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Who is the dangerous man?,
This review is from: A Dangerous Man (Paperback)
"Want to swap books?" Anne Brooke asked me last week. "Okay then," I thought, "We both write on the dark side, so why not?" But I swore I wouldn't let it interfere with my other reviewing duties. After all, I had five other books in the queue. And then I read the first page ... Some time later my husband was nudging me but I managed to wave him off and kept turning the pages.
Michael is a struggling artist in Hackney, just starting out and supplementing his income with a little bit of prostitution. He is desperate to be taken seriously as an artist and he eventually gets a commission to provide a city firm with some artwork, which is where he meets Jack: a handsome, if reserved, businessman. This part of the novel is incredibly erotically charged, and as readers and writers alike generally agree, `Sex is bloody difficult to write,' so hats off to Anne Brooke. Jack and Michael get it on, and get together, which is where things begin to go wrong...
The middle section of the novel slows in pace and becomes much darker. Michael continues to draw (and think) in shades of grey, and continues to do things that he regrets. Jack, however, is still sailing through life. He has a loving, wealthy family behind him, whereas Michael has only his wiles and a handful of tricks...excusing the pun.
There are detailed descriptions of the drawing process, and the parallels between writing and drawing are obvious: the rejection, the self-belief (and lack of), the doubt of others, the manic creative flow.
As I read A Dangerous Man I kept asking myself `Who is the dangerous man here? Is it the difficult (but refreshingly true to himself) Michael, or is it the figure of capitalism, Jack?' Because, yes, Michael is `troubled' and he both craves and despises normality, but surely Jack senses that? Does Jack really go into this with his eyes closed? Is Jack a simpleton? No, he is shrewdly intelligent. A ruthless businessman, we assume.
Michael might be set up as the manipulative one, but Jack employs Michael as an artist mostly to get close to him, he forces Michael to endure his gratingly middle-class family, even though Michael can't bear them, and he says that if Michael earns £500 to contribute to an exhibition, he'll pay for the rest. Ah.
Michael doesn't have a job and there's only one way he earns money, although apparently Jack is unaware of Michael's rent boy activities. This part of the book is upsetting as Michael goes further and further to earn the money. Some readers have wondered why Michael doesn't seek `a real job' rather than resort to prostitution. Well, there's no reasoning with Michael, but I'd say he's a creature of habit.
The ending kept me on the edge of my seat, as despite fearing the worst, I determinedly hoped for the best. This page-turner is commercial fiction at its best. I defy anyone to read this and forget it. Michael is someone you remember.