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Memoirs of a Master Forger
William Heaney
Gollancz, 280 pages

Memoirs of a Master Forger
William Heaney
William Heaney aka Graham Joyce was born in 1954 in Coventry, England. He attended Bishop Lonsdale College (B.Ed. with honours), graduating in 1977, and the University of Leicester for an M.A. in 1980. He worked for the National Association of Youth Clubs in Leicester as a youth officer until 1988. The same year, he married Suzanne Johnson, a lawyer.

Graham Joyce Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: TWOC
SF Site Review: The Limits of Enchantment
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: Smoking Poppy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Tammy Moore

Memoirs of a Master Forger -- William Heaney, main character and putative author of the novel, is a pen-name for Graham Joyce -- is an elegant, brilliantly written novel that spins the plates of three, possibly four, different threads with the élan of a seasoned circus performer. A compelling narrative and unique voice makes the book almost impossible to put down -- despite my own somewhat ambiguous feelings towards the main character.

William Heaney is a government bureaucrat who deals with Youth funding, a reclusive philanthropist, a drunkard and a demonologist of sorts. The "of sorts" is important. If you are looking for a straightforward fantasy or horror, this novel isn't for you. Although Heaney's ability to see demons -- to see them everywhere, in everyone, except when he doesn't want to -- is essential to the novel's narrative, it is also ultimately a non-factor. Does he see demons or is he just a little cracked inside where no where can see? Does it matter? Not really. Decide for yourself when you read the novel.

Twenty years ago something happened to William Heaney and he was possessed by a demon. Or was it? As I mention above, there is an essentially ambiguous element to Heaney's demonology and I would certainly class him as an unreliable narrator. Since then he has been haunted by the ability to see and identify demons -- of lust and love and addiction and collection and cynicism -- in others. This ability helps him avoid becoming host to any demons himself, and conveniently his own addictions -- the lies he crafts, his compulsive contributions to the GoPoint charity, his alcoholism -- are not infested by demons.

And where does a government bureaucrat get the money to almost single-handedly support a drop-in centre? With the help of two friends -- the tormented, addicted romantic Stinx who creates the work and the bisexual Asian model Jaz who finds the buyers -- he creates forged first editions of classics. During the time span of the book, Heaney is attempting to sell a copy of a Jane Austen first edition, a task complicated by the fact his artist is on a bender in grief at his girlfriend's desertion and one of the buyers has just gotten himself killed by demons. With his need to support GoPoint driving him brutally into debt and a mysterious Yasmin making him vulnerable to the demons of love even William's mind is not entirely on the job at hand.

The disordering of his neatly ordered world -- even his demons are grouped and classed and numbered -- dredges up bad, old memories of William's time at University. It was then he'd first become aware that demons were real and made his limiting peace with them.

In all honesty I did not care much for William as a character -- finding in the glimpses of Stinx, Otto, the beatific Antonia -- irresistibly reminiscent of Amanda in Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins -- and Seamus Todd far more engaging creations -- yet I admit that his voice was an effective vehicle for the story.

It wasn't entirely the book I was suspecting -- I have a fondness for demons and criminal endeavours requiring more craft than violence -- but I still found myself caught up in the slowly revealing story. It's certainly worth the praise it has garnered and William Heaney -- in whatever fold of Graham Joyce's brain he hides -- should be proud of it.

Copyright © 2008 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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