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Sunday 9 December 2018

‘Deli Meat’ by Tom Halford

Published by Crooked Cat Books,
24 July 2018.

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.

Ostensibly 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.

We 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.

The 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.

Tom 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 Campbell has 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.

1 comment:

  1. This is Tom, the author of Deli Meat. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read and review Deli Meat. I really appreciate it. Cyril Trout is my internet name.