The themes of the Mancunian writer Lee Rourke are boredom, disaffection and urban decay. Asked in an interview why he chose not to name the narrator of his previous novel, The Canal (2010), Rourke cited his wish to rebel against ‘established literary fiction’ and its ‘self-congratulatory mish-mash of plot and characterisation’. The Canal was about a man who quits his job to do nothing but sit on a bench beside the stretch of water that runs between Hackney and Islington. Like all Rourke’s work to date, it was published by a small press. With Vulgar Things – a metafictional mystery involving an out-of-work editor who discovers he isn’t who he thinks he is – Rourke now shares a publisher with Jonathan Franzen. The narrator has a name.
Admirers may rest assured that in other respects Rourke has not sold out. Jon Michaels has just got the sack from a job he hates (see?) when his brother rings to say that their uncle, Rey, committed suicide one week earlier. It falls to Jon to leave London to clear