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Rather a dog's breakfast
on 5 August 2015
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
I strongly suspect that this book, in its final form, is not the one that its author Nigel Richardson originally set out to write.
I think he planned to rent a flat in Brighton for a few months, make contact with some of its quirky residents, get them to tell him their stories and then he would write it all up.
It doesn't quite work out like that. Yes, Richardson does come across some quirky residents but he is as much rebuffed as he is welcomed. When he does succeed in making contact with willing participants, he produces some interesting copy. The account of the life of a former rent boy, Graham, is harrowing and probably the best part of the book.
In the absence of new material, he falls back on anecdotes about old Brighton which have been rehearsed before, for example, the tourists gawping at Rudyard Kipling as he sat in his garden at Rottingdean.
Richardson is also curiously disengaged from some of his encounters. He embarks on a fish catching expedition with local fishermen but spends most of the time below decks. He also spends a lot of time in the company of clairvoyants and mediums whilst ridiculing them.
And his research is sloppy. He speculates on whether the Blue Gardenia murder might have happened (p126). Well, it did, in 1962. On page 186, he makes the claim that Vita Sackville-West was cremated in Brighton. She wasn't, but her mother was.
The book is an enjoyable read and Richardson has a nifty turn of phrase, but, for me, there is a phoniness about the whole construct.