Nothing But the Truth

Samuel Lock, Author
Samuel Lock, Author Random House (UK) $27.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-224-05084-5
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Burnt-out novelist Jason Callow, living on King's Road in London's Chelsea district, was once possessed of ""an excellent sense of surface"" but is now, in the words of the self-conscious authorial narrator, becoming one of those ""subjective creatures... governed by some subconscious form of impulse."" Set in the 1950s, Jason's interior journey into self-discovery and self-destruction draws little attention from either his contentious painter friend, Joseph Mallory, or his flamboyant landlord, Arnold, and Arnold's colorful pals. While Arnold's circle gossips about the mysterious lodger in the building and Joseph argues about Jackson Pollock and Richard Burton in Coriolanus, Jason is ignoring his parents, brother, recently separated wife, Jill, and two teenage children. Instead, he's frantically writing journal entries that hint at violence. His journal records his despairing search for the meaning in his life, drawing a vaguely pitiful picture of himself as cold, disconnected and anguished over his mediocrity. Although Lock (As Luck Would Have It) apparently knows his setting and the era firsthand and assembles a lively supporting cast, his protagonist does not generate enough interest or sympathy to hold readers until the stylized confrontation between Jason and an ominous stranger, a mercurial bohemian named Darren, who menacingly reflects Jason's deepest fears. Aptly reimagining the London scene of Colin MacInnes's 1950s novels, and infused with Ivy Compton-Burnett's arch, morbid tone, Lock's narrative lacks the central focus necessary to bear the considerable weight of these elements. Nevertheless, the book's richly textured mystery, with lugubrious foreshadowing, ripples under the surface with tensions never explained, making the plot much more convoluted and interesting than it first appears. (Oct.) FYI: As Luck Would Have It won the U.K.'s Sagittarius Award for first-time novelists over 60.
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