Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 January 2012
Fragmented consists of a series of scenes from the author's journey from a problematic childhood family life in Surrey to the relative contentment of middle aged fatherhood. Along the way he describes series of encounters, adventures, outings, and traumas, involving his alcoholic parents, the squatters of North London's Hornsey Rise and the jolly japes of a different class squatters at Carburton Street near the Post Office Tower (in the 1970s), literary agents, his beloved daughter, and acquaintances from, and the environs of, Hackney, where he now resides.
Childhood and adolescence appear to have been dominated by the challenging behaviour of, and his relationship with, his mother, problems with were relieved, at times, by his interests in film, music, cricket, football, playing in unspoilt countryside, and girls. During the Hornsey Rise period, he mixed with, and in some cases formed close relationships with, various idealists, a murder and a drug-overdose victim, dealers in drugs and pillaged scrap metals, and a user of other peoples' cheque books.
The book consists of 44 short-stories, which extend from less than a page to eight pages, arranged in five sections, three of which cover the 1970s, 1990s, and the 2000s and beyond. But the book is not arranged entirely chronologically. It opens with a description of the `Candyman', a dope dealer killed in his Hornsey Rise squat by an unknown assailant, while the closing chapter offers some insight into his mother's troubled character - in the form of a conversation between the ghosts of his mother and great grandfather, who his mother apparently blamed for the early death of her own mother.
The chapter about Carburton Street focuses on an elaborate fancy dress party styled 'Lord Carbuncle's Ball'. One resident, Freddy, a trainee chartered accountant, played 'Lady Cecelia', the hostess. And one guest apparently borrowed his father's Royal Navy Commander's uniform. Apart from the ubiquitous dope, this party was worlds apart from Hornsey Rise, and seemed for Jeremy, in some ways, less appealing. Another party is described in the 1990s section - in the garden of a wealthy household, perhaps in the country or suburbs. Jeremy relates a series of hilarious misunderstandings as a 'friend-of-a-friend' seeks to introduce him to 'someone in publishing' who might be interested in his work. I laughed out loud! Several other chapters allude to the trials and tribulations of the aspiring author.
How much of this book describes the author's experiences and how much comes from his imagination? He is fascinated by St John churchyard, Hackney, and the tombs that it contains, which feature in several chapters. But did he really loosen some bricks on one tomb, allowing him to slip inside and watch passers-by through eye-holes which he had made previously? And does he really press his face against the grill of a drain to listen to the sounds of an underground river as a form of therapy? Both are great ideas! And did he really put a card from Aleister Crowley's pack of tarot cards down the drain while chanting a `Cabbalistic spell'? Only the author knows.
This may puzzle in a few places, but it offers a good, interesting, entertaining, and even informative read - either by dipping in or reading from cover to cover. Anyone interested in London and alternative lifestyles will find much of interest. Surprisingly little has been written about the Hornsey Rise squat, at one time the largest squat in Europe, while Carburton Street was flattened to make way for a modern hotel. The descriptions of characters, places, and episodes, evoke vivid images, and the action is often set against specific events and social trends - the IRA bombing campaigns, for example, and the rich mix of cultures that make up modern London. Highly recommended.