physicist, the Chemist, the Doctor and the Cyberneticist. Eden, once they have […]

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Buckets of Blood

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is not the skull beneath the skin but the sinewy, pulsing vital organs beneath that which obsess James Sorel-Cameron’s lurid imagination. His characters are still coated in primeval slime, and have not yet sloughed off their baser natures. They are all blood, guts and reflex action. The storyline of this somewhat melodramatic historical novel […]

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Missed Her Vocation

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The inclusion of Kate O’Brien in the Virago canon does credit to the publisher’s even-handedness. The author is certainly not a feminist writer, and even her Irishness is not of the conventional sort. She rarely indulges in irony, or in the fun of the phrase that might be expected of a Munsterwoman. Her Ireland is […]

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Not Racist But A Bi-Cultural Critique

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In the wake of the Satanic Verses furore, Michael Carson’s second novel bravely weighs in with an incandescent satire of life in a contemporary Gulf oil state, not at all unlike Saudi Arabia. While Prophet and Koran escape direct mockery, Carson’s account the gilded brimstone world of nouveau orthodox Islam is scathing and, needless to […]

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China Ink

Posted on by Tom Fleming

You might shrink from calling a leading Chinese author inscrutable, if that wasn’t the way the Chinese see him too. But Ah Cheng is as much puzzled-over in his homeland as he is widely read. At first sight, there are grounds for supposing that he should be numbered among the artists and writers who inspired […]

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Failed Double Suicide

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Uno Chiyo is a devastatingly powerful novelist. Her own tempestuous life-style and eroticism are stamped on each page of Confessions of Love, written in Japan of the thirties and conceived at a time when progressive women with bobbed hair and Western clothes challenged the restrictions imposed on a woman’s place in society. Confessions of Love […]

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Dark Inheritance

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Carlo Gébler’s fourth novel, Malachy & his Family, is about the bad blood that flows through families from generation to generation, binding them together more securely than love or understanding ever could. His O’Neill clan is like many other suburban households – hardworking, quiet, and continually on the verge of falling apart. Gébler’s short novel […]

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Lowry’s London

Posted on by Tom Fleming

After his success in winning the Whitbread Prize in 1988 with The Comforts of Madness, Paul Sayer has returned to the eternally rich vein of British lunacy. I say British because the background the author creates for his sub-yuppie couple, Michael Crumly and his wife Susan, so infuse the plot that you could not imagine […]

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Not Much Fun to be Born the Messiah

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In an Andrew Davies TV play shown in Christmas week, Jack Shepherd was allowed to give voice to a rather profound insight. His contention was that Tolstoy had been quite wrong about families: when he said, in Anna Karenina, that ‘all happy families are alike, but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion’, […]

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Special Brew

Posted on by Tom Fleming

At what stage in the writing process does Ruth Rendell decide to wear her Barbara Vine hat? Pseudonyms always signify something; a change of heart, a change of pace, a reputation showing too much mileage. But, even under her own name, Rendell is the most versatile writer in contemporary crime. She is also prolific, with […]

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To Keep That Tumult of Weeping at Bay

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Remember the emotional bit at the end of Peter Pan, when the dancing light of Fairy Tinkerbell is flickering and dying, and Peter asks the children in the audience to make her well by clapping their hands if they believe in fairies? Of course they always clap their little hands off, and Tinkerbell is saved. […]

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Brahms and the Women

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In a century when the wayward lives and deaths of composers often overshadowed their works, Brahms was one of the quiet men. His life seems curiously uneventful in comparison with, say, the flamboyance of Liszt or the shameless excesses of Wagner, yet this means that his works are left unhindered to speak for themselves. At […]

Loyalty on the Trott

Posted on by Tom Fleming

A year ago, even the most gifted blurb-writer would have had a struggle plausibly to attach any measure of topical significance to a biography of Adam von Trott. A Good German would have joined that small but cheerful band of titles which offer us no urgent lessons of a social or political nature and which […]

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