Memorable in the end


Danny Scheinmann's The Half Life of Joshua Jones produced by John Mitchinson's Unbound imprimatur (£14.99) with a huge list of crowd-funding contributors, is the follow up to the author's best-selling Random Acts of Heroic Love, which, described by one reviewer as a five-star title, was translated into 21 languages.

The new follow-up book's eponymous protagonist is about as far from heroic as is possible to be - cowardly, casually cruel at times, hugely self-absorbed and with all the insight of a restless 15-year-old.

In fact, the action is so chaotic that the narrative is rendered mystifyingly disjointed.

With a central character as self-indulgent and scatty as this one, his story is a hard one to get started on. Add to this some egregious stylistic tics calling out for an editor - John Mitchinson, where were you when "huh" penetrated this frail hero's distracted ruminations, huh? Or when tired clichés - "his eyes twinkled fondly", and worse - crept into descriptions of peripheral characters?

And yet the book has an energy and cinematic flamboyance that rewards a patient reader as the plot rollicks seemingly uncontrollably into an entertaining blend of horror and farce.

Scheinmann is a professional, performing story teller and it shows

Danny Scheinmann is a professional, performing story teller and it shows. Scenes of teenage-style rumination or Joshua Jones's immature reproaches to his wife and mother are cut with tough, compelling fight sequences,

Added to the crazy plot is this writer's flair for self-deprecating comedy: the scene where, in an attempt to "live a bit", Josh consents to an assignation in the bushes on Hampstead Heath with a man- and then changes his mind - is nothing short of hilarious, and the dust-ups with his rival for his beloved's affections combine appalling violence with a kind of chippy survivalist swagger so compelling you have to read on.

The end is a thoughtful surprise, a twist in the tale which, like the best of these, immediately throws a devastating new light on the novel whose first 300 pages you have been reading.

Quite a feat but hardly surprising for an author who, though far from being a natural writer, still has the bold zeal to explode his thoughts into what is in the end, a memorable novel.

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