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The Brandy of the Damned [Kindle Edition]

JMR Higgs
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 210 pages
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Book Description

Russell, Penny and Will have not seen each other for twenty years. Why, then, do they spend a month driving around the coast of Britain in a van refusing to listen to music? Why do they find little blue bottles washing up on the shore containing pages from a future Bible? And why is Penny carrying such a huge spade?

Funny, surprising and good-hearted, The Brandy of the Damned is a dream-like short novel which reveals different things each time it is read. It is the literary equivalent of stepping off the path and heading out into the woods, knowing that if you can’t see what’s ahead you will never be bored.

The Brandy of the Damned is a genuinely original story told by a unique voice. It exists in a genre of one.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 348 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: The Big Hand (24 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00865C2RK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #256,970 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John Higgs is a writer who specialises in finding previously unsuspected narratives, hidden in obscure corners of our history and culture, which can change the way we see the world. His aim is to write "Like Bill Bryson with a more adventurous sense of what is interesting."

His last book, The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, was described as "Adam Curtis brainstorming with Thomas Pynchon" by The Guardian. Ben Goldacre (Bad Science, Bad Pharma) called it "By far the best book this year, brilliant, discursive and wise." The leading music website The Quietus said it "Might well be the best music book of the 2010s" and it was named as one of the top ten music books of 2013 by The Guardian, The Independent and Mojo.

Alan Moore describes his forthcoming book Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century as "A breathtakingly lucid and coherent map of the tectonic shifts which drastically reshaped the human psyche, and the human world, within a hundred thrilling, terrifying years [and which] leaves us asking ourselves how we could have missed so much about the wider implications of a time we lived through. An illuminating work of massive insight, I cannot recommend this magnificent work too highly." Together with his first book I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary, which features a foreword by Winona Ryder, his work is currently being translated into seven different languages.

A prolific public speaker, he has spoken at events and festivals including Wilderness, The Secret Garden Party, the Brighton Festival, the Port Eliot Literary Festival and LonCon3 (the World Science Fiction Convention). He has written for publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Mojo, and his fiction appears under the name JMR Higgs.

Before turning to full-time writing he directed over 100 episodes of animated pre-school television, created the long-running BBC Radio 4 quiz series X Marks the Spot, and worked as producer on a number of videogames for the Xbox, PlayStation2 and Nintendo Gamecube. He lives in Brighton, England, with his partner and their two children.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
I like this book. What's not to like? It's easy to read (I read it one sitting), cheap, entertaining, funny, moving, surprising and completely original. There is no other book quite like it. But what I like most about it is that, despite the fact that some unbelievable things happen within it, it has its own internal consistency and is somehow deeply satisfying.

It's a bit like a fairy story. In fairy stories magical events occur which exist outside the scope of normal reality. Trees have spirits. The venerable stranger grants wishes. The hero is lead into a mysterious and often threatening world where strange things happen.

The Brandy of the Damned has something of that quality. There are a series of magical events, in the form of little blue bottles which appear intermittently throughout the story, which contain chapters from a future bible. Various things occur which exist outside the scope of normal reality. But there is a light touch to all of this, and we never find our credulity strained.

Our three characters - all ex members of a band which broke up twenty years ago - are on a journey around the coastline of Britain. But, while the place names stay the same, you soon realise it is a mythical Britain we are travelling through, a Britain of the subconscious, and that the events are occurring on a magical or a symbolic level.

However, just like a fairy story, we find ourselves going along with the logic of this. It is not handled in a clumsy way. The plot twists are frequent enough and surprising enough to make us want to keep on reading, and the characters are real enough for us to believe in them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is thoroughly recommended 7 Jun. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a beautifully observed trip around the UK by three reunited rock musicians. More metaphysical than John Donne, more cryptic than Howard Overman, it does for middle age what Gregory's Girl did for teen age.

Although "Brandy Of The Damned" appears to ask more questions than it answers, it is the very fact of understanding what the question was in the first place that makes this book such an utterly astonishing achievement. JMR Higgs has mastered the skill of getting into people's heads, straight to the crux of their thoughts.

The book veers from outrageously funny to painfully poignant. The story flows quickly and is written using a device (that I won't give away here) that makes it uniquely possible to empathise which each of the three central characters. And empathy is really what the point of this book is. Because with every page turn comes a deeper understanding of oneself... one that has come by looking at life from JMR Higgs' perspective. The plot is driven along by a series of mysterious events and situations, which helps make the book a page turner that the reader will want to devour as quickly as possible.

