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Marked Men, dark lives

Tue 14 Aug 2007 In: Books View at Wayback View at NDHA

Marked Men, by David Lyndon Brown Titus Books It was perhaps appropriate that this book came our way through the good graces of one of inner-city Auckland's more over the top creatures of the night, Miss K. By her own admission Miss K has seen a hell of a lot of the dark side of downtown, big city city life and Marked Men is definitely about the characters one sees regularly still lurking in the Karangahape Road area after 'social hours' (or Manchester or Cuba Streets at a pinch). Rich with dark, distressing and compelling characters who haunt clapped-out villas, 24 hour bars, trendy dives and shadowy back alleys, this is a tale of damaged people who create their own realities, sometimes supportive, often corrosive. It's almost a nasty twin sister to the sainted Tales of the City. Told in the first person, it's the tale of one man's obsession with the compellingly attractive Sykes, a product of a broken life, drugs and addiction to the darker forces of humanity. Even as Sykes is by degrees reduced physically and mentally to a hollow shell by those he is drawn to, Marked Man's nameless narrator remains transfixed. Through meeting Sykes he is drawn down into a world where drugs and sex are the currency of exchange and where dignity is easily traded. Every prominent character struggles with addiction. The aging queen is obsessed with her glamourous past and her decaying present. The barman's tattoos, the cop's drinking, the hippies' dak, the twins' sadism, all are symptoms of a search for identities and pleasures which can only lead to self-destruction. For some the downward spiral will be lightning fast. The others are starting a gradual but relentless slide. Few will emerge unscathed. Underpinning what would otherwise be a bleak story of any city's underbelly is a plaintive longing, a reaching out for something just beyond reach, constantly beyond grasp. The essence of addiction. But it's not all grimness and dispair. Sex and intimacy pervade this all too short story, sometimes brutal and nasty, sometimes tender and warm. In this, his first novel, Kiwi author David Lyndon Brown writes with deep insight into the people and cultures of the night. He clearly has some personal experience to draw on, and it wouldn't be surprising if there are people out there who will recognise themselves in this book, either as 'types' or as specific and thinly-disguised characters. Marked Men has that autobiographical feel to it. In summary this is a book that could have been, should have been, half as long again, it's so packed full of richly drawn characters and finely observed situations. The plot line surges along compulsively, the twists and turns are imaginative and it's a damn good read. Jay Bennie - 14th August 2007    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Tuesday, 14th August 2007 - 10:31pm

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