23 thoughts on “DreadnOught FleX – DaVid Mathew

  1. BOOK ONE
    Pressure Points

    I. CRISIS WORK

    “Wish me luck.”

    I’ll need it, but I lap up entering a Mathew world again, with one tantaliser about Bible Street Cars, and more pub names to drink myself to Hell for. I love genealogy as the first crumb in this gingerbread trail, Rene Haabjoern as narrator (cf René (re-born) also as destiny-spinning narrator in Salman Rushdie’s latest, Golden House, a style not completely dissimilar to Mathew’s; I finished reviewing it in the last week or so, and that comparison giving BOTH authors a huge compliment) — and the preternatural audit trail (cf audit trails in Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing generally) to West London to seek the eponymous ‘hero’, the latter’s efficiently just-in-time fixer-ruthlessness in tracking down, too, to Heathrow, finger cigar-cutting in departure Lounge, fingers later turning up in pork scratchings, and giving or receiving advice about finding a Persian Rug (answer: in a carpet shop!). And on this veering timeline, these mapped blood-vessels and ridged veins of genealogical happenstance, the chance meeting with sidekick-type Gary Brooker, whose namesake sang the song to which my wife and I danced when we first met in 1967: Whiter Shade of Pale. In short, this is Mathew in hyperdrive. Glad to be back. Beyond the Lunge.

  2. “The room was humming harder
    as the ceiling flew away”

    II. THE CROCK OF GOLD

    “In Dreadnought’s world, I had already come to learn, things often occurred at dawn, in the drizzle.”

    Rene gets absorbed into this book’s characters and its protection racket, as you will, too, if you dare pick it up. Training eggs, pale dawns, cock rings, counterintuitive nicknames (does Fat Gina wear this book’s dress?), pub names galore, and swearing without moving your lips. And “the stench of a foregone conclusion.” Now too late for me to escape reading this.

  3. III. THE HEART FORECAST

    “I’m in a waiting room again.”

    A waiting game, plus broadbrushes with sharp focus, a real da Vinci that probably needs framing, a Beef Encounter, a Salami Scimitar, Rene’s backstory memory of Aunt Else and Hektor in a double Long Pig lunge and parry of frenetic sex, a Tribute group suing its source band for altering their line-up…and Dreadnought’s worst case scenario of punishment for those who dare cross him. I dare not do otherwise than not cross him, I guess. Fiction’s friction between flesh and frenzy is the ultimate cheese-grater. Must distract Dreadnought’s namesake book with a juicy fillip to tenderise instead of me.

    “A workman was fiddling about with a problem on the hinges.”

  4. From Tribute to…

    IV. TRITE

    “I woke up with the room spinning madly about me.”

    I think I have myself split my tits on this book’s Bone, by reading this often SF chapter with AI bouncers and “prophylactic software” in night clubs. Decapitations less culpable than Deceptions. And dreams that may not be dreams but just different versions of self. One dream of Flex as an old-fashioned highwayman. There is at least some sense I see: Brooker is indeed pale, even albino. Picnics with a girl called Goose, but I don’t care about letting Goose down. And Flex and his family backstory. All making more sense, in hindsight. Indeed, as I have been writing this entry, actually WHILE I thus review it by fingering my iPad’s keyboard, the chapter gets better and better, saner and saner in my mind. Less of a Trite of Passage. A drug called Bone that works with delayed action? Following schoolgirls in the street who thankfully grow older the closer you come?

    “For some, dead means dead — and you have to live with it.”

  5. V. SPINE DRAFTS

    “Mickey had the impression that he was being ushered out on a flying carpet of one of the fatman’s sighs. / Brooker realised that he’d been chosen to sit overnight guard in the front of the van for reasons other than his status as a rookie.”

    Lightweight Brooker, in contrast not to the flying carpet or the ceiling flying away or the room spinning, but to fat FAT. This is a rumbusted blend of an early Carry On and an arthouse film like BLOW OUT. With another ruthless protection racket headed by Dreadnought, who, for me, is a sort of Heath Robinson submarine as bent shark under “Maggotville”. Here, now, two enormously fat Japanese men are featured, one trapped in a van and force fed. Scatological plot that distends with every word. A wrestling match of such fatmen.
    Procol Harum’s Tale of the Miller with fat arse outta the window…beyond the pale. Chaucer as chancer?

  6. VI. THE INSPISSATION

    “Eventually we found a space — sharking in on a motorbike that was pulling away, its rider a cube of black leathers and an obsidian visor.”

    Chapter title and such space finding the Null Immortal who is DreadNOUGHT, I say…as we are reminded of Rene’s genealogically audited lines of least resistance in coming from Denmark for Dreadnought… with whom he is collaborating on a cookbook as well as protection work, a cookbook to be entitled flexibly, shall we say. Mazza, Dreadnought’s woman, is a bit of a tangled maze herself, not sure which bra is which, which section of this chapter is numbered correctly and which paragraphs have been switched, in this maze, for other underwhere. Better get their act in order before they do the cookbook. A mock suicide mission of kamikaze proofing!

  7. BOOK TWO:
    Inspections of the Wounded

    I. MAGGOTVILLE

    (i)
    “: did even Gary Brooker know the story?”

