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Published by Crooked Cat Books, 24 July 2018. ISBN-13: 978-1-72420340-3.
The skimpy blurb about Tom Halford—Deli Meat is his debut novel—doesn’t
mention that his favourite television programme is Twin Peaks, although I’m willing to bet it is. David Lynch’s sense
of the bizarre pervades this book like an old London pea-souper. Saint John in
the Canadian province of New Brunswick may be a real place, despite its Reversing
Falls, but the author imbues it with an off-kilter opaqueness that makes it
seem as far-off as Narnia. Likewise, the seemingly dull Plattsburgh on the
shores of Lake Champlain, home to the Nessie-like ‘Champy’ and a place where
some Very Strange Things happen.
this is the story of the bilingual, possibly bisexual, Effie (certainly gender
fluid: as a child she sported a haircut like James Garner) who begins the book
busily searching for her lost husband Gilbert. A white-collar hippy, he was
last seen heading to Montreal for his brother’s bachelor party. She reads the
Bible for the violent bits, says “effing” a lot, appropriately, and doesn’t
trust the police. She also enjoys watching a TV series called Cozy Village in which Ms Coriander, an
elderly sleuth, murders one person and frames their friend for it. In every
episode. This may (or may not) have some bearing on the plot, which could
reasonably be described as picaresque.
also have the mixed-up waiter Conrad, his bald brother Todd who waxes lyrical
about artisanal meat every chance he gets, the infuriatingly polite detective
Dick Buck, and the coquettish Wanda Tugger, a name to conjure with.
driving force of the story is the unexplained abductions of various innocent
people from parking lots over a period of several years, often in broad
daylight. This might, or might not, be linked with the rise of a fairly secret
organisation called the Pure White Hand. What’s certain is that Effie’s search
for her husband takes an unexpected turn and it’s very hard to predict what
might happen next.
Halford has created his very own twisted alternative universe where nothing is
quite as it should be. I’ve heard people call this an ‘anti-crime’ story,
whatever that is, but at any rate this is funny and readable and only
occasionally too self-consciously strange for its own good. Getting to the
resolution is a bit like a queasy drunk reeling for the exit: you’ll get there
eventually, but you might not be sure how.
Reviewer: Mark Campbell
Tom Halford is
a writer, and teacher. One of Tom’s favourite things in the world is a
delicious sandwich. This might sound crazy, but the inspiration behind Deli Meat is Tom’s love of the sub, the
hero, the hoagie, the grinder, the classic lunch time meal, the sandwich. Tom
lives in Newfoundland with his wife and two children.
Mark Campbellhas written pocket guides to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha
Christie, Carry On Films and Doctor Who, and was theatre critic for the Kentish
Times. He currently works in The Stamp Centre in London and lives on a very
noisy road in Greenwich. He has directed and appeared in many amateur
theatre productions and enjoys collecting British humour comics from the 1970s.
His favourite film is 2001: A Space Odyssey and his
favourite book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.