Fantastic lineup headlining Howard Marks planned for an Academi Life Writing day in May. A way off (Saturday 14 May) and tucked away down in Blaenavon Workmen’s Hall, but definitely worth travelling to and booking right now. Howard Marks always brings to my mind Super Furry’s Fuzzy Logic (nice) and a weary niggle (not) as to why a convicted bigtime drug dealer should be hailed as Wales’ prodigal son, especially in the literary world. Not even Rhys Ifans’ deep involvement with Project Mr Nice makes me interested.
So why does the name of Caspar Walsh, alongside Marks’ in the programme , appeal? Walsh and Marks have been appearing as a double act in literature festivals this spring to promote Walsh’s first novel, Blood Road (Headline). An insider’s insider to the world of crime, whose father was a petty criminal apparently so charismatic and loving that young Walsh couldn’t fail to join the family firm, this author interests me for his insight into traits of father-son dysfunction leading to addiction, and for his ongoing commitment to the personal development of prisoners and their families. His memoir, Criminal, was published to international acclaim. Drawing on his boyhood, his time inside and his work with offenders, Walsh turns True Crime into crime thriller in Blood Road, reviewed in the Belfast Telegraph thus, “Walsh undoubtedly draws on his own experience to make [protagonist] Nick simultaneously irresistible and repugnant. The balance is perfectly struck and gives the novel a core strength. But he also brings in much else – the fruit, plausibly, of his more recent work running writing courses in prisons where he comes into contact with those who have ended up inside as one of the logical outcomes of chaotic childhoods.”
Maybe then, what I steer away from in Howard Marks is an impression of unreformable hedonism, whereas Walsh’s work suggests reflection, reform and atonement: proper Welsh values!