|TURNAROUND PUBLISHER SERVICES|
the guardian Fri 01 August 2008
Patrick Hamilton's 1930s novels map a city where bleary afternoons in pubs and boarding houses are illuminated by a row of phone boxes "locked and lit up in glass, like waxed fruit, or crown jewels". Jones's biography is informative, but his plodding adherence to chronology goes against the grain of Hamilton's life (spent adrift in bars eavesdropping on mumbled conversations) and those of his characters (ditto). Hamilton's achievement in conveying interiority lies precisely in his rendering of the temporal dissolutions of alcoholism: the regrets, the blackouts, the endlessly postdated cheque of sobriety. Jones's recourse to crude psychology (boorish father, clingy mother) similarly fails to explain his subject's fascination with sexual and political humiliation. Paradoxically, it is the attention to textures, not causes, that gives Hamilton's prose its jolting moments of insight, such as his rapid-fire description of a deluded Chamberlain at Munich as "all grinning, shaking hands, frock-coats, top-hats, uniforms, car-rides, cheers ... like a sort of super-fascist wedding or christening".