Nephyrite Press, 2002, 220pp, £20? (No price given) ISBN 1-95200-746-0
BLOOD AND SOULS may be the first volume from the Nephyrite Press - at least, I have not been able to locate anything else from them. And readers who know John Davey's name from his work with Nomads of the Timestreams, the Michael Moorcock appreciation society, may be surprised to read his debut novel, as it is fantasy as far removed from Moorcock as it is possible to be.
Readers may be as surprised as Simon Colvin, though that it is unlikely. For surely nothing could be so surprising as to look up at the roof of Victoria Station and see an angel playing a harp, nor to recognise the tune filling the vaults as Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", yet that is what happens to tax inspector Colvin. As his mind is full with his problems at home - his wife has been distant ever since he admitted an act of adultery - the angel's intervention is unfortunate. When the angel finally approaches Colvin and tells him of his mission to save the world from the powers of near-ubiquitous evil, Colvin is going to be at a disadvantage, especially after Ellie, the cheated wife, throws the wretched civil servant out of their home, so that he has nowhere to cast his protective pentangles.
On hearing of his mission, Colvin protests, "I'm a fucking tax inspector, of all things! What kind of hero, a 'force for good', is that?" We readers know the force of evil working against him. That force has laboured against some discrimination in the past, being manifest in an undead, lesbian Victorian proto-feminist who now looks her age. One might almost think they deserve each other. However, for reasons neither angel nor Satan are able to explain, the time has come for the Grail to matter again and one or other must find it and either save or destroy the world. Satan cannot have many disciples on whom he can call - so the lot falls on his nameless old lady, while the angel (he's called Dylan) tells Colvin chance has chosen him to be the opponent of evil.
So it's hi-ho, off to Tintagel we go. Simon has his new girlfriend (a tax suspect he has been interviewing) and his two kids (it's his week for the kids) in the car. The grail they find, though, has little use until they back in the suburbs of London and chasing the crooks to whom the devil and his old lady sub-contract their work. That's the when the killing is done.
John Davey has brought many things together here (he is a designer as well, so may be responsible for this superb-looking volume and dustjacket), but I am not sure they combine. Colvin himself is a morally neutral character - a Laodicean in St Paul's terms - who makes a weak protagonist, while the nameless epitome of evil seems to have been unduly punished for her objections to an overbearing husband. When evil does make itself manifest in the final battles it does so in much clearer moralist terms (goodies against crooks), while Colvin has never proved himself. For instance, he "gets off" with the client he is investigating - he is never shown having some reserve, such as having caught tax frauds in his professional career.
I was surprised to discover John Davey's design career as this is a novel short on physical descriptions. It is only late on, for instance, that we realize that Colvin's was a multi-racial marriage. On the other hand, Davey has paid a lot of attention to language and construction - not just in the alternation of chapters and subjects, but down to the repetition of phrases, as if these were spells and enchantments hidden in the text. I think they are intended to be (A E Van Vogt used a similar method) - so the magic is there. I just wish a plot was there more clearly.
Return to Home Page