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on 10 April 2007
I read this book in two sittings. My first thoughts were God! I wish I felt as passionate about anything as Michael does about his art....'Fingers,hand, pencil even thought are one...as the glow burns...explodes like a shock of water'. The whole time I was thinking this is how a writer feels, an artist feels..For me he became a man obsessed with his need to understand and to try to express the dichotomy existing within him. To understand how to make sense of existing in an alien external world full of darkness and acute, cutting edges so at odds with his gentler sensuous vulnerable interior life. Jack, the urbane, the sophisticated, symbolised all he aspired to. As I read on I felt this was the nub of the real tragedy, a man torn between two such potent desires and that there wasn't going to be an easy answer .But I was totally unprepared for the final part. This novel reaches the height of true tragedy. I couldn't bear Michael to destroy the man he loved, the gentle, the sensuous, loving part of himself. I found it more grievous to bear than anything I've ever read, at least Othello was torn by motives of jealousy. But the final pages of ADM revealed the horrific dilemma of a young man programmed by his abusive background and in the last resort unable to escape it. I wept for Michael, I wept for the pity of it all. This is a far greater book than the much acclaimed 'Line of Beauty' which lacks the driving energy of your theme. It just has to do well.
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on 30 November 2007
"Want to swap books?" Anne Brooke asked me last week. "Okay then," I thought, "We both write on the dark side, so why not?" But I swore I wouldn't let it interfere with my other reviewing duties. After all, I had five other books in the queue. And then I read the first page ... Some time later my husband was nudging me but I managed to wave him off and kept turning the pages.

Michael is a struggling artist in Hackney, just starting out and supplementing his income with a little bit of prostitution. He is desperate to be taken seriously as an artist and he eventually gets a commission to provide a city firm with some artwork, which is where he meets Jack: a handsome, if reserved, businessman. This part of the novel is incredibly erotically charged, and as readers and writers alike generally agree, `Sex is bloody difficult to write,' so hats off to Anne Brooke. Jack and Michael get it on, and get together, which is where things begin to go wrong...

The middle section of the novel slows in pace and becomes much darker. Michael continues to draw (and think) in shades of grey, and continues to do things that he regrets. Jack, however, is still sailing through life. He has a loving, wealthy family behind him, whereas Michael has only his wiles and a handful of tricks...excusing the pun.

There are detailed descriptions of the drawing process, and the parallels between writing and drawing are obvious: the rejection, the self-belief (and lack of), the doubt of others, the manic creative flow.

As I read A Dangerous Man I kept asking myself `Who is the dangerous man here? Is it the difficult (but refreshingly true to himself) Michael, or is it the figure of capitalism, Jack?' Because, yes, Michael is `troubled' and he both craves and despises normality, but surely Jack senses that? Does Jack really go into this with his eyes closed? Is Jack a simpleton? No, he is shrewdly intelligent. A ruthless businessman, we assume.

Michael might be set up as the manipulative one, but Jack employs Michael as an artist mostly to get close to him, he forces Michael to endure his gratingly middle-class family, even though Michael can't bear them, and he says that if Michael earns £500 to contribute to an exhibition, he'll pay for the rest. Ah.

Michael doesn't have a job and there's only one way he earns money, although apparently Jack is unaware of Michael's rent boy activities. This part of the book is upsetting as Michael goes further and further to earn the money. Some readers have wondered why Michael doesn't seek `a real job' rather than resort to prostitution. Well, there's no reasoning with Michael, but I'd say he's a creature of habit.

The ending kept me on the edge of my seat, as despite fearing the worst, I determinedly hoped for the best. This page-turner is commercial fiction at its best. I defy anyone to read this and forget it. Michael is someone you remember.
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on 16 May 2007
I just finished A Dangerous Man by Anne Brooke and now I am more than ready to pick her brain about how she came to create this truly engrossing character study/crime novel. The narrator is Michael, a young, apparently very attractive artist and sometimes hustler. His oeuvre is drawing in only pencil and charcoal - he has an aversion to paints and colors for reasons that are revealed later on. We come to learn that drawing is literally a necessity for him as his deepest, truest feelings can only be released on paper with the pencil and charcoal. In the course of trying to further his artistic career, Michael falls in love with Jack, an older but equally attractive businessman/art patron and it changes both of their lives forever. I don't want to get into much more detail here except to say that the story is very intense and descriptive, at times euphoric, violent, brutal, and always fascinating, and basically a damn good read. Anne has done such an amazing job with creating a fully three-dimensional character in the person of Michael Jones. Love him or hate him, you can't help but become interested in him, his life and how he came to be the way he is. His voice is so strong and clear like every good narrator's should be. The other main characters are equally well-developed (especially Jack) but it is Michael who really jumps off the page and captures the reader's imagination. Bravo, Anne! You've done a great job here and I look forward to reading your next book, Pink Champagne and Apple Juice (and while I am at it, you can find further info at [...]
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on 8 April 2007
I enjoyed it. Let me say that at the first. It's well written by someone who obviously knows how to write, who knows how to use the language to describe place with what seems an effortless grace so you always have a sense of your surrounding, whether it be a seedy bar in Hackney, or a graceful house in Islington. You can smell the leather, feel the heavy crystal, feel the grit under your shoes.

