Books by Rupert Thomson

NEVER ANYONE BUT YOU by Rupert Thomson
Released: June 5, 2018

"A real-life modernist relationship is revived with commitment if not quite enough conviction."
An intense clandestine love affair between two Frenchwomen during the first half of the 20th century spans art and literature, war and imprisonment, madness and devotion. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

"A book that promises insight into the emotional detachment of our current technological overload should deliver more than the resolution of daddy issues."
A young woman sets out to find the isolation she craves in Thomson's (Secrecy, 2014, etc.) picaresque novel.Read full book review >
SECRECY by Rupert Thomson
Released: April 22, 2014

"Thomson succeeds on a number of levels here, for the novel works as a mystery, as a love story, as a historical novel and, more abstractly, as an exploration of aesthetic theory."
Thomson (Death of a Murderer, 2007, etc.) takes us to 17th-century Florence, which by definition seems to be full of corrupt politicians, unscrupulous clergy and aspiring artists—and this, of course, long after the Renaissance has ended. Read full book review >
DEATH OF A MURDERER by Rupert Thomson
Released: Aug. 10, 2007

"A penetrating, introspective twist on the morose-British-constable genre."
A policeman reflects on our potential for evil as he guards the corpse of a female child molester and murderer. Read full book review >
DIVIDED KINGDOM by Rupert Thomson
Released: June 20, 2005

"A flawed effort, from a writer capable of much better work."
A dystopian vision of social "rearrangement." Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 9, 2000

The British author who in such accomplished books as The Five Gates of Hell (1991) and Soft! (1998) has perfected the kind of noir thriller Graham Greene used to write now outdoes himself with this absorbing tale of captivity and obsession. Thomson's protagonist is a nameless Englishman who has found fame and fulfillment in Amsterdam as a dancer and choreographer, and who is the lover of his beautiful partner Brigitte. Leaving their apartment one evening on an errand, he is met by "three figures in hoods and cloaks"—women admirers, it seems. But the three drug and kidnap him, chaining him to the floor of an almost empty room (whose only furnishings, oddly enough, are a washer and dryer) where he is kept naked, sexually used, subjected to genital mutilation, forced to perform a ballet of his own choosing before an audience of unidentified spectators, then released after 18 days. Though Thomson never explains his experience, symbolic reasons suggest themselves when the dancer begins "to feel as if his fate was no more or less than he deserved," and it is suggested that his (usually masked) captors— domination of him dramatizes "the damage that had once been done to them now finding expression in clandestine rituals, barbarity, a pursuit of the bizarre." The nature of his subsequent "freedom" is equally cryptic. The end of his relationship with Brigitte (to whom he cannot tell his story), an unexpected legacy that enables him to travel widely, his surrender to compulsive promiscuity, and a rash act that can only be interpreted as attempted rape—all are ironically logical outgrowths of his desire to find the women who altered his life and to understand the person he has become (or has perhaps, without realizing so, always been). The psychodrama Thomson builds from these fascinating particulars is an ineffably disturbing "revelation" of the possibilities and dangers we unknowingly carry within ourselves. One of the most eerily original novels of recent years. Thomson's masterpiece. Read full book review >
SOFT! by Rupert Thomson
Released: Sept. 6, 1998

, he can't really refuse. The woman he's asked to murder, Glade Spencer, is a pretty art-school graduate whose insomnia led her to a "sleep clinic" that was actually a front for a top-secret, decidedly sinister marketing venture. The corporate handlers of Soft!, an orange-colored and -flavored beverage about to be launched in England, used the clinic to turn people subliminally into "ambassadors," little more than walking ads for their product. But the effect of the ploy on Glade was severe: she came unhinged, arousing the suspicions of a friend, who then alerted the press. Before the story can break, however, the marketers employ a little old-fashioned damage control: namely, Barker. What they don't know is that he's sick to death of the mess he's made of his life, and determined not to make it worse. He follows Glade for weeks, watching her and uncertain how to proceed, but when the screws are turned on him he acts. Even at its bleakest, this suggests, more than incarnates, the banality of evil. But a full, unnerving control probes the fraying mental states of the story's doomed and damned from beginning to end—a focus that makes for positively riveting results. Read full book review >
THE INSULT by Rupert Thomson
Released: Aug. 15, 1996

