It’s a while ago now, but David Rose was one of our favourites at the Rue Bella magazine. His short stories were meticulously written and tended to focus on small details to make much larger points.
We published several pieces by him and he was one of our tips to move on to bigger and better things.
Pleasing, then, that I recently found that David has had a novel published by ‘Salt’. I’d like to congratulate ‘Salt’ for their good taste when deciding to put this out.
I say novel, but I’m not sure I’m entirely correct given the tagline Vault (An Anti-Novel).
I wasn’t sure when I began what an anti-novel is and I’m still not sure. I’ll leave that one for the scholars to unpick. I do have an inkling though, that rather than being a literary black hole it is something specific to this particular piece of work.
The story of McKuen is told from two points of view. The first is by McKeun himself, the second by a novelist writing an account based on McKuen’s life story. It is possible that it is the man’s dislike of the dramatisation of his own life is where the anti-novel element comes in.
As you might expect, the novelist and the individual concerned have very different takes on the events of the life in question. What is rather surprising is that it is left to the novelist to add any emotion or sense of pride to it.
And it’s a pretty amazing life, at that.
McKuen is born to parents who are fanatical cyclists and he is soon to become one himself.
When the war arrives, he takes advantage of his skills to aid his life as a sniper in the Second World War. It’s something he’s great at, hanging around in trees and playing the waiting game.
It’s something he turns to his advantage after the war, becoming an avenging angel for the survivors who fight over scraps of aid.
Cycling emerges as his main passion when things in Europe settle and the reader follows his journey through races and into a world of espionage as if attached to a side-car.
At each stage, the horrors of war and of life are hammered home with beautifully sharp nails, the isolation of the journey through life emphasised time and time again.
It’s a book I really enjoyed.
The conflicting styles of biographer and novelist are fascinating.
Just like with Rose’s short stories, it’s the minutia that I found myself looking at before my thinking was stretched beyond the page. I very much enjoy it when a book floats around inside me for days after finishing and that’s exactly what Vault has done, haunting will phrases and images that keep presenting me with questions that I’m still trying to answer.
Hopefully there’ll be more from David Rose in the near future. I for one will be taking the saddle when the next book arrives.
And if the Rue Bella magazine ever sees the light of day again, David, your ticket is open ended.