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Sunday, 10 May 2015


The Beginning of the End, Ian Parkinson
The Beginning Of The End
by Ian Parkinson
Salt Publishing

Wow. Roll on 1 June, 2015!  Is there a treat waiting for you? ‘The Beginning of the End’ by Ian Parkinson will be published and an extraordinary new novelist will make his debut.

‘Visiting Thailand to marry a sex worker, Raymond is informed that his father’s body has been discovered in an isolated villa on the Belgian coast. While his bride embarks on a career in the Dutch and German porn industries, Raymond moves into the villa with the intention of renovating the property. Life by the sea, however, does not go according to plan.’

Raymond is in his thirties, a divorcee, a loner, a weird loner, who designs doorbells and washing machines. He gets on with his job but not with his colleagues.  He has been employed for nearly fifteen years, yet has been denied promotion several times. He had dreams of being one of history’s elite designers but it was never going to happen, so his ambitions fade as he becomes more disheartened and downbeat.  He likes porn. He likes sex, aggressive, explicit sex and eventually fulfils a notion to travel to Thailand to meet a sex worker, Joy, who becomes his wife, not out of any deep love between the two of them but mainly as a visa arrangement for her.  The marriage lifts his spirits a little until he receives news that his father’s body has been found in a remote villa on the Belgian coast.

Raymond and Joy head for Belgium. Joy finds employment in the porn film business and Raymond mooches about the dilapidated villa wondering what to do with it. He plans to refurbish it over time but cannot always find the motivation or energy to put his heart and soul into the project. He spends a lot of time in bed, when his wife is away working. He eats microwaved ready meals. He watches television and pornography on his computer. He is a regular visitor to a massage parlour. He becomes a little obsessed with watching the developments of a bonsai tree.  He drinks and takes pills. He smokes like a chimney. But his chosen, dull and dingy existence is shaken when the plot takes a tragic twist.

The second half of the book made me think of a journey along the M1, where the M stands for madness. Along the way there are lay-bys and slip roads of clear thinking, moments of sanity, sanctuary from swirling thoughts in a mixed-up head and, occasionally, through darkness, pinpoints of light suggesting that even in hopelessness, hope struggles to be seen and heard.

Raymond on many levels is a horrible person but Ian Parkinson pulls off an amazing writer’s trick of making readers – well, this one anyway – feel a fondness and sympathy for him that he doesn’t always deserve.

This is a weird, wonderful, troubling concoction of a novel that is utterly compelling.  It is hard not to fall on the old page-turner clich√© but you really do want to know what happens next and where the story is going.  Sometimes it requires the broadest of broad minds.  It is an excellent piece of work and I recommend it for originality and freshness and for Ian Parkinson’s talent for making disturbing material so enjoyable.

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