A feverishly imagined tale of a blind man who develops night vision and uses it to search for a vanished lover, this is a surpassingly bleak and defiantly illogical study of obsession from the highly touted Thomson (Air and Fire, 1994, etc.). In a Kafkaesque transformation, Martin Blom awakens in a hospital bed, blind after being struck in the head by a stray bullet while carrying groceries to his car—a blindness that his neurosurgeon says is permanent. Morris's disbelief and self-pity are normal responses, but when he discovers to his wonder that he can see—in the dark—his life assumes a new, furtive meaning. He breaks completely with his past, including parents and fiancÇe, to embrace a nocturnal existence, moving in secret to a disreputable hotel in the heart of the city and making friends with other equally odd creatures of the night. The mysterious Nina enters his life, fulfilling his wildest sexual fantasies. But she breaks with him, then disappears, when she discovers his peculiar powers of sight, leaving a heartbroken Martin under suspicion of foul play. In desperation, and increasingly certain that he's serving as some bizarre sort of guinea pig for his neurosurgeon (his night vision is suddenly replaced by nonstop TV broadcasts in his head), he digs into Nina's past and visits her distant hometown. There, safe from the police, and from the TV signals, Martin settles into a rundown spa and is treated by an elderly woman to an extraordinary tale of incest, retardation, and gruesome violence. Martin and Nina are, it turns out, but the latest victims of the train of events set in motion by the woman's youthful transgression. The pieces of this grim saga remain just that: Vivid fragments in a pattern that fails to cohere. But there is nonetheless a dark, hugely suggestive power at work here, cumulatively having the visceral impact of a nightmare. Read full book review >
AIR AND FIRE by Rupert Thomson
Released: Jan. 17, 1994

Fantasy and reality coalesce in a cauldron of passion and pathos, fired by the heat of a searing summer in coastal Mexico: a formidable fin de siäcle tale from the wide-ranging author of The Five Gates of Hell (1991) and Dreams of Leaving (1988). To a remote French mining community in Baja California are sent the numbered cast-iron pieces of a new church, designed by the creator of the Eiffel Tower and entrusted to the care of Theo Valence, one of Eiffel's engineers. Theo's mind and heart are devoted to the church's construction, leaving his young wife Suzanne to feel restless and unfulfilled. She befriends Wilson, a piano-playing American prospector pursuing his father's failed dream of gold; her charms dazzle both him and the hotblooded Montoya, the Mexican militia captain charged with keeping the peace in town. While Wilson wistfully accepts Suzanne's friendship, Montoya declares his love, mistaking her kindness toward him as a license to woo her. She alienates her American friend by showing him Montoya's love letter, then, as Indian miners angered by a deadly mine accident revolt, spurns her would-be suitor, enraging him to the point of shooting his own horse and threatening the natives. Suzanne rides off into the desert alone, seeking solace, with Wilson dispatched to find her before she dies of thirst. The two return to find the church destroyed, Montoya butchered, and the revolt savagely crushed; but before they can recover from their ordeal, Suzanne is on her way back to Paris with Theo, who has rediscovered his love for her. Thomson's surreal sensibilities, challenged by the cross- fertilization of cultures and desire, elevate standard melodramatic fare into a saga richly atmospheric and satisfying. Read full book review >
THE FIVE GATES OF HELL by Rupert Thomson
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

From the author of the widely acclaimed Dreams of Leaving (1988), an assured follow-up that further strengthens Thomson's position as an emerging talent to be reckoned with. Set on the West Coast of the near-future, the novel presents a world that has the look and feel of L.A. under the influence. Nathan, an introverted kid from a good neighborhood, lives with his disabled father and the memory of a deceased mother. Meanwhile, over on the wrong side of the tracks, Jed, a neglected and notoriously ugly youth, develops an early knack for blackmail and revenge, running away to join the Womb (War on Moon Beach) Boys, a gang formed with the general aim of destroying funeral parlors located on Moon Beach. Through a run-in with the Womb Boys, Nathan meets Jed, who turns up working with the biggest funeral parlor of them all—the Paradise Corporation—under the gaze of its ghoulish director, Neville Creed. Later, Jed and Nathan's histories intersect again when Nathan is carrying on an affair with Creed, and Jed, double-crossed by Creed, returns for revenge. As in Dreams of Living, Thomson here combines stark 20th-century realism with elements of fantasy. He gets away with it by working within a spectrum—beginning with naturalism and ending somewhere out near William Burroughs territory—and by carrying every scene within a consistent, honed prose style. Maybe it's the preoccupation with death that forces the story to an occasional crawl, but Thomson redeems this one through deft handling of real and fantastic elements, sharp prose, and vivid glimpses into the charred circuitry of his youthful characters. Read full book review >