Afterlife by Sean O'Brien (Picador)

by Patrick O'Connor

 

THE organisers of a poetry festival in the fictious town of Divott near the Welsh border want to reintern the body of celebrated poet Jane Jarmain, a move that forces her one-time friend Martin Stone to look back on events in a sultry summer in the 70s.

Stone was obsessed by poet Thomas Exton and back in the 70s felt that his own troubled, drug-fuelled lifestyle shared parallels with the 17th century scribe.

Most of the book revolves around Stone's memories of a fateful period when Stone, his girlfriend Susie, Jane and her boyfriend Alex meet up with a couple of American girls and later a pair of German revolutionaries.

A lazy, hazy, summer hots up as jealousies, sexual attraction and poetic ambition come to the boil.

Add to this melting pot of personalities, an acid-soaked party, invaded by a gang of Hell's Angels and local youths and you end up with a powerful, explosive concoction which has dramatic repercussions for all involved.

The author is also a prize-winner poet and he conjures up some vivid imagery. Tension and menace tumble out across the pages as we speed towards a final climax.