    I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
    I’d like to leave an after glow of smiles when life is done.
    I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
    Of happy times and laughing times
    And bright and sunny days.
    I’d like the tears of those who grieve,
    To dry before the sun
    Of happy memories that I leave
    When life is done
    (Unknown Author)

    “; the watery clicks, dripping taps, submarine pulses,…”

    “Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?”
    The Epigraph to TS Eliot’s MARINA poem.

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  8. ii – ix

    “I had shaved my face to the bone (not literally).”

    Which face above is bone? More protection jobs, delivering a monkey across town in an hour, and later tailing protection-cheater Stroker (one of whose fingers he can’t stroke with because of the earlier cigar-cutter?) to Melbourne! Another funeral – SPOILER – Mazza of the soft bra. I suspect Rene of betraying omniscience in his narration, vis a vis who killed Mazza or whether it was murder at all, and who had sex with her, or with 14 year old Monelle. And suspect him, too, of disrespecting Dreadnought’s omnipotence. And of still making (i), (ii), (iii) etc. into a Joycean stream of consciousness order, if not now caused by kamikaze proofing. In fact, I now take that accusation back. IT IS MEANT TO BE LIKE THIS. And most of me loves it. Most of the time.

    “He’s on the throne? I want a report on how many splashes.”

  9. II. THE LAUGHTER OF CROCODILES

    “: an amalgam of earlier and well-used, parts: Gary Brooker. Gary Brooker…”

    I sniffed SF earlier, didn’t I, and even Dreadnought himself now begins to sniff SF writer in Rene. Co-narrative magic-realist with the René (re-born) in the Golden House, too? Here, veering timestreams, allowing Stroker a stroke of luck between airports on the way to Melbourne. And pure fiction, if not SF as such, the only excuse Brooker has now to be moonlighting at Bible Street Cars or slapping around pre-teenage girls. This is stuff that allows you to read it with impunity. A Tribute Book as mock-up for the real book. Or vice versa? Makes more sense that way round. Whatever the case, the cocksure style is straight between the reading eyes. A Man Booker not a Gary Brooker. Troggs’ Wild Thing, not Procol’s Whiter Shade, after all. No sign of the frame, though.

  10. III. INVISIBLE PILLS

    “Des Lewis told me all about it, Dreadnought.”

    More vice versa, I’d say. This stomach-turning chapter is about our apparent need for a full English. Breakfast, that is, not Brexit! And that cigar-cutter again! Rene blurts it all out. A lot comes clearer, and I sort of feel sorry for Brooker. And the Bentley is a real hoot! Literature that truly hurts, through laughter and pain, by turns. And sharp-edged words as things, whatever their semantics in strung-together syntax.

  11. IV. COOKING THE ANATOMY

    “Des? I’m trying to tie up a couple of loose ends.”

    Well, like Gary Brooker, Alan Price was a famous 1960s singer, whom I actually saw perform live at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe, one of his biggest hits being ‘Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear’.
    Meanwhile, a lot pans out in the chapter, about under-age Monelle, Gary again, and Rene’s meeting with the cigar-cutter, even with his neighbours like Alan Price, and a burglary … A lot to chew over. I am consuming this book at a pace, (a) to escape its clutches and (b) because I am compelled to do so, this being a page-turner of a book where the pages are each a real-time protection racketeer even worse than their collective force as the eponymous gestalt. Perhaps (a) and (b) are connected?

    “; Des had given himself one up the knot.”

  12. V. BONE

    “‘Yuck.’ Grits and couscous and semolina and tapioca: yuck. Otter puke.”

    Cf earlier in the 1st description of Des Lewis: “The suit made him look like an upper-class otter.” And the “oxters” that the narrator now wears in possibly the most rapturous scene (seriously) in all hard-hitting hyper-imaginative literature, while cuddling Dreadnought amid flowers, towards the end of this chapter and thus of this book, after being through realms of freezing cryology and timestreaming and Bone; “The Bone went straight to my bones.”
    Like your question at the very end: “Did you set me up?” Course I did. Framing is my thing. And I cold-shouldered you by not even bothering to mention your name!
    When fully Boned, this book’s a Beef Encounter, its own collaborative Crookbook. While, at the end, it feels as if it is becoming dressed as a beautiful work of literature, by first wearing its soft bra.

    “It sounds like the lyric of a love song.”

    end

    • “Literature that truly hurts, through laughter and pain, by turns.”

      I cannot ask for more than that, Des. Perfect.

  13. PS The front cover art is attributed to Steven Stapleton (1982).
    A great picture.
    Arguably, part of it looks like trying on a ghost of the dress for which this book was originally switched as a mistake by Amazon!

    • The artwork comes from the inside of a CD called HOMOTOPY TO MARIE by Nurse With Wound, created by Steven Stapleton and used with his permission. Steven Stapleton is the creative genius behind Nurse With Wound (musical soundscapes and images that veer from the whimsical to the terrifying, sometimes within a minute of one another). I bought the CD in either 1991 or 1992 and fell in love with that image. When I started to write the first draft of DREADNOUGHT FLEX in 2004, I wrote it with the image very much in mind.

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