May 25, 2011

Welsh Books - Two New Titles From Alcemi - 'Dovetail', Jeremy Hughes & 'Perfect Architect', Jayne Joso

dovetail by jeremy hughes, published by alcemi wales, front cover detail

Dovetail by Jeremy Hughes
American Psycho meets The Wasp Factory in eulogy to craftsmanship

"A subtly daring format and an easy, hypnotic style, at once tense and uncommon." John Ballam, Oxford University

Fifteen year old Tim’s world changes for ever when he is attacked and emasculated by a gang of bullies.  As an adult, devoting himself to revenge, he is repellently creative, a fine craftsman in everything he does, including murder.  Having apprenticed himself to José, a master joiner and craftsman in northern Spain, he becomes acutely aware of the aesthetics of the world around him and turns revenge into a fine art as he returns to his home turf in south-east Wales to single out each gang member for their grisly fate.  Tim also becomes obsessed with fine art images of Saint Sebastian, and even changes his name to that of the martyr. But can he create the perfect killing machine from wood and dovetail joints, and how much practice does he need before he achieves his goal?

This is a disturbing psychological thriller with a sociopath of a protagonist to rival that of American Psycho, and an erotic undercurrent matching The Wasp Factory. The debut novel’s main themes are obsession and the far-reaching evils of perfectionism, and its style is original, marrying suspenseful prose with fragmented narratives on woodwork techniques.

Jeremy Hughes comments on the challenges of creating a killer-protagonist with whom the reader can empathise,

“Tim is at one and the same time an obsessive victim, vulnerable, tortured, aggrieved, triumphant... he is a sensitive teenager changed forever by a traumatic event. He dedicates his life to revenge, develops specific skills which enable him to enter into the lives of those he wants to kill. He identifies with Saint Sebastian and travels the world visiting works of art which depict him. His obsessions cause him to speak about his interests with authority. Leaving modesty aside a moment, in Tim we have a complex central character capable of tenderness and extreme brutality; this together with the book’s exotic locations and opportunities for great set pieces would make it a great cinematic experience.”

Jeremy Hughes was one of the first students to study for the Master's in writing at Oxford University, from which he graduated with distinction. He was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition and his poetry was shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award. He has published two pamphlets – breathing for all my birds (2000) and The Woman Opposite (2004) – and has widely published poetry, short fiction and reviews in British and American periodicals. Jeremy lives in Abergavenny, south-east Wales. Dovetail is his debut novel.

perfect architect by jayne joso, published by alcemi wales, front cover detail

Perfect Architect by Jayne Joso

The People’s Book Prize Nominee Author, 2010

"A work of stunning originality and deftness of prose, in which Jayne Joso explores with delicate skill and rare empathy what becomes of the broken hearted." Cathi Unsworth, author

A love letter to architecture, this novel is set in the dazzling and eccentric world of the star architect. After the death of her architect husband Charles and the discovery of intimate correspondence with another woman, Gaia Ore is about to learn some harsh but rewarding lessons on the nature of erotic and artistic obsession. A competition emerges to design her perfect home, and the private world of international architects is opened up. Flowing between Spain, Italy, the US and the UK, four world class architects – Charles’ former adversaries – take up the challenge. But will they truly understand what is required of them? Accustomed as they are to large scale projects such as skyscrapers, bridges, museums and galleries, will the request for a modest dwelling ultimately get the better of them?

Using written correspondence as a tool for the plot as well as a key to shifts in register and intimacy, this novel celebrates the old-fashioned postal service, exploring the age-old affinity of letters to romance. The international settings and glamour associated with the world of star architects  – their passion, vision, their ideas and their egos – are set in counterpoint to the warm and funny local story of mailman Tom and his low-flashpoint, fleshy wife Cara. Jayne Joso is herself and journalist and ghost writer on architecture, as well as having lived in Kenya, China and Japan; this is the background to the novel’s central concern with uncovering the dream home. Joso says,

The desire to feel comfortable, at ease and at home, is something I think I have always been curious about. I love asking: what does it mean to find the right place? What makes one building your ideal dwelling and another just a house? We moved around a lot when I was little, so I was used to spending time figuring out how best to organise my things...  It’s what we all do, and discovering the best use of the space you’re in and how best to accommodate yourself and who you live with is really quite an adventure. My travels, too, and the sheer excitement of seeing very different kinds of architecture and ways of living close up, of viewing space and how to inhabit it – all of these experiences in various ways have fed my passion for architecture, and have enriched Perfect Architect.”

This is UK-based Jayne Joso’s second novel. Her first, Soothing Music for Stray Cats, was heralded by the TLS as one of the “great London novels”, was described by author Joe Moran as the “debut of a distinctive voice in contemporary British fiction”, and by Natalie Haynes on BBC Six Music’s Cerys Matthews show as “the must-have novel for Christmas 2010”. It was also shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize 2010. Having written for various architecture publications, Joso now draws on her passion for the discipline in what may be coined as “Grand Designs meets I am Love. Perfect Architect is already attracting the attention of architecture magazines, and is a joyous and life-affirming read filled with warmth and humour, houses... and a hand-carved penguin!

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