Jun 18, 2011

American Psycho meets the Wasp Factory - 'Dovetail' by Welsh Author Jeremy Hughes


dovetail by jeremy hughes, front cover detail
'Dovetail' by Jeremy Hughes

This book is a must for anyone with a taste for the bizarre and grotesque. Tim is emasculated in the course of an extreme school bullying incident. He spends the rest of his life acquiring the skills necessary for an aesthetically beautiful revenge. Set in Spain and Risca this novel is at once a psychological thriller, a reflection on the nature of obsession and a good guide to advanced woodworking practice.

The unbalanced state of Tim's mind is explored with cold, clinical precision as he apprentices himself to his Spanish mentor and perfects his skills with devoted and obsessive diligence. The love interest is provided by Elena, his childhood sweat heart but to dwell on that would be to give away too much of the plot.
Practical woodworking tips abound as this macabre tale unfolds accentuating the obsessive nature of Tim's mission and perhaps providing a useful supplementary primer for students of the craft :) A mysterious, imaginary character called 'The Conductor' also makes frequent appearances. His conflicted relationship with Tim is related in the form of an ongoing interior dialogue fraught with ominous overtones. 'The Conductor' is based upon a character in a 1946 movie called 'A Matter of Life And Death' starring David Niven.


Interview With Jeremy Hughes

AmeriCymru: Hi Jeremy and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. I have seen 'Dovetail' described in the following terms:- "American Psycho meets The Wasp Factory". Care to comment? Does it have anything in common with these two titles?

Jeremy: The voices in American Psycho and The Wasp Factory are both thrilling to me.  The protagonist of American Psycho describes his actions and beliefs with conviction and ‘normality’, though his evaluation of situations and events is completely warped when judged against what is conventionally acceptable.  The Wasp Factory is a master class in keeping the reader interested.  I hope I’ve managed to capture something from both of these books.

AmeriCymru: Revenge and obsession. Would you agree that these are the twin themes of 'Dovetail'?

Jeremy: These might be regarded as main themes, but there is also striving for great art and the exploration of personal identity.  Love and death are clearly important, too, as well as the tensions between binary opposites throughout.

AmeriCymru   There is an enormous amount of detail concerning the art and craft of woodworking in the book. How did you go about researching this?

Jeremy: I trained as a carpenter/joiner before I went off to university, so most of the research was what I already knew.  Craftsmen have a particular and almost ineffable relationship with their tools.

AmeriCymru: You reference the David Niven film 'A Matter of Life and Death' a number of times in 'Dovetail'. Care to tell us a little about its significance?

Jeremy: I first saw the film as a child and was completely enamoured with the fantastic nature of the story i.e. that a man fails to go to heaven at his allotted time, and the normality of Niven’s character being able to see heaven’s Conductor 73.  The significance of the film within the book ultimately lies with the reader.

AmeriCymru: Given the intensely ornate and detailed nature of the infernal apparatus with which Tim despatches his victims were you tempted to include graphics in the book, diagrams etc ?

Jeremy: The killing machine is better left to the reader's imagination, but I did sketch details for my benefit when I was working out the book.

AmeriCymru: Can you reassure our readers that there are currently no mass murderers on the loose in the vicinity of Twmbarlwm?

Jeremy: The last time I was there, no, but now...

AmeriCymru   Who are you currently reading? Any recommendations?

Jeremy: Over the last twelve months...

Fine Memoirs:

Andrew Motion’s In the Blood

Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End

And one especially  for Welsh expats: Byron Rogers’s fabulous Three Journeys.  He also wrote the very good biography of R. S. Thomas, The Man Who Went into the West.

Many war books, including Karl Marlantes’s novel Matterhorn (Vietnam), Sebastian Junger’s reportage War (Afghanistan), and Patrick Hennessey’s memoir The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.  Adam Thorpe’s novel The Rules of Perspective(WWll) is wonderful:  humane, perceptive, writerly and surprising.  Pat Barker’s superb novel Regeneration (WWl).  I found Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient (WWll) deeply satisfying.

Other novels:

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections

Paul Harding’s Tinkers

Don DeLillo’s Point Omega.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Jeremy Hughes? Any new work currently in progress?

Jeremy: My second novel, provisionally titled Tender Green, is very different, set in America, England and Wales.   The first half of the book concerns the pilot of a USAAF Flying Fortress who is stationed in Suffolk, England during 1943.  He marries a woman from the nearby town and is lost when returning from a mission his aircraft crashes in Wales.  It’s a mystery, since the bodies of the crew are recovered, but not the pilot’s.

The marriage produces a son who is not permitted to know about his father, because the mother is so grief-stricken.  When the mother dies and the son turns fifty, he sets out to find the place where his father crashed. He unearths much more than he expected about his father and mother, as well as himself.

I am about half-way through the first draft of novel three, Paint, a crime novel set in Wales, Madrid and Barcelona.   I’ve had a wonderful time doing the research, visiting the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, as well as the Reina Sofia and Prado in Madrid.

AmeriCymru: Where can our readers go to find your other published works?

Jeremy: I have published two pamphlets of poetry, breathing for all my birds, which is no longer in print, and The Woman Opposite, which is.  Unfortunately, I haven’t written any poetry for several years since concentrating on fiction.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Jeremy: I am delighted that there is an audience for Welsh writers in the US.

I have been meaning to visit New York for some time (yes, I realise that’s not representative of America!), to visit the fine museums and galleries.  There are so many paintings I’d like to see.  But all sorts of things have conspired to prevent me.   One day.

I hope AmeriCymru readers enjoy Dovetail.
With all best wishes,

Jeremy Hughes

Review and Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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