Source: The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes
“The Gift Maker” is a novel which demonstrates the ancient power of storytelling within a modern psychological and metaphysical framework. In reading it the reader sinks into the wave of the original need for a human being to tell a story of others – to be connected to the movements and urges of being born and our struggles to find profound and meaningful relationship with one another. What could be timelier, in a world which appears on the surface to be disintegrating and torn apart by division, cruelty and self-destruction. “The Gift Maker” shows that hope is possible – a Phoenix can gloriously arise from mythical flames.
Thomas Ruder – a History Undergraduate – is the first person to receive an unusual gift – which takes him on a journey into a world which will allow him to realise his deepest dreams. However, he will painfully learn that every step of his journey on the outside is also a step into the mystery of his own being. Two more gifts are given to others by “The Gift Maker”. The story unfolds with resonances of a “covenant” being made which has to be fulfilled. It pulses with a sense of destiny and a groaning need for each of our characters to be truly born – by facing everything within them which stops them from being whole. Notice that I said “our characters” – Mark is an amazing storyteller who binds the reader emotionally, intellectually and metaphysically to his creation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is beautifully written with great lyricism and poetry, amazingly visual and descriptive and fantastically imaginative. All of which meant that I didn’t want to put it down – and yet paradoxically wished to linger and savour the words – the way you would want to carefully watch the sun setting and not wish for it to disappear. Yet in the closing of the novel, as in an amazing sunset – there is a final burst of brilliant mysterious energy which brings everything into a sense of being held within the hands of the author and the covenant is fulfilled.
The author shines insight into the world of theatre and what is real and surreal become blurred images within which the reader is both spectator and drawn on stage.
The reader will marvel at the plot structure – it weaving and tumbling into layers and layers of complexity – which only the finest of writers can weave so well – gossamer being the author’s pen.
This novel absolutely merits a 5 Star rating.
Deirdre Quiery’s latest novel, The Secret Wound, publishes June 9th 2017
Hot on the heels of my interview with the author, the fabulous Mark Mayes (check it out HERE) I review his stunning debut novel The Gift Maker. Unlike many of my usual go-tos this is not Crime Fiction or a rip roaring thriller; in fact, it is tough to place this extraordinary novel in any genre at all.
If I had to pick one, I would say this is a human drama. The novel follows a group of people, some of whom are connected and some who are complete strangers, who are given unexpected gifts, which come with a cost that changes their lives forever. Drawn into the life of the titular gift maker himself, the group is pushed to its limits as they explore the nature of relationships and the importance of their own identities.
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I didn’t think I could wait until June to get my sticky mitts on The Lighterman – the third and latest in the magnificent Charles Holborne series, penned by the inestimably talented Simon Michael.
Mercifully, the wait was abridged, as I received a pre-publication copy of the manuscript from the author himself – an honour indeed.
I absolutely adored The Brief and An Honest Man (see my Amazon and Goodreads reviews of the same), for the pellucid quality of the writing, the apparently effortless realisation of 60s London – such evocation comes only with masses of hard work and research, I am sure; and most of all, I loved the first two novels for their fascinating central character, Charles Holborne.
It is a great sadness that there can be no more Philip Marlowe adventures – but in Charles Holborne we have, to my mind, an equal to that iconic detective, that honourable and enigmatic outsider: in place of 30s and 40s LA we are transported to London in the Swinging Sixties (not swinging for everyone, as becomes apparent in The Lighterman); and rather than a gumshoe, our hero is a barrister.
In The Lighterman we are given a lot more back-story about Holborne’s earlier life, back when he was Charles Horowitz. The most moving prologue takes us back to 1940, where 15-year-old Charles, a headstrong lad, and already a promising young boxer, is caught up with his family in a bombing raid. Later evacuated to Wales, Charles yearns for the streets that formed him and lives a precarious existence in his bombed-out former home, until taken on by a relation as an apprentice lighterman on the River Thames. Charles and his slightly older cousin work hard and play hard in wartime London, their escapades often straying to the wrong side of the law.
The Thames, its islands and bridges, its laws – both natural and man-made – acts as a vital component of, and theme within, The Lighterman, essentially becoming a character in its own right. The research into the work of the lightermen from the 40s onwards, their code and their creed, the pleasures and dangers of their trade, have clearly been researched in minute detail – yet it never feels like research on the page. It is never laborious, nor does it seek to prove knowledge for its own sake. Salient points about this industry, fascinating in themselves, are always at the service of plot and character development, moreover, at the service of drama.
An Honest Man ended on a hook of monumental proportions (not mentioned here for obvious reasons). Suffice it to say that Charles was in a desperate fix, and the threats that loomed over his life and peace of mind at the end of the second novel are now fully realised in The Lighterman. Those threats come in the shape of The Kray Twins, well, Ronnie, to be precise – who, in The Lighterman, is drawn with chilling mutability, absence of affect, and all the hallmarks of a bona fide psychopath, or, if you prefer a more medicalised diagnosis: paranoid schizophrenic. Simon Michael has Ronnie Kray play a pivotal, and very physical, role in the ensuing thrill-drenched narrative.
Again, as with the previous two novels, Charles’ honour is severely tested, and while we can see he is acting from an unstinting sense of justice, family loyalty, and an unshakeable moral code, circumstances conspire to force him into non-adherence to certain legal niceties – in short, he sails close to the wind, and we are with him all the way as he charts deeply perilous waters.
I won’t describe the final scene, so as not to give away any aspect of plot; other than to say we are once more totally blindsided by a turnaround that makes you gasp at the predicament Charles Holborne now finds himself in.
A legal and character-driven thriller of the highest calibre. I didn’t even yet mention the scintillating court room scenes, which are written with a fidelity to procedure and psychological truth that surely only an ex-barrister could muster.
Source: Edition I – New Beginnings
“This is a magical, daring book, set in a world reminiscent of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast or the Wes Anderson film Grand Budapest Hotel” – bestselling crime author Simon Michael
‘Gifts ought to be free, but they never are. They tie you to the wishes of others. To your own sad expectations. To the penitentiary of your dreams.’
Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These ‘gifts’ will change their lives forever.
In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard’s seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is.
The Gift Maker is a story about identity, about fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you always were … at whatever cost.