Satan, in the form of a bewildered and naked Old Man, arrives in Brighton one dark and snowy December morning. That night a gull kills itself trying to get at Lucy Cuthman, a charity worker in her early 30s, through her bedroom window. A thick fog descends over the city – and lingers. The Old Man is twice attacked on the streets, before finding the squat where Geoffrey Cantor, our cultured and Byron-quoting narrator, lives.
The Old Man discovers he has a mesmeric singing voice, and starts to busk around Brighton. He attracts the attention of Lucy, who is so diabolically enchanted that she can only see him as a beautiful young boy in need of help. In this guise, the Old Man visits her at work one evening – and promptly disappears. Hopelessly beguiled, Lucy searches everywhere for him. Meanwhile, mysterious bundles of money start turning up at her charity…
A satisfying and mystifying tale told by Christopher Chase Walker, ‘The Visitor’ is especially intriguing for those who live and love in Brighton. The Old Man roams the streets, bringing chaos and negativity in his wake, although he does enchant the crowds with his singing, having stolen some clothes to wear from a dead body in St Nicholas churchyard.
Walker compassionately sketches the bleak world in which charity volunteers struggle to help the hungry, the poor, and the homeless against the background of the traditional annual event, the Burning of the Clocks, organised by Same Sky, a community arts organisation. People are encouraged to design and build paper and/or cardboard ‘boats’ representing Time. A procession of all participants walk through the town to the seafront where the entries are set alight and afloat on the sea. Started in 1994, it attracts many participants and observers. In this book it is claimed that 20,000 turn up. All to alleviate the dull and spirit-draining winters of the poor. Walker has an exciting facility with words. “Warmth is a voluptuous Yes” and the movement of the icy fog, the Har, swirls and “then scatters as though it was suddenly summoned elsewhere.”
A thoroughly good read.
Christopher Walker, pictured, was born in Maryland and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Since graduating from the College of Wooster, he has lived in Chicago, London and, currently, in Brighton. His first novel, ‘Now You Know’ was published in 2012 and his new book ‘The Visitor’ was published in November 2016. Available in paperback and electronic versions in the UK and US, via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Waterstone’s, WH Smith, City Books and several other retailers. SAV