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Shark Alley: The Memoirs of a Penny-a-Liner (The Jack Vincent Papers Book 1) by [Carver, Stephen]
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Shark Alley: The Memoirs of a Penny-a-Liner (The Jack Vincent Papers Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Length: 571 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product description

About the Author

Stephen Carver is a writer, editor and academic. For sixteen years he taught literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia (where he also took his doctorate), spending three years in Japan as an associate-professor of English at the University of Fukui. He is presently Head of Online Courses at the Unthank School of Writing, the Senior Editor at Green Door Design for Publishing, and a reader for The Literary Consultancy. He is the biographer of the Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth, and has published extensively on gothic film and fiction. His short fiction has appeared in Not-Not, Cascando, Birdsuit and Veto, and he also blogs on literature and creative writing. He lives in Norfolk with his wife and son, and far too many books and motorcycles.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2327 KB
  • Print Length: 571 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1523935456
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Green Door Press; 1 edition (26 Mar. 2016)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01DI3W81O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #593,121 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a rip-roaring saga that would make a great TV series, rank and steamy with historical authenticity and drawing a big audience. It's full of dramatic scenes and adventure, ripe sensory detail and characterisation that sometimes feels almost Dickensian - which is interesting because Dickens is a minor character in this novel. What the author has done is use his knowledge of the period to write a story that's very much in the spirit of the popular but vulgar crowd-pleasers written by the protagonist: bawdy and coarse but with a kind of romanticism too. Just as Jack Vincent makes pre-Hollywood heroes of his pirates, the author makes an engaging anti-hero of Jack. But this novel is very much more rewarding than the kind of stories Jack sells, which he himself knows are manipulative, shallow and hastily assembled pot-boilers written to a formula with no subtlety. Jack is more complex and human than the swashbucklers he offers, and the style of the novel is a great deal more sophisticated, stylish, measured and elegant. It's written with authority, and I'm not just talking about period knowledge. Carver is a writer with a command of language, and this enables him to adopt the spirit of the penny-a-liner but the literary finesse of the classic novelist who, within its pages, looks down on our Jack. It's outside my usual diet but I found much to appreciate here, and it's good to find an author going his own way at a time when cheap, slight pot-boilers sell again - not least on newspaper stands.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Shark Alley is the new novel from Stephen Carver. I ought to acknowledge from the first that he was my creative writing tutor at UEA but this review is independent and impartial.
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
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was intrigued by this book, partly because it’s set in Victorian literary circles, and the first serious literature to really grip me as a schoolboy was Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, but also because the author teaches creative writing and, though we’ve never met, once mentored my own puny efforts. So it’s fair to say that this story aroused a great sense of curiosity - could a teacher walk the walk? - and similar hopes of a great read.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'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 literati to Chartists – to the voyage of the unfortunate ship The Birkenhead around the Cape of Southern Africa. The subtitles ‘Memoirs of a Penny-a-liner’ and ‘The Jack Vincent Papers Volume 1, 1852’ inform us that our narrator and protagonist is a journalist, whose chequered career from debtor to bestselling author to disreputable hack is sketched in to prepare us for the harrowing colonial climax. This novel offers a rich stew of events and characters, with notable chunks of history, melodrama, sex, romance and gothic horror. It is supplemented with embedded tales, endnotes, and an Appendix that explains how Dr Stephen Carver, the scholar and author, came upon Vincent’s unpublished memoir.
The book has a striking colour cover in the Victorian style of 'The Illustrated Police News' and the type is nicely readable (i.e. not at all Victorian beyond the title font). In an ideal world de luxe edition readers might be presented with a pictorial section, assembled by the editor, with photographs of the documents, reproductions of title pages, period photographs (difficult given the date of the events) or engravings of significant characters. When the significant characters include Dickens, Thackeray, W.H. Ainsworth, Cruikshank, Count D’Orsay, Piers Egan, Flora Tristan, G.W.M. Reynolds, leading Chartists, even the models for Bill Sikes and Nancy, and the full cast of the dramatic events of the Birkenhead disaster, then the reader undoubtedly gets their money’s worth in the novel as it stands.
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