Michael (don't call me Mikey) is an artist, struggling to make ends meet, and is not averse to a little part time prostitution to help those ends meet. He lives with Joe and Paul, Joe owns a gallery but won't hang his paintings - Paul knocks money off the rent for a little sexual action. Then one day Michael gets the chance of a commission in a City firm and falls head over heels in love with Jack, his potential new patron.

And this is where it all kicks off. The plot moves swiftly on from this point, never leaving the reader bored. It's a first person novel, but although Michael does spend a lot of time in introspection its rarely repetitive, not over angsty, and gradually as the book moves on and Michael is "forced" from one postion to another, you slowly get the feel that all is not quite well with Michael and the title becomes clear. The choice of first person for this book is very clever, because you don't really get into Michael's head at all- and that's because he doesn't even allow himelf in there.

Characterisation: Each character is well done, and it's interesting from my point of view that the one character that we don't actually get a full picture of is Paul, but that's probably because Michael has no interest in describing him more fully for us. I particularly liked Jack's family because Jack's mother reminded me very forcibly of my own, with her motherly concern. I also liked the landlord of the pub that Michael pulls tricks in.

I was a little annoyed a Michael's inability to work - he's a bit of a sponger - and immediately turns tricks when he needs £500 when it's not explained why he couldn't just get a job. Artistic temperament, I suppose. But he's not meant -or that's how I read it - to be an attractive character. He's an opportunist and he knows what he wants and that's how he gets to be where he is by the end - by reacting to external stimuli and not thinking first.

The artistic pieces were particularly well done, Anne Brooke thanks a friend for help with these and I would never have known that Anne wasn't an artist herself, she seems to get right under Michael's skin when he draws - if we can't understand the feeling ourselves, she describes it so well that we feel what he's feeling as he does it. I loved the section when Michael was explaining (to Jack's father) how he draws, and it's totally unintelligible to everyone except Michael. I could just see their blank faces, but to Michael it makes perfect sense.

This book could easily have gone the typical romance route, and that's actually what I was expecting, it even lulled me into a false sense of security at one point. But it's not, so don't go looking for happy ever afters. The ending is raw and bleak and wonderful, and I can't say any more really without spoiling it, but there's a lot of room for reader conjecture as to what actually happens - or at least that's how I read it. I ended up, as I'm sure I was supposed to, feeling desperately sorry for Michael, when he'd annoyed me so much throughout.

On a personal note, for a contemporary gay story, I would have liked the sex scenes to be more explicit. It was a very grown up story, and the sex scenes were handled with a fade out or "We made love and it was very good" perhaps not every scene, as Michael does do it a lot, but I'd have liked some of the (no pun intended) seminal scenes to be more graphically described, particularly as the sexual aspect of Michael's nature is so important to the book. But that's just me and my dirty mind.

But all in all a good book. If you are looking for a predictable tale of love, then this isn't for you, but if you like a book that gets under your skin and makes you think long after you've closed the last page, like it has for me, then try A Dangerous Man. I'll certainly be looking out for more of Ms Brooke's work.
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on 5 April 2007
I thought the novel was suspenseful, unsettling and well paced and took me into a world that is totally alien to me; that of gay men and the art world. Although the main character, Michael, is not your normal type of hero - in fact he is a very dark personality indeed - I felt a real empathy for him and I found myself rooting for him until the end (even when he had stepped over the boundary into criminality).

The final chapters of the book are gripping as the shadows that have been stalking Michael come to the surface and threaten to ruin his all too brief taste of success. There is a sense of foreboding as the reader realises that there is surely tragedy ahead for Michael and the people who surround him.

