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Monday, November 17, 2008

“Memoirs of a Master Forger” by William Heaney (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

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INTRODUCTION:Memoirs of a Master Forger” by William Heaney is an authorial byline that is a bit misleading since the author is actually Graham Joyce, while the narrator/hero is named William Heaney. The novel will be published in the US as “How to Make Friends with Demons” under Mr. Joyce's name, but the joke in the UK author byline works very well too. Even though I have never read any of Mr. Joyce's fiction before, I bought “Memoirs of a Master Forger” because the blurb and the cover hooked me. The novel ended up being so wonderful and made such an impression on me that I immediately ordered three more books by Graham Joyce and if I like them even half as much as I did this one, I will get the rest of his releases…

SETTING:Memoirs of a Master Forger” takes place in London 2007 with remembrances of life at a small teacher's college 25 years earlier and some glimpses of the first Iraq War in 1991. The tour of London pubs in this novel is quite impressive and seems accurate from what local people report in reviewing the novel. The fantasy elements in the book are light and it remains unclear how “real” they are, but it does not matter since this is a novel for any lover of great literature.

FORMAT/INFO:Memoirs of a Master Forger” stands at 308 pages divided over thirty-five chapters. The narration is in the first-person via main hero William Heaney and alternates between a present day (2007) thread and his college years when strange things happened and he first encountered the occult and demons. There is also an interlude from a Gulf War veteran as narrated in his journal that William receives under terrible circumstances and ties in perfectly with the whole thrust of the novel. “Memoirs of a Master Forger” is self-contained and the ending is simply superb.

October 16, 2008 marks the UK Hardcover publication of “Memoirs of a Master Forger” via
Gollancz. The Gollancz edition is impressively packaged in old style faux-leather giving the book a very classy look, and is the kind of novel that could be bought purely based on how it looks. Cover designed by Patrick Knowles. The US version, titled “How To Make Friends With Demons”, will be released through Night Shade Books in November/December 2008.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: William Heaney is a mid-late forties UK government bureaucrat in charge of a Youth funding umbrella organization. He is also an antique book dealer hobbyist. But under his polished, charming exterior, he is a very complex, tortured man with a fondness for wine and an ability to see the demons inherent in most humans. His wife of twenty years, Fay, left him three years ago for a celebrity chef while his two daughters—Sarah, a college-age teen and Claire, a thirteen-year-old—are still on good terms with him. William’s fifteen-year-old son Robbie though, refuses to talk with him since William cut his posh private school tuition and sent him to a local school as a disciplinary act.

In addition to all of this, William has also been atoning for some perceived misdeeds from his college years that led to much tragedy and death even though he was not directly responsible.

William’s atonement takes the unusual form of selling forged antiquarian books—done by one of his main two friends, the strange painter/artist Stinx—to the rich and using the profits to fund charities, especially the Go To Point, a homeless shelter run by his friend Antonia who cannot get official funding and is constantly being harassed by the government for being such an embarrassment to the powers that be.

William also provides poetry to his other main friend Jaz—a youngish, bisexual, multi-ethnic photo model who finds “marks” for the forgeries. Surprisingly, even though both William and Jaz believe the poetry to be rubbish doggerel, Jaz has become very renowned as a young minority—both ethnic and sexual—poet and is invited to galas, competing for prizes.

Of course, at their bar haunt the three ‘against the world’ friends laugh at their “pranks” and commiserate about their failing personal lives.

But one day William meets an unusual twenty-nine year old woman named Yasmin and through a confluence of strange events, is sent on a journey of redemption…

Memoirs of a Master Forger” is almost like a fairy tale for adults—dark, full of emotion and suffering as well as love and redemption. In short, the novel instantly became one of my Top 5 Favorite Books of 2008 and is a book that I will reread for many years to come. Simply masterful…


Maree said...

This reminded me how much I enjoyed Graham Joyce's novels. Thanks!


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