Off Narragansett

Karl Miller

  • Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn by Paul Watkins
    Century Hutchinson, 269 pp, £12.95, August 1989, ISBN 0 09 173914 4
  • Blood and Water by Patrick McGrath
    Penguin Originals, 183 pp, £4.99, February 1989, ISBN 0 14 011005 4
  • The Grotesque by Patrick McGrath
    Viking, 186 pp, £11.95, October 1989, ISBN 0 670 82987 0

Paul Watkins’s novel and Patrick McGrath’s The Grotesque are second books by young British writers whose work has been well-received in America, to which, together with its surrounding seas, both of these writers have been drawn. Paul Watkins used, they say, to set off from Eton for spells on an oil rig, and after graduating from Yale he fished for three years off the New England coast, where this novel of his is located. Patrick McGrath’s father was a medical superintendent at Broadmoor Hospital: he grew up nearby, and went on to write about criminal lunatics, and to spend a number of years on an island in the Pacific Ocean. The reader of their books is unlikely to forget these facts, but is also unlikely to forget that the adventurer and the recluse can be intent on marketing their words. All three of these entertaining books exhibit a professional writer, and the two McGraths could be called entertainments.

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[*] The stories quoted from are among those chosen by Thomas Godfrey for his anthology Country House Murders (Michael O’Mara, 339 pp., £12.95, 21 September, 0 948397 59 4).