John the Revelator

To recap, when I went to Dublin last month Neil Gaiman kindly put me on the guest list for the Amanda Palmer gig, and one of the other guests was a chap called Peter Murphy. Neil told me that Peter was a really great writer, and his first novel had just been published. The following evening was spent in a bookstore. I did what comes naturally.

Which is how I came to be reading what is actually pretty much a mainstream novel. Literary, even, as the book deals primarily with the coming of age of a young man, and with escape from a small country town. These things are fairly common fare in the literary world. There is a certain amount of what you might call magic realism to the narrative, but it is very liminal and the book is not one that most genre readers would describe as fantasy.

Given that this is not the sort of book I normally read, I was delighted at how quickly and easily I got through it. I am reminded of the first time I visited Dublin, and discovered that the Guinness over there is so smooth and deceptive that you can consume several pints before you are aware of what you are doing. Thankfully, consuming John the Revelator in a couple of quick sittings did not result in anywhere near the unfortunate side-effects of over-indulgence in alcohol. Quite the opposite, in fact. Instead I found myself in awe of just how effortless the reading process had been. Which is a roundabout way of saying that Neil was dead right: Peter Murphy is a very good writer.

Should you be interested in trying the book, but are confused about the title, please note that it is not full of religious imagery and apocalyptic prophecy. As far as I can make out, the title simply refers to the fact that the John who is the central character in the book is fairly passive throughout, save for having some rather odd dreams, but does get to find out quite a lot about other people. Peter is a music journalist, and the title was apparently inspired by the famous American folk song (not the songs of the same name by the Dave Matthews Band and Depeche Mode). If you’d like to know more, there is an interview with Peter here and article about him here.

For some reason I am absurdly pleased that Peter credits Godspeed You Black Emperor! for inspiring part of the book, though of course I have to credit Marc Gascoigne here, from whom all of my best music discoveries spring.

There will be a US edition of the book, but it is not due out until August.

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