To Hell and Back

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Do you know the novels of Dan Rhodes? I ask because his books would appeal, I believe, to many readers. But he avoids journalism, does not belong to any literary groups or contemporary schools of writing and is very much an individual novelist. He neither pursues fame nor patronizes his readers. What he believes is what you get: sensitivity, humour, sadness and devastating shock. Sometimes I have been so saddened, so shocked, that I have stopped reading and put the book aside. But before long I am compelled to pick it up again and read on. And what I have read has found a place in my imagination.

I have never met Dan Rhodes, but I have followed the outlines of his career. He was born in 1972, spent his early years in Kent and Devon and attended the Polytechnic of Wales (now the University of Glamorgan) where he took a creative writing course led by Helen Dunmore. Later he went on the Master’s course there. His personal tutor was Sheenagh Pugh (who is acknowledged in his first novel). What she and others did was to edit what he wrote and, although he took ‘an unpleasantly gladiatorial approach to the classes’, he acknowledges that as a result he learnt how to write succinctly and clearly – though not how to get published.

The next chapter in his career was teaching publishers how and why they should publish him. His first book contained 101 stories each of exactly 101 words. It had the title Anthropology: And a Hundred Other Stories and was turned down by several publishers before being brought out in 2000. This was followed by a second collection of comic and unsettling stories of sex and romance, Don’t Tell Me the Truth about Love (2001), which he had written at university. There were, he later explained, four main reasons for writing his early books: to impress pretty girls; to make fun of his own romantic vicissitudes; to earn some money; and to entertain people.

His first novel Timoleon Vieta Come

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About the contributor

Having written about actors and dramatists, Michael Holroyd is rumoured to be writing a play.

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