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The Road

Novel by Laurence James (England) 1983.

John Steadman is English, but his roots are firmly founded in the small Welsh tourist town of Porth Gwrtheyrn. With his second wife and his family, he moves permanently into what was their holiday home in the town. But somehow, despite their happiness and a strong feeling of belonging, Steadman also feels that the villagers are somehow strangely distant, as if observing him. His wife refuses to have sex with him, and he starts finding strange items around the house. There is obviously something going on that only he is not privy to. But what? And why?

Not the gory occult shocker that the cover suggests, with its sensational blurb, cover art and quote from Guy N Smith; rather a laid back, slow moving novel. It's an interesting book, certainly trying to be something different, but it also has many faults. Nothing much happens for the first two thirds of the book, and the ending is far too short to complement the long buildup. The text is often disjointed, which sometimes works - reflecting the dreamlike unfolding of events that Steadman sometimes finds himself observing or acting out - but more often is more like an annoying jigsaw puzzle. The plot also has no real conflict or protagonists: the author merely sets his target for the characters who then just go there, with nothing or nobody having any power to change anything. This is probably what James intended, the metaphor of the road of the title saying that your destiny is set, all you can do is travel wherever the road takes you; but though a worthy idea, it just serves to remove any interesting conflict or action. There are sparks of magic here and odd lyrical touches which add sparkle to the proceedings, but this is ultimately an interesting but unsatisfying read.

Laurence James, the prolific writer of numerous pseudonymous works in many genres, is nevertheless not to be confused with the poet who wrote That Much is Clear or indeed the Lawrence James who wrote Independent Bus Operators into Horsham!

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