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Shark Alley: The Memoirs of a Penny-a-Liner (The Jack Vincent Papers Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I immediately saw that this novel has some similarities to the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser. It is set in Victorian England, has a protagonist who is incorrigible, although with rather nobler qualities than Flashman, and who relates to the towering figures of the day, though in this case not military men but the lions of literature.
Jack Vincent is a hero of our time as well as of the nineteenth century. Born to a humble tailor who is condemned to imprisonment for debt, he finds he has a gift for story telling which proves his salvation. He fights his way to the top by dint of his own talent and hard work, only to be cast into the depths by vicious and spiteful enemies. One day the toast of literary London. The next day – just toast.
Carver is astonishingly skilled at the difficult feat of writing in a style reminiscent of the time while imbuing the narrative with a twenty first century sensibility. A couple of times early in the novel, his writing echoed the Victorian style a little too exactly for me but he soon returned to the faster pace and knowing style which so characterises the book.
Shark Alley is not only reminiscent of the Flashman books. There are touches of Dickens, Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and even what seems like a nightmare glance towards The Life of Pi. Or maybe to Steven Spielberg.
This is an entertaining read for all lovers of historical fiction and for those, like me, who write it. I look forward to further instalments. Martin Lake
I was not disappointed. The early scenes in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison are indelibly evocative and make one realise just how desperate life was for so many at that time, and how privileged the majority of us are in the western world today by comparison - though it’s sobering to reflect that inequality is rising and that wars and circumstances beyond their control still impoverish billions of the world’s citizens. The insights into the Machiavellian twists and turns of literary society at the time are fascinating and equally believable; the action scenes at sea for me, as an amateur sailor and naturalist, were the magnificent icing on the cake.
So could the teacher walk the walk? I never actually had a moment’s doubt about that. Fact and fiction are woven imperceptibly in this thoroughly gripping story, and Jack Vincent and his fellow characters truly live upon the page.
I have always been interested in Victorian penny dreadfuls as well as the history of Chartism (a working-class political movement). To see the biography of a penny a liner married up with glimpses into the history of Chartism is a dream come true (some prominent Chartist sympathisers, after all, were penny novel writers, such as G. W. M. Reynolds).
I don't want to give too much away about the plot as that would be unfair on prospective readers. Instead I just want to comment on Carver's writing style: he captures the best parts of Victorian novel writing without being too tedious. Yes, there are digressions as Victorian novelists used to insert into their writings, but Carver - himself an academic of 19th-century literature - is not tedious with (unlike his Victorian forbears). Moreover, the plot is intricate enough to keep one entertained and wondering what is going to happen next.
All in all, a very entertaining read and a purchase that you won't regret.
Here in spirit and subject matter I find so many of the greats on whom I cut my own emerging literary awareness. Here is Thomas Hardy in the narrator’s early rural years, here is George Eliot’s Eppie in the golden curls of Jack Vincent’s little sister Sarah, and here woven into plot as well a the subject matter is Thackery. But here beyond all others is Charles Dickens whom it seems is the writer narrator (and dare I suggest perhaps even the author?) would most like to have been himself. Thus we are drawn from the horrors of a medically unattended death in childbirth (the narrator’s mother) through the comparable horrors of Marshalsea debtors’ prison , on into the terminal horrors of the unattended death in the squalor of the London slums of the author’s father (I cannot bring myself to disclose the truly shocking detail Stephen Carver describes). Dr Carver’s Victorian England is one in which the grim life of the rural and urban poor is exceeded only by the grim death that follows it. Here, in consequence, I do not find the Brontes, and here I most definitely do not find Jane Austen.
The narrator’s personal journey takes him on the troop carrier Birkenhead to South Africa where, it is no secret to disclose, it is wrecked.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An absolute gem of a rip-roaring, spine-tingling, timber-shivering bumper of a book, superbly written. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I hate Shark Alley. I hate it but I'm addicted. Truly, it's horrible. Unless you're the kind of person who can find beauty in terror. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jana M Reys
An excellent novel, easy to read, which I found hard to put down. The other reviews give a good description of the relevance, context and importance of the book, and I am not sure... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Matthew
This was a wonderful yarn, outdoing Dickens for authentic background and excitement. The characters all drawn with no holds barred, particularly the fascinating central character... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jane Mcculloch
A great read. Thought provoking, fun and life affirming - even the corpses. All the right influences: Ainsworth and Dickens, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; all the proper 21st... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Simon L.
Where does the fiction start and end? What part of Jack Vincent is real, what part Stephen Carver's imagination? Read morePublished 10 months ago by J R UTTLEY
A wonderful journey into the past. Shark Alley's author, Stephen Carver, is known to me as tutor and mentor from the Unthank Writing School, and an expert in Victorian literature. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Jane Markland
Having received Stephen's tutelage and wisdom on the UEA's On-line Creative Writing Programme, I had high expectations for this novel. I wasn't disappointed. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Barry Fletcher
'Shark Alley' is a 500 page historical novel set in the first half of the nineteenth century, moving from market town East Anglia, through various social strata of London – from... Read morePublished 10 months ago by customer with product