The Scholar's Tale (2014)
The intimate diary of Roy Musgrave’s amorous exploits in three continents
'Man at his best is a lover - not of women, but of beauty, the idea of perfection.' Thus Roy Musgrave, textual critic and maverick writer. But Roy’s philosophy is put to the test when he is pestered by phone calls from an unknown woman. The distressed caller emerges as Nadia Benbouzid, a Tunisian student once his mistress. On impulse he shuns his New York conference and takes flight to North Africa leaving wife and job. But winter in Tunisia is far from the paradise he has envisaged, though Nadia, feckless as ever, still beguiles him; moreover she needs him desperately and ‘would die for him.’ Returning home and now estranged from his wife, Roy takes consolation in the arms of Rose, his sister-in-law whom he invites to New York where he is researching. But can Roy accept a settled life with the woman who loves him or will he be seduced by the eidolon of Nadia?
‘A very distinctive and enjoyable work. It is a pleasure to read writing of such high quality.’
‘A compelling portrait of a not-very-likeable man striving to live the life of the mind while obsessing over his baser impulses.’
-- Kirkus Reviews
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Charles Dickens and the Night Visitors (2011)
This fictional account of the Dickens family's 1844-5 stay in Italy is recounted through the eyes of Dickens's children and others including his wife Catherine and her sister Georgina.
In December 1844 Charles Dickens, on holiday in Italy with his wife and family, undertakes to give treatment to Augusta de la Rue, the wife of his friend Emile. Already an amateur practitioner in the new science of hypnosis, Dickens essays to evict the spectres that nightly haunt Madame de la Rue's bedchamber. The consequences of these ministrations are dire, for in banishing Augusta's phantoms Dickens arouses his wife's fury and unleashes demons of his own.
'An accomplished novel and an engaging read - simultaneously gentle and eeerily atmospheric.'
-- Fiction Feedback
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The Confessions of Becky Sharp (2011)
Lady Crawley (aka Becky Sharp) disdaining to be 'the rung on which that creeping hypocrite' Thackeray climbs the literary ladder, reveals the true story of her life, from her birth in Versailles during the Revolution to her incarceration in a convent in rural France. She tells of her life as governess to the daughters of Sir Pitt Crawley, her marriage and separation from his son Rawdon, her love affair with Lord Steyne, her travels in Europe and her subsequent fall from grace. Now gouty and ageing, a disinherited social pariah, she is reduced to selling her story to keep the wolf from the door.
'A most impressive performance, a well-nigh perfectly pitched and inflected stylistic pastiche'
- Robert Lambolle, Reading and Writing
- 'An extremely well-written pastiche, true to the form, structure and syntax of Thackeray's writing'
- Jocelyn Ferguson, , The Literary Consultancy
'A terrific read '
Linda Proud, The Writers' Workshop
The Historical Novels Association reviews The Confessions of Becky Sharp, February 2015:
Fans of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair and its unforgettable anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, will delight in David James’s smart, intensely readable, funny, and surprisingly moving take on that classic novel’s plot. In the pages of James’s novel, Becky Sharp (the semi-tragic Lady Crawley) jumps to center stage and tells her own story, culminating in her marriage to Rawdon Crawley, her disastrous affair with Lord Steyne, and her own take on the decidedly scandalous characterization Thackeray gives her throughout his book.
James fills the whole narrative with great pathos, glints of humor, and some very perceptive echoes and warpings of his famous template, all the while imbuing Becky herself with all the caustic intelligence Thackeray gave her, but a good deal more humanity. Without doing excessive violence to the continuity of Vanity Fair, he manages to give his unforgettable heroine the one thing Thackeray pointedly denied her: a kind of triumph. Readers who are familiar with Vanity Fair will love this book, but even readers who are not will find it an intelligent and fast-paced story. As a literary pastiche, it could hardly be bettered.
Punching Judy (2007)
Punching Judy, is the story of a girl boxer, a juvenile delinquent who lands some pretty hefty punches on anyone who gets in her way in 1950's London.
The cover design is by Ligaya James, the author's daughter.
From The Bookbag review:
London, the 1950s, and life on the streets is not brilliant. Judy, fresh out of a Borstal-type remand centre for juveniles, has all the grit, determination and muscle to become a female boxer, but is going to find that winning, inside or outside the ring, is not that easy. Elsewhere is the man known to all and sundry as Ape, the man running her training gym. He has a history with Judy that is far from over.
You might already be predicting the story arc of this book, but you'll probably be wrong. If this were to have the standard plot-line – Judy starts small, gets better, gets bigger, then has a downfall – I doubt if I would have bothered finishing it. There is a slight progression in the absurdity of the offers given Judy, but instead the book is a lot more concentrated on character, and certainly never gives any of those an easy ride, or a predictable storyline.
This is not a book that goes out of its way in forcing historical research down our throats, or tries too hard to replicate the underworld of London. What we do get is a very interesting, superior look at characters struggling through the dark surface of their lives, an embittered older man and a punchy young tomboy both being forced to take knocks – both literal and metaphorical – on their road to somewhere.
I liked this look into what, for Americans, is an unusual milieu - London in the 1950s and the world of female professional boxing. Wow. The character of "Slugger" Smith is unique to say the least. One does not often encounter her like in fiction. She is a hard-punching down and out woman who came up the rough side of the mountain, a professional boxer and former "juvenile delinquent," as they were called then. The book provides a close-up look into 20th century Britain, complete with authentic patois and colorful speech. I liked the way the author does dialogue: very lively, very real, very skillfully [sic] done.
From Writer's Digest 16th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards Commentary Sheet.
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The road between Morocco and Paris takes many twists for Roy Musgrave, a professor of English, and his Muslim student Nadia. This is a road novel, a story of culture-clashed romance between two disparate lovers desperate to escape the past.
'A novel of real quality and substance, at once intriguing, funny and, finally, very moving. The central situation is unusually absorbing and, I find, more and more involving as it goes on. The last few pages are very finely judged indeed.'
-- Robert Lambolle, Reading and Writing
Eight American Stories (1977)
The cover design (left) is based on a nineteenth-century engraving showing the USA flag. The flag portrayed was designed in 1896 with 45 stars when Utah became the forty-fifth state
This edition was published in 1977 in the Longman Imprint series, designed for use in schools and colleges with my editorial appendices, and accompanied by a series of photographs introducing The American Scene to British students.