Magazine article The Spectator

Some First Novels

Magazine article The Spectator

Some First Novels

Article excerpt

THE REQUIEM SHARK

by Nicholas Griffin Little, Brown, L16.99, pp. 384

THE HARVEST

by Christopher Hart

Faber, L9.99, pp. 232

GEOGRAPHIES OF HOME

by Loida Maritza Perez

Viking L9.99, pp. 336

The Requiem Shark is a gory and glorious tale of piracy set on the high seas of the early 18th century. Almost a Boy's Own adventure, this is a marvellously exciting and breathless book. Griffin has taken the fantasies of boyhood and brought them to maturity in a sophisticated take on the Treasure Island theme. The writing is assured, and the use of journals enhances the plot and characters. Nicholas Griffin has taken an old-fashioned subject and breathed into it modernity and considerable wit.

Through a series of misfortunes William Williams finds himself a crew member aboard the Rover under the command of Captain Bartholomew Roberts. A stout and sluggish Welshman with no aptitude for the sea, he is nonetheless possessed of a fine education. Captain Roberts, whilst an excellent sailor, is `used only to the names of stars and seas' and illiterate. He is greatly in awe of the pirates commemorated in print, in the books which adorn the shelves of his cabin. Once he discovers that the new ship's fiddler can write he decides to employ him to keep a log of his exploits. Thus begins Williams' adventurous and uncertain existence aboard the Rover, hopeless sailor, gifted fiddler and captain's confidant.

The crew is mesmerised by Roberts' description of the treasure ship the Juliette, `so pregnant with gold that she might be spied at a hundred miles and be caught in a day'. Together they scour the Caribbean and West African coasts in search of her, and their adventures form the core of the book. Their ship is full of casual cruelty, murder, theft and has no common goal save the capture of the `floating purse'. Roberts' authority is precarious, and established only by his ability to seize fine prizes. Indeed they soon become the bane of the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts with their successes. In the course of this, Williams' introduction to the rough life of a seafarer is completed: he loses his virginity to a onelegged hag, marries a whore, virtually dies from disease and emerges a toughened and almost experienced pirate.

The Harvest by Christopher Hart is from an altogether bleaker vein of English writing. From the first page violence and the threat of violent death are thrust in front of us. The novel is set in Wiltshire and the language Hart uses to describe the countryside captures the thoughts and feelings many have and instantly forget. …

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