A voice of great gentleness and a humour that lacerates. Studied erudition and the simple pleasure of comradeship. A past which stretches and contracts. Archie Markham’s writing displays a wonderful and wonderfully readable complexity which can leave you heartened, sad and happily baffled. Pewter Stapleton is a man with restless boot heels. From a childhood in the Caribbean he’s been moving ever since, gravitating from one place to the next as a patchwork past emerges. Markham picks up on the threads which run through Pewter’s life and somehow intertwine, snatches of a past time crystallize and dissolve, refocusing again in a different timeframe. The sense of distance that defines the hero’s life comes through in the text, there’s a migratory feeling as one memory disperses to make way for another. The effect is moving and sad, but this is no eulogy for a wandering or wasted existence, Markham’s humour and Pewter’s humaneness see to that. There is a defiant optimism in Mozambique, a sense of almost contrary euphoria that delights and saddens. I don’t quite know why I’m drawn to this book, and perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to it. Tindal Street have come up trumps.