Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mark Howard Jones: The Garden of Doubt on The Island of Shadows

Reviewed by: Matt Merritt

I won't mention if Matt Merritt has met Mark Howard Jones, nor would I want to say that ten times fast.

This novella comes out of the Sein Und Werden crowd, well it's not a crowd, it's sorta one person really: Rachel Kendall. But she probably has friends, and they crowd around her, I'm sure. The Sein Und Werden web site is worth checking out, but be warned: it is surreal horror, not for the feignt hearted, or is that Fay ain't hearted? Well, you know what I mean.

You can find Sein Und Werden at the following website, and you will, if you're not a great big scaredy cat chicken:
And, at that site, if you look, you will find ordering information for the novella reviewed below. It costs 1.99 pounds, or is that kilograms?

Matt Merritt is an English journalist and poet. His debut chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published in 2005 by Happenstance Press. His blog is Polyolbion -

The island of the title may be surreal, unreal even, but what makes this fine novella work so well is the skill with which it deals with the harsh reality of death.

There are no answers offered, no easy consolations for the reader, but the unflinching portrayal of grief and loss manages the seemingly impossible task of making the conclusion both devastating and life-affirming, and all the more convincing for it.

The plot centres on the mysterious disappearance of a rock star, and his girlfriend’s search for him by following clues in his lyrics.

As for the central character, she is both well drawn and sympathetic, and Mark Howard Jones succeeds beautifully in using her to highlight the ultra-thin line between hope and self-deceit.

The background in the world of 1970s rock is excellent too, my only complaint being that I might have liked more of it.

But that’s a minor quibble – this is both compelling and moving. Twists are used imaginatively, to advance and deepen the plot rather than just to shock, and the control and restraint exerted by the author suggests he could make a similar success out of a much longer work.


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