I thought the writing throughout was excellent, paticularly in the final more violent scenes, and I found it easy to visualise what was being played out in front of me. I was sorry to be coming to the end of the novel so I left the final few chapters until later in the day to savour reading them - what a sign of a good book that is!
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on 27 April 2007
From the moment of entering this twilight world, as portrayed on the cover of A Dangerous Man, we are drawn into the dark and obsessive thoughts of author, Anne Brooke's gay protagonist, would-be artist, Michael, and into an environment, which most of us will not have encountered. Nevertheless, any creative person can empathise with Michael's desperate desire for success in his chosen field, and most readers will understand his longing for love and recognition. We follow his journey, hoping that he will achieve his heart's desires. The author has shown amazing insight in unravelling the mind of this disturbed personality, which is revealed in the book's compelling climax.
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on 11 October 2015
I understand why some people love this book. It is very well written but honestly it just depressed me, I hated that Michael dragged Jack into his dark, violent and cruel world. I felt sorry for Michael, I pitted him but certainly didn't like him. I just felt the whole thing was too dark for my liking.
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on 22 December 2008
I love reading (and writing) cross-genre stories and here, Anne Brooke excels. There's an underlying tension that permeates the book reminiscent of a thriller, even though the story, initially at least, largely seems to involve one man's hopes, dreams and desires as the antagonistic force constantly pushing the story forwards. Even in the happiest moments, you have the sense it will all, shortly, be snatched from Mikey's grasp and you want to shake sense into him. I felt equally irritated with Michael as I was in pain for him.

This book uses London as a character as much as the people, and acts as a lesson in class and class-divide. It's disturbing, mysterious, and plays havoc with your emotions. In addition, Anne has written a perfect rendition of a romance that often is as delightful as it is harrowing, proving that you don't always need overly graphic language and images to have an audience cheering. Just because this book involves a gay relationship, don't let that confuse you. You're not getting overly explicit sex scenes, and yet many of the intimate moments between Michael and Jack are so touching that they make the bad moments of the story hurt more.

As a reader, I know what I like when I see it. As a writer/reader a good reading scale to judge by is whether I wish I'd written a book and this falls into that category. Saying that, often, as a writer, I can spot an ending and, in many ways, I knew what was coming. Ultimately, I would have written this with a softer ending but maybe because Anne chooses the harsher route this makes for a more unforgettable book. I have to confess I felt essentially uneasy while reading this, but that's no fault of the writer -- it's even what she intends, and the work deserves more recognition than many of the books that end up on some celebrity's recommended list.
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on 7 September 2009
Anne Brooke's novel of the collision of art and money, ambition and power, grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. What's especially impressive is the way that Brooke's style sets up narrative information - about the business of art, the grinding frustration of hustling cash for ambitions always just out of reach - without letting go the pace or losing purpose. There's always something going on and Brooke is highly skilled at pushing the story forward, even when pausing on her characters' thoughts and motives.

The artist Michael draws in monochrome, surely a deliberate parallel with the business of writing, struggling to control the colours beyond the edge of the paper. The metaphor works, as do the London settings; Brooke has the feel for how so much of London seems frosted with dust whatever the weather. But the characters are far from colourless. Believable, fallible people chasing their own ambitions; even the bully Paul has his reasons. Michael's relationship with rich-boy Jack is neatly drawn, recognisable to anyone who knows that people who sleep together do not necessarily get along. And the plot twist is surprising, even on second reading.

A shady, chilly story - so much of it seems to take place in half-light - that manages to say something about art (about writing too) without being pretentious and gives an ingenious riff on the dour old truth that the worst that can happen is to get what you want.
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As another reviewer has mentioned, this is a very unsettling book. Michael is enthralled by his art. He had an abusive upbringing and is constantly trying to escape from it. A tragic figure, it soon becomes clear that he is unable to escape from his own history however far he moves away from it.

Michael is also gay and seems drawn to the type of relationships which can only damage him further. Then he falls in love with Jack - a business tycoon - who adores him too and is willing to encourage his art and help him to overcome his past. Michael is unable to recognise Jack's love and tenderness for him as genuine and ultimately betrays him because he knows no other way of relating. There are several characters in the book who try to help Michael - Joe, who also loves him but never declares his love, Lee-Anne who works for Joe, and the bar owner Frank.

Michael gets his solo art exhibition but his success comes too late to save him, and those around him from disaster. The ending is frightening, violent and inevitable.

I would recommend this book if you want something out of the ordinary. It is above all a character study of obsession and how difficult it is to overcome our own flaws. Without self awareness and acknowledgement of our problems we too could end up like Michael in our own hell.
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