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Cracking First Novel
on 21 April 2013
In which the hapless Gordon Claypole is catapulted to the Highlands of Scotland to win a local community over to a wind farm. He was brought here by Peregrine MacGilp, a frighteningly amicable local laird, but he has no idea why. He knows nothing and cares less about green energy and Scotland. Only one thing keeps him here, a necessarily vague desire to win the favour of Peregrine's niece, the elusive Coky (I won't spoil the revelation of her full name) who first spurned Claypole (we see in an achingly well observed prologue) on a childhood holiday here 25 years ago. An unflagging cavalcade of Kafkaesque episodes follow, in which (inter much alia) Claypole finds himself dining with a gardner who talks like Shakespeare, evaporating at a shroom-fuelled Lochside rave, rowing for dear life across a black choppy sea and reluctantly delivering a foal by starlight. It all ends happily, of course, although not exactly as we might have thought ....
Although his first book, Macintyre is a born novelist, with an intuitive sense of pace, focus and timing. His vigorous, angular style is all his own, although some of his wilder conceits are reminiscent of Martin Amis - an altogether good thing, of course, and the master himself might sensibly look with envy at a lot of them (my own favourite was a hangover in which the teeth "sing" and the hair "aches"). And like all great comic novels, it also knows how to be tender and when to be serious. Once you've stitched your sides back together, you realise it's a deeply felt celebration of wild Scotland, responsible capitalism and edible gardens.
The photo shows us the author standing in a country lane, next to a wooden cart, in a Withnailian pose of tentative pugnacity. No need. I only hope there will now be an endless spool of novels as charming, hilarious and passionate as this one.