I thoroughly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This novel makes a very good companion piece to "KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money", a non-fiction work also by Higgs and my favourite book of 2012 by far. They share similar themes of perception, art, intent and meaning, but whereas the latter considers the reasons behind the KLF's burning of a million quid, "Brandy of the Damned" is ostensibly about three members of a defunct band travelling the coast of Britain in a van and trying to make sense of it all.

Mysteries in the book abound and keep the reader engaged: Why is Penny carrying a shovel? Why do bottles containing the remnants of an alternative Bible keep washing up to shore? What do you do when you're no longer young but not quite old?

Beneath the plot, which is wryly told through characters it's easy to emphasise with, lies a deep love of Britain and music. Anyone's who's been stuck in a van, loves grey days, has been to a festival or two and secretly doesn't mind rain so long as it's pattering on a tin roof will hugely enjoy this travelogue...

But beneath the plot and the travelogue lie some Rather Big Ideas, all discussed simply and well, leaving the reader filled with well-being and a sense that the dashboard windows of their mind have just been given a good clean with a frayed old set of windscreen wipers.

This is a really easy book to read. And it's fun. And witty, too. I found it hard to put down and it left me thinking for a few days afterward.

And, without giving spoilers, the bit that explains why Penny is carrying a shovel is the best description of That Sort of Thing I've ever had the pleasure to read.

Read this book: It'll make you want to carry a shovel too. G'wan, now. Let's face it... someone, somewhere, needs it. Might even be you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small British classic 13 Oct. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
What a little beauty this is. Right from the start the idea feels fresh and exciting, with the members of a once-famous band getting together for a road trip in which they plan to drive around the entire coast of Britain, just to make sure it's definitely an island and that cartographers haven't been lying to them.

The three friends - Will, Russ and Penny - take turns telling their stories as they progress around the coast, experiencing a mix of regret and nostalgia while their journey becomes increasingly surreal. Will keeps finding bottles floating at sea, each containing a page of an alternative and very sarcastic Bible. Penny carries a spade with her at all times and won't tell anyone why. Russ worries that he might have broken the boundaries between fiction and reality.

Higgs is plugged right into the British psyche throughout, with nods to Pratchett & Gaiman's Good Omens and Banks's Espedair Street, and has the good sense to make sure that such a psychadelic road trip stops off in Portmerion, home to that mind-boggling TV show The Prisoner. With rich characters, properly funny jokes and intelligent observations on life, art and love, this is really a very special novella.

(original review on
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well I like off beat and this has some nice ideas
Well I like off beat and this has some nice ideas. I wish he'd developed it more - it's a bit Murakami. Read more
Published 4 months ago by person
2.0 out of 5 stars Waffle!
I bought this book after reading KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by the same author, which is an amazing must buy read. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Smitty Werbenjaegermanjensen (real name)
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, easy to read, and original
This debut novel by JMR Higgs is good fun, easy to read, and quite original. It's about 3 ex-friends who get together two decades after they used to play in a band together, and... Read more
Published on 17 Oct. 2012 by R. Selby
5.0 out of 5 stars This is that bit where most reviews say 'does what it says on the tin'
What an unusual book. It's subtle yet gripping. - without driving any cliches. In fact I can't compare it to anything I've read before. Read more
Published on 11 Oct. 2012 by Dan
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Investigation Of Reality

Higgs' travelogue is an eye and mind opening trip around the island of Britain. Read more
Published on 19 Sept. 2012 by Dave Sin Santos
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly original
A delightfully skewed look at music, middle age and the landscape of the Great Britain. And utterly unlike anything else you may have previously read on any of those subjects. Read more
Published on 4 July 2012 by M Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully unhinged cult-classic-to-be
An increasingly mesmerising hybrid of engaging travelogue and unsettling genre elements, The Brandy Of The Damned defies categorisation. Read more
Published on 27 Jun. 2012 by Jason Arnopp
5.0 out of 5 stars Coastal Road to Nowhere
Three members of a defunct rock band reunite, not to play, but to share a strange journey round the coast of Britain. Read more
Published on 24 Jun. 2012 by Spencer Macleavey
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