Jonathan Meades

From the author of The Fowler Family Business comes a reissue of his infamous, intensely distilled epic, Pompey.

This novel recounts scores of stories: of HoTLoVe, OMO, AO-1; of a pygmy hunt, an assassination, a crucifixion; of a human blood bank and a man with metal in his head and a dentist with nasty habits; of sick sex, ill winds, malignant diseases; of the Voys, the Halals, the Puppymen.

Most of all it tells the story of a flaky pyrotechnicist, Guy Vallender, and of his four progeny, chief among them Poor Eddie, who was quarry, whose gifts were otherwordly, whose gruesome fate was perhaps transcendent.

The action stretches seamlessly between the mid 40s and the mid 70s; its many topographies include Brussels, Salisbury, the Teutoburgerwald, the Congo, the industrial wastes of Lorraine. But the dominant setting is the titular city – a nightmarish brick grid set on mud a populated by garish freaks. It is here that the characters move to their unique and inexorable ends, fuelled by the bad faith of the former comedian Ray Butt’s Church Of The Best Ever Redemption and by the bad blood of the gerontophiliac Jean-Marie.

Pompey is a witty, gripping, emotionally harrowing work by our most viciously inventive writer – part hallucinatory adventure, part unhappy family saga, part perverse tragedy of the fundamentalist delusion, it is persistently, hurtfully entertaining. And it includes footnotes. Heed the author’s warning: ‘After using this book please wash your hands.’ That way you’ll cleanse the stain of corruption, the reek of life as it’s really lived (in Meades’s fervid imagination).

Reviews of Pompey

    • • ‘An extraordinary work, peopled by the repellent, dwelling on the vile and yet done with so deft and brilliant a touch: a picnic in the heart of darkness. The writing is clever and complex, multi-layered and funny … What a dark pleasure it is to come across writing that is both luminous and bilious.’Susan Jeffreys, New Statesman
    • • ‘The English novel needs its senses to be violently deranged, and this piledriver of a book … might just provide a kick-start.’Elizabeth Young, Independent on Sunday
    • • ‘One admires the virtuosity, the creative nerve that enabled Meades to boldly go where few writers would dare.’Andrew Clements, Financial Times
    • • ‘There is no doubt that Pompey is the product of a brilliant mind: one would not, however, wish to dine with its author.”Nick Hornby, TLS
    • • ‘A brilliant blockbuster,”Melvyn Bragg, Start the Week
    • • ‘If Meades was a racehorse you’d be calling for a steward’s enquiry. There’s something in his feed which definitely gives him the lot.’Iain Sinclair
    • • ‘Disgusting and brilliant … written with relentless energy and rhythm, phrase after phrase of this novel is ‘highly crafted’.’Paul Spike, Vogue
    • • ‘With its mutilations, voyeurism, in-jokes, phantasmagoric idiolect and cruel humour, this is a harrowing and quite extraordinary book. It is lurid and ingenious … but so perverse you get to love it.’ David Profumo, Daily Telegraph