The Deadman's Pedal

Alan Warner

The Deadman's Pedal

It is the early 1970s in the Highlands of Scotland and for 16-year-old Simon Crimmons there's really not much to do. He can hang around with his pals or his first-ever girlfriend, Nikki, he can dream about a first motorbike to get him out of the Port and among the hills, but in truth he's going nowhere. The only local drama and romance is provided by the rural railway, and Simon ends up working on the trains by chance, thrown into a community of jaded older men. But that summer he is introduced to a world far more glamorous and strange. He meets the louche, bohemian Alex, and his dark, gorgeous sister, Varie: all that remains of 'the doomed family' of the great house at Broken Moan, where their father, Andrew Bultitude, is Commander of the Pass. When Simon falls in love with the otherworldly Varie he is suddenly given a freedom and mobility that is both thrilling and vertiginous. 3.9 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
The Deadman's Pedal

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 384
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0224071703
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

It is the early 1970s in the Highlands of Scotland and for 16-year-old Simon Crimmons there's really not much to do. He can hang around with his pals or his first-ever girlfriend, Nikki, he can dream about a first motorbike to get him out of the Port and among the hills, but in truth he's going nowhere. The only local drama and romance is provided by the rural railway, and Simon ends up working on the trains by chance, thrown into a community of jaded older men. But that summer he is introduced to a world far more glamorous and strange. He meets the louche, bohemian Alex, and his dark, gorgeous sister, Varie: all that remains of 'the doomed family' of the great house at Broken Moan, where their father, Andrew Bultitude, is Commander of the Pass. When Simon falls in love with the otherworldly Varie he is suddenly given a freedom and mobility that is both thrilling and vertiginous.

The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner.

Reviews

The Guardian

Stuart Kelly

Warner's language is deliriously vivid. Stars show "uncertain bleats of light"; when Simon has to pee outside, "the transformed beer frothed greenly among the ribs of roots". Although the narrative proceeds in roughly chronological order, there is a very neat switchback, when it jumps ahead and then fills in the details, giving both irony and melancholy to the events. The novel's ending is both bravura and brave: it closes like a diminished seventh chord, an awful pause that could resolve itself into different cadences. The Deadman's Pedal is morally sensitive, exquisitely written and emotionally mature. It could not be mistaken for a book by any other author: Warner has triumphantly come into his own.

01/06/2012

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The Sunday Times

Edmund Gordon

The story is somewhat baggy and meandering and feels incomplete (it seems likely that Warner is planning a sequel). But the prose achieves rhythms and textures of ecstatic beauty, the images are often mesmerising (the descriptions of Simon’s oddly peaceful train journeys within the “endarkened cell” of the driver’s cab are especially good), the dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the characterisation is vigorous throughout. The Deadman’s Pedal is a lovely novel, and a return to form on the part of one of Scotland’s most brilliant writers.

17/06/2012

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Times Literary Supplement

Malcolm Forbes

Alan Warner’s excellent new novel, The Deadman’s Pedal, performs the neat trick of traversing familiar territory while simultaneously covering brand new ground. As with his debut, Morvern Callar, and its manic sequel, These Demented Lands, we are north of the border between England and Scotland – in a “sex-starved, raindrenched wee place”; as in The Sopranos and its follow-up, The Stars in the Bright Sky, he explores the follies of youth. But The Deadman’s Pedal lacks the wayward abandon of Warner’s previous offerings – if anything, this Highland tale of love, class and family tension in the early 1970s is all the more captivating for its gritty, realistic rendering.

06/07/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Sheena Joughin

Alan Warner’s seventh novel is filled with rich predicament, where parallel lives collide in a creative undoing of the status quo … What compels us in these pages is the steady imperative beat of Warner’s prose, as it moves with the rhythm of the engines, “charging into the darkness” on “moonsilver track”, “over the saucer of evening lands”.

12/07/2012

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The Independent

Peter Carty

Warner presents us with a narrative reminiscent of a 19th-century Bildungsroman. The gamble pays off handsomely. For the first 70 pages or so the story's impact seems limited. After that the novel steadily becomes more compelling. Finally, the patterns of Warner's grand design emerge, as mesmerising as the Highland scenery he describes with such sublime intensity.

02/06/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Doug Johnstone

Warner is tackling all sorts of themes and conflicts in The Deadman's Pedal: we get the battle of the classes against a backdrop of the political strife of the time; Scotland versus England, the slightly more esoteric conflict between progress and nostalgia; and the struggle between nationalisation and privatisation. But Warner delivers his social commentary with an incredibly deft touch, never letting the themes crowd out the story of Simon's personal journey into adulthood. And there is some very, very fine writing here, much of it hilarious.

10/06/2012

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The Literary Review

Rowland Manthorpe

Described by Varie as ‘a thinker and a watcher’, Simon is hard to access, for all the time we spend in his company. Even his grand act of rebellion is undeveloped and haphazard … At times, one longs for Warner to be cruder, funnier – in other words, more like his earlier self. When, after their first attempt at sex, Simon’s girlfriend admits to breaking her hymen using ‘a carrot with baby oil’, you could almost cheer. Cut loose from a definite ‘I’, Warner’s trademark physicality runs the risk of irrelevance.

01/06/2012

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The Sunday Times

Edmund Gordon

The story is somewhat baggy and meandering and feels incomplete (it seems likely that Warner is planning a sequel). But the prose achieves rhythms and textures of ecstatic beauty, the images are often mesmerising (the descriptions of Simon’s oddly peaceful train journeys within the “endarkened cell” of the driver’s cab are especially good), the dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the characterisation is vigorous throughout. The Deadman’s Pedal is a lovely novel, and a return to form on the part of one of Scotland’s most brilliant writers.

01/07/2012

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The Scotsman

Hannah McGill

Through its central section, the book can feel a little aimless; beyond where Simon will end up and with which girl, there isn’t a firm narrative thrust, and perhaps Warner overcompensates a bit with oily engine room detail. What the whole book feels like, really, is an introductory act. Warner has hinted at a trilogy, and it’s hard to imagine any reader of The Deadman’s Pedal not welcoming the prospect. It’s not so much that this book leaves ends untied, as that it sets up such a vivid world that things seem barely to have got going when the narrative concludes. More would be good. There’s scope for more.

20/05/2012

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The Observer

James Purdon

At his best in textures, glimpses and sudden twists, he has an impressionist's sense for the way in which the visible and the felt resolves into narrative, though at times in this novel, and particularly at the ends of chapters, he seems to strain for the portentous phrase ... And though The Deadman's Pedal abounds in striking images and sharp dialogue, it does seem a little lopsided, as though some major points haven't quite been fleshed out. Indeed, you begin to wonder whether we might glimpse some of these characters again on our next trip to The Port.

27/05/2012

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