A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Peter Kennedy’s novel Fishermen’s Tales is a linked collection of stories about plague in the north-east of England, a gated fishing town which turns away starving people on the beach because they use the wrong dialect to ask for shelter. It’s a grim scenario in a pre-modern age. The historical moment is never quite pinned down, and we’re left unsure if this is a town or fishing village that did exist, or still does. Modern words seep into the narrative to make the reader uncertain: is this an apocalyptic tale of the pandemic future, or a historical novel with intriguing vagueness instead of relentlessly correct period detail? Let’s just settle for calling this a Gothic and horror-laden story of dark times in the grim north, where a town is run by opportunistic evil with lies, intimidation, bullying and the carefully-timed smuggling of strong drink. It’s also a marvellous story of a fishing community which knits jerseys to family patterns, where the streets and alleys have histories, and everyone is connected to everyone else. Supernatural things happen alongside the dirty physical mess of social disintegration, making the stories’ myth of redemption very much needed, even if it doesn’t end quite as the reader hopes it will.
The writing is superb. I was powerfully put off by the appearance of the novel, in a blank black cover from a cheap print-on-demand press, but once I started reading I was hooked and could not stop. The stories are framed by an audaciously persuasive preface from a fictional historical society telling how the manuscripts were discovered. The stories are full of wow moments: in the plot twists, in the language, in the twists of phrasing. Peter Kennedy can really write, and spent seven years getting these stories right. He’s a storyteller by trade, and taught himself accordion for promenade storytelling with the literary / musical collective The Dark Arts Circus, currently working in London. This book badly needs a proper publisher, and we need more stories from Peter Kennedy.
Peter Kennedy, Fishermen’s Tales (J Publishing, 2014), ISBN 978 1 907989 07 0. Contact us at Vulpes for his email address.