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The End of My Tether [Paperback]

Neil Astley
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2003
A myth of England with beasts, songs and treachery, shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Prize, 2002; Inspector Kernan is investigating the murder of Bernard Tench, a whistleblowing scientist who knew too much about BSE. As Kernan uncovers links between sleaze and slaughter, between pollution and police, his new sidekick Diana Hunter realizes that her eccentric inspector is no ordinary man. Kernan uses the songs, folklore and superstitions of his Loamshire patch for guidance, enlisting animal informants and supernatural allies against the sinister Superintendent Goodman to uncover what's rotten in the state of England. Exploring the myths and occult powers of England, The End Of My Tether rediscovers the magic in our own backyard.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; New edition (1 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743248384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743248389
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,231,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neil Astley is editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978. He has edited nearly a thousand poetry books and published several bestselling anthologies, including Staying Alive (2002), Being Alive (2004) and Being Human (2011) - the three volumes of the Staying Alive Trilogy - as well as Passionfood (2005), Earth Shattering: ecopoems (2007), and two collaborations with Pamela Robertson-Pearce, Soul Food: nourishing poems for starved minds (2007) and the world's first DVD poetry anthology, In Person: 30 Poets (2008), which combines six hours of filmed readings with all the texts read by the poets (plus a history of Bloodaxe). His latest titles are Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy (2012), Ten Poems About Sheep (Candlestick Press, 2012) and The World Record (with Anna Selby, 2012). He was given a D.Litt by Newcastle University for his pioneering work with Bloodaxe, and won an Eric Gregory Award for his own poetry. He has published two poetry collections, Darwin Survivor and Biting My Tongue, and two novels, The End of My Tether (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award), and The Sheep Who Changed the World. He lives in the Tarset Valley in Northumberland.

Product Description


'A tour de force. Funny, challenging, provocative, harrowing. Above all else, angry.' -- Whitbread judges Joanna Trollope, Bonnie Greer & James Daunt

'A work of daunting ambition and massive imagination.Often bizarre, gleefully irreverent, grotesque or delightful.' -- Independent on Sunday

From the Author

It's listed under Crime Fiction, but it's only that in the sense that Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow or Daniel Pennac's novels are crime fiction - more like a cross between Angela Carter and Tristram Shandy, The Magic Flute with mad cows and Englishmen, a topsy-turvy Almodovan wrecking-job on the English Whodunnit. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Go with it, or you're sunk! 26 Oct 2003
By A Customer
I loved this book. I was moved to review it after reading the other review (sorry, whoever!), who just didn't "get" it. But my thought is that it is 2003, years after Ulysses, Jackson Pollock and the Rite of Spring; surely the Twentieth Century had enough in it to make "not getting" something an absolute cop-out? I'm not sure I got all of it, but I got enough for it to be vastly enjoyable.
The timeframe moves continually; often you don't always know quite where you are in time or place; but if you keep going, there is enough repetition of circumstance to fix (however approximately) time and place. There are enough characters with 1-dimensional needs and urges to fix them easily enough as types. The baddies have STDs; the goodies have love. Not that difficult, really. If you "get" Carry On films, you should get this book. You have to go with charcters being inserted in Vanity Fair, and Thackeray turning up to complain, for instance, a dislocation that Spike Milligan would have been proud of. Throw in some good healthy Fat-Cat bashing, and some excellent sneering at Politicians (always good fun), and you get some idea of the sense of the book. If you hanker after a linear narrative, and always holding the threads, forget it. Who needs threads?
Anyway, it is always good to be reminded in an intelligent and realistic way of how badly we treat animals and nature. It won't do any good, of course, but hopefully anyone reading the baddies in this and seeing themselves will feel a bit rough, even for a short time.
If you haven't, read it. Its only eight quid!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Infernal supermarkets and black dogs 3 Feb 2007
Several years back I read this wonderful novel, about infernal supermarkets, black dogs, metamorphosis and a fine detective, but the book wasn't mine, I gave it back and forgot the title.
The book tweaked away at me and I wanted to read it again, but try searching on the content of this magical realist and rather eccentric story...It took me several odd searches including 'mad cows' and 'barguests' before I used 'novel BSE detective magic' to find it which may give you an idea of what to expect. It is what I would have liked from Neil Gaiman's 'American God's' but didn't get. Probably a little more 'The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break' or 'Dance, Dance, Dance'. I'm buying my own copy now.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well I liked it... 5 Dec 2003
Inspetor Kernan is an unusual kind of policeman, listening to gods, witches and animals as much as human informans. His sidekick, DC Diana Hunter is herself possessed of strange insights. Arrayed against them are the forces of capitalism, industrial agriculture and the sinister figure of Superintendant Nicholas Goodman as they investegate a string of BSE related murders. At least thats how it starts, with Kernan acting like a spiritual Wexford, solid, dependable and very, very english, but steadily becomes something older and stranger and with it the focus of the book becomes less predictable and more involved. Deeper even. It's hard to know where to stop in writing about a book like this - there is so much worth discovering that it seems churish to give away details, like Herne waiting in the woodlands, forever linked to Kernan through the slaughter of Flanders, even if dropping these asides in might help give a feel for the majestic scope of the book.
The book could have been sold as Fantasy, but it wasn't. Wasn't even flagged as crime. Publishers seem keen on avoiding genre ghettos these days.
Is it worth reading? Undoubtedly. The writing is light and remains witty as the philosophy comes to the fore. The shallow part of me would have enjoyed the supernatural cop book I started continuing, becoming a series even, but Astley has more to say than that. I will certainly watch out for his next book.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It wants to be Flann O' Brien... it isn't. 3 Feb 2004
The disadvantage of criticising any work of magic realism (as Astley describes his novel) is that the reviewer appears open to accusations of not having 'got it'; of having too conventional an idea of what narrative is, and being threatened by literary playfulness. There is certainly playfulness here, but it also seems curiously po-faced. This is not a work which bears its learning lightly, and a glossary makes sure the reader doesn't miss a single clever reference (one long-haired character is named Emma Gimmer - and gimmer is an unshorn ewe - geddit?).
This is a poet's novel, with all the benefits and weaknesses such a term might suggest. The style is suitably enchanting, and there are no shortage of memorable images. One of the novel's strongest chapters, for instance, is a vision of a corporate hell. There are even funny moments, such as the idea of "Hilfiger's Disease," although the novel is not as "wildly funny" as Helen Dunmore says on the cover (but then, she is included in the acknowledgements). But the novel fails to create real characters; with the exception of Kernan, everybody else seems to be caricature, and even Kernan comes across as self-righteous and, frankly, irritating, mostly because of Astley's polemic clumsiness. Similarly, the plot is both sprawling and underfed. At nearly six hundred pages, the novel is far too long, and there's still some way to go before literary play begins to look like throwing ideas around in the hope some will stick in the mind. Yes, the likes of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges may have opened the five-bar gate to literary experimentalism (and we can go back even further to Laurence Sterne), but in this case postmodernism becomes an excuse for a poorly organised narrative free-for-all.
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