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Description - Mystery in Spiderville by John Hartley Williams

Alongside the names of James Hadley Chase and Erle Stanley Gardner we must now add that of John Hartley Williams - though Mystery in Spiderville is no run-of-the-mill hard-boiled thriller. The decor is by Dali, the plot is a mixture of Breton and Burroughs, and the main character - the protean and unkillable Spider Rembrandt - has six toes, sleeps in a grave and dreams of congress with the pert and playful Reedy Buttons. Sucked into the vortex of Spider's philandering mind is a narrator - sometimes Spider's adversary, sometimes his victim - who lies upon a bed brooding on the absence of a nameless, brown-haired woman. He, too, is protean: full of passionate longings and homicidal tendencies. A surrealist film-noir that blends the forensic with the erotic, the seedy penny-dreadful and the lyric prose-poem, Mystery in Spiderville is one of the strangest, strongest and most arresting fictional debuts in years.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099426936
ISBN-10: 0099426935
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 130mm x 17mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Feb-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Mystery in Spiderville by John Hartley Williams

Book Reviews - Mystery in Spiderville by John Hartley Williams

UK Kirkus Review » Let's get one thing straight, right from the outset: this is not a whodunnit, whatever the charmingly dated cover illustration would have you believe. But it is a mystery, and the mystery is - what on earth's going on? The narrator remains anonymous, and is perhaps more than one person. Spiderville is a district in an unnamed city where Spider Rembrandt is a detective. Spider, by the way, removes all his internal organs at night, winds his intestine up neatly, hangs his skin on a tree and sleeps in a grave wearing only his skeleton. This book is a surreal essay rather than a story, whose weird plotline might have been fuelled by absinthe in 19th-century Paris. Shortly into it, Spider explains his raison d'etre: 'On a diet of gold dust, oysters, virgins' lower lips, wild-boar truffles, plovers' eggs scented with spring garlic, the pizzles of young Highland cattle, the circumcised bits of female babies, how could I be otherwise than a man of enterprise?' Get the idea? This is a luscious wallow in language, executed with lazy brilliance. If a fast-paced airport read is what you're after, this book would be something of a foolish purchase. But for leisured readers of a dreamy and philosophical turn of mind, John Hartley Williams offers a baffling world of unfathomable erotic decadence in an impressive prose poem. That is the mystery of Spiderville, and the choice is up to you. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Meet Detective Inspector J. Spider Rembrandt, who might be a real detective, or who might be a real spider, or who might be Salvador Dal'. No, Dal's dead. Don't rule him out, though. Meet Goolcock, too. Is he DI Rembrandt's sergeant? Watson to his Holmes? He might be. On the other hand, he's the son of the Reverend Goolcock, who might be a leading suspect if he hadn't utterly vanished before the case even opened. The case? Is there one? There might be. As Detective Spider Rembrandt puts it, "Occasionally we have, and sometimes do not have a corpse. A corpse, moreover, who insists on proving herself not to be the person we think she is." Maybe he's talking about the delectable Reedy Buttons, who might or might not be the tall, brown-haired woman who drives the detective and others bananas. And, of course, whether or not she's the irresistible femme fatale in question, she might or might not be that most confusing and protean of in-again-out-again corpses, the stiff whom Rembrandt the sleuth (or painter, or spider) keeps misplacing. At any rate, there does seem to be a murder weapon: "a solid ivory Benin love goddess." Or possibly "an Aztec sacrificial dagger." Or maybe . . . Amusing, surprising, often lyrical, but full of tiresome stretches that are none of these, and in the end a failed attempt to make a virtue out of the incomprehensible. A remarkably perverse debut from a gifted British poet and teacher. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - John Hartley Williams

John Hartley Williams has published nine poetry collections, including Spending Time with Walter and, most recently, Blues (2004). He co-edited Teach Yourself Writing Poetry and won the Arvon International Poetry Competition in 1983. He teaches English at the Free University of Berlin, where he has been since 1976.

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