CRISPIN'S SPUR by Gordon Wardman


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British writer Wardman's first novel, set squarely in the ranks of down-at-the-heel Comrades in England's industrial north, is a hard-edged political caper. Crispin Pharaoh, marginal antique-dealer in Kent, finds himself flushed out of itchy retirement by his old comrades from the North. They need the man he was before the Party booted him out for adventurism, because a dangerous adventure is precisely what they have in mind. They want Crispin to saddle up again and ride against the forces of industrial capitalism--specifically, to blow up a tank factory for them. Author Wardman writes beautiful, crisp dialogue, and he knows the words the desperate working-class rebels use. And this caper story follows the ritual pattern: the young idealist must convince the cynical old revolutionary to buckle on his guns again and come back to the frontier for one last try to save the Revolution. Step by step the story takes its time and makes its points cleanly. The characters are astonishingly credible, even though some of them are only sketches. The fakers, the loyalists, the goof-offs, and the psychos are all here, and each of them contributes a good moment to Wardman's whole design. Chris Powell, the man Crispin was, slowly emerges from beneath the persona of the middle-aged antique dealer to find his way into the target factory, find and persuade the accomplice he needs, and execute the plan. That it is not unlike the desperate action he himself had planned and been excommunicated for years before makes the operation doubly satisfying. As in all life's affairs, revolution can go awry, too, and Wardman's ending is a credible, sad, squalid sendup. An impressive debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles