Candlemoth Paperback – 2 Aug 2004
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Roger John Ellory's Candlemoth makes a decent but not entirely successful stab at being several novels. It is a protest against the death penalty and about inhuman treatment of prisoners that dramatises both issues by showing us Daniel, who has been railroaded to the electric chair over the brutal murder of his best friend. Inevitably though, Daniel is so passive and battered by his situation that the book can show us little except his pain. Offstage, it is a thriller about the process whereby he was framed and might be acquitted, but Ellory de-emphasises this aspect of the plot in favour of Daniel's suffering.
Much of the book is taken up in a memoir of the 60s, when Daniel and his best friend Nathan had a relationship that crossed racial boundaries in a south torn by conflict and when they went on the run to avoid being drafted into an unjust war. The book is vivid in its sense of the time, but again there is a sense of Daniel as someone who never really lives his own life--even in love and friendship he is the person to whom emotions and events happen. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
CONFIRMED INTERVIEW: Roger was interviewed by PUBLISHING NEWS for the Debut feature which appeared on 23rd May. Candlemoth was a ONE TO WATCH in THE BOOKSELLER star ratings on 11th April. Roger will be interviewed about the book on BBC RADIO WM on 29 July on the Fiona Dye evening programme. A full page interview with Roger was in the SUNDAY MERCURY newspaper in Birmingham on 3rd August. CONFIRMED REVIEWS: THE TIMES PLAY 26 JulyBIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL 30 AugustNEW BOOK.MAG Summer issue out on 29 July EVENTS: Roger is attending BODIESIN THE BOOKSHOP at Heffers in Cambridge on 9th July. Roger will be spending a day with local rep Jon Small (either 15th or 22nd August), visiting Birmingham bookshops, meeting key buyers and signing stock. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Most stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This one is a curiosity because in effect the reader knows the end before opening the first page; 36-year-old Daniel Ford is on death row in a South Carolina prison, having been tried and found guilty of the murder of his best friend some twelve years earlier. For most of the tale, then, the key questions are how, where, and above all why did he kill Nathan Verney? A singular oddity for me was that the story is told from a first-person perspective, making me constantly wonder how a dead man could be recounting the events of his life between 1952 - when at 6 years old he met Nathan - and 1982, with just a few hours to go before going to the electric chair. It turns out that although the end appears to be almost a foregone conclusion, the telling of that end is vivid, powerful and consummately makes up for the relatively genteel nature of most that had gone before, prior to Daniel's arrest around Christmas of 1969. Ellory succeeds in making you feel what it must be like to be weeks, days and finally just hours away from death.
While some of the political backdrops are too long drawn out in detail, there is no question that politics and racial prejudice lie right at the heart of the tale. Most relevant of all is the Vietnam conflict, and how Daniel and Nathan face up to the probability of being drafted into a war they both have no desire to be involved in. The other key issue is that Nathan is black, and in a part of the country with strong associations with the Ku Klux Klan, he faces harmful consequences when he simply goes out to a bar with his white friend, and takes even higher risks by having a white girlfriend - especially one with a father reputed to be a Klan king-pin. Yet another political topic central to all that goes on is the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy, and when all is said and done at the conclusion, it becomes apparent that all of the main characters, including Daniel's girlfriends, and most if not all of the political narrative are absolutely relevant to the story as a whole, even if some of the people and background events seem to have no bearing at the time of their mention.
The prose will be regarded as merely average by anyone who has read Ellory's most recent work, but the imagery of both the tranquillity of Greenleaf South Carolina, and the intimidating inmates and warders on death row make for gripping reading. There are, throughout this tale, emotive portrayals of love, lust, envy, betrayal, guilt, fear, joy, anger and utter hopelessness. For those familiar with Ellory's other novels this one does take a while before it really takes hold, and patience might be needed at times, but the pay-off is absolute and uncompromising, with an ending that few others can hope to match. Ultimately an intense, moving and memorable story.
I also looked him up on You Tube and heard him talking about what inspired him to write and why he chose to focus on the 50's/60's/70's for his works.
It's a story that weaves many intersting threads into the narrative; loyalty, love, betrayal, political shenanigans, racism and why the death penalty is so abhorrent.
Daniel Ford has thirty-six days to live. Ironically he's also 36 years old.
He's been accused of the murder of his best friend Nathan and now faces the death penalty.
The book goes back to the early 1980's where Daniel is incarcerated in Sumter an awful place with a contolling and sadistic guard (West) who taunts and haunts Daniel along the way.
Here Daniel recalls the story of his life and the events surrounding his being found guilty of murder and subsequent death sentence.
He has the sympathetic ear of the Prison Chaplin Father Rousseau who teases the story out of Danniel in the weeks leading up to the electric chair.
Daniel's relates to Father Rousseau his life story which begins with the touching first meeting with what was to become his best friend and soul mate, Nathan Verney, at the age of six.
It touchingly hits on his romantic experiences which are more important than the reader might initially think through to Vietnam and draft dodging and and their journeys away from where they live with some brutal experiences along the way.
When Daniel discovers that his mother has died he returns home with Nathan with tragic consequences.
The finale is excellent.
Perhaps not a total suprise but nevertheless is a fitting end.
For a debut novel, it is an impressive piece of work and further cements my view that RJ Ellory is a top class writer and will read more from him.
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