Books by Magnus Mills

MAGNUS MILLS worked as a full-time bus driver in London until the success of The Restraint of Beasts, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. The author of a collection of short stories and five novels, all of which have been published in fifteen lan


THE MAINTENANCE OF HEADWAY by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 19, 2015

"Nearly flawless in its own unassuming way."
Set within the bureaucracy of the London bus system, Mills' slim novel fuses whimsy with warped logic. Read full book review >
EXPLORERS OF THE NEW CENTURY by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 20, 2006

"The story never fully coheres or satisfies. But it does suggest that, despite Mills's evident debts to Kafka and Beckett, he's still a provocative, elusive original."
A courageous and perhaps futile quest is the immediate, though not exclusive, subject of the sly British minimalist's brain-squeezing fifth novel. Read full book review >
THE SCHEME FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

"Very subtle, almost Swiftian, satire that will go over the heads of most Americans—and even those who get it aren't likely to rupture themselves with laughter."
Mills's fourth novel (after Three to See the King, 2001) is a kind of parody of British working-class life, where truck drivers are paid to deliver unneeded auto parts for other drivers to retrieve. Read full book review >
THREE TO SEE THE KING by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

"Wonderful, mind-bending stuff. Don't miss it."
A fascinating religious allegory is built from the barest and unlikeliest of materials in this enigmatic and quite remarkable third novel by the British author of The Restraint of Beasts (1998) and All Quiet on the Orient Express (1999). Read full book review >
ALL QUIET ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

A journey through Purgatory takes amusing, appropriately elusive form in this mordant second novel by the English author of The Restraint of Beasts (1998). Mills's suggestive title alludes both to its (nameless) narrator's unfulfilled hope of journeying overland through Europe to India, and to Erich Maria Remarque's classic fictional account of the wholesale slaughter of an entire continent's young manhood. The story—told in a flat, affectless voice perfectly suited to its rural milieu—begins when its protagonist, "on holiday" at a lakeside campsite, accepts temporary work as a handyman for the phlegmatic Mr. Parker. All the narrator knows is that "Tommy" Parker is "into buying and selling"—farm machinery and oil drums—and is known locally, especially at the pubs the narrator visits nightly, for his terrible temper. One task after another (painting a fence, rowing boats broken loose from their moorings across a lake, taking over a milk run), accepted in lieu of paying rent, binds the narrator more firmly to the place he keeps planning to leave. Before realizing how acclimated he's become, he's an essential member of his favorite pub's darts team, and the compliant drudge who does homework for Mr. Parker's teenaged daughter. A hard rain on the day of his planned departure stalls his motorcycle—and Mr. Parker's firm hold on him grows stronger. Warned that he must finish all the tasks assigned him "before Christmas," the narrator gradually understands that, like the unidentified "one who was here before you," his is not to reason why, but to work as ordered, then pass on to whatever lies ahead (some very pronounced images of descent and conflagration judiciously scattered throughout the closing pages, pretty clearly indicate where he's going). Both Pilgrim's Progress and the nearly forgotten allegorical novels of T.F. Powys (e.g., Mr. Weston's Good Wine) come to mind. Still, this is an original and haunting creation: a vision of Judgment whose very opacity gives it impressive symmetry, comedy, and power. Read full book review >
THE RESTRAINT OF BEASTS by Magnus Mills
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

The hopeless task of disciplining two unruly slackers (which is just one of its clever title's implied meanings) gives substance—and allegorical form—to this flinty first novel by a British writer whose grim humor has been compared to that of Irvine Welsh. But Mills uses kitchen-sink realism as means rather than end in his curiously fashioned tale of the strange symbiotic relationship binding its narrator—the English foreman of a Scottish company that installs "high-tension fences"—with his obstreperous charges Tam and Richie: skilled laborers who —could only work in the day if they had beer to look forward to at night." The plot therefore consists of reiterated descriptions of exhausting workdays endured in mostly miserable weather, and compulsive pub-crawling in which the initially reserved narrator becomes an increasingly willing crawl participant. A horrendous accident deftly shifts the story's stark tone—but when it's repeated with only minimal variations, the carefully laid naturalistic surface parts, throwing Tam, Richie, and their boss into the region of Kafkaesque nightmare. Later, at a job in England, a further sequence of "accidents" puts them in thrall to Hall Brothers (the local "fencers"), a mysteriously diversified company that gradually discloses its expertise at building livestock pens and —electrified cages" (for less obvious purposes), and eventually to work as arbiters with the task of bringing the alien fencers to judgment. Until its enigmatic closing pages, the novel works nicely as a taut little drama of rebellion against the injunction that "All fences had to be straight" (one thinks of the similar metaphoric action in Alan Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner"). But the expansion of the story's simple contours spells out too much, and blurs its haunting suggestiveness. All the same, a strongly imagined and more than promising first effort. Read full book review >