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Memoirs Of A Master Forger by William Heaney

01/05/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy Memoirs Of A Master Forger in the USA - or Buy Memoirs Of A Master Forger in the UK

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pub: Gollancz. 337 page hardback. Price: 9.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08297-7.

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Authors use pseudonyms for their books for many reasons. Sometimes they are writing in a different genre and don't want to mislead the reader into buying something they really will not enjoy. This is an honest reason. Sometimes it is the publisher's idea because although they have faith in a writer, the books are not selling particularly well and a new start is desirable.

Or it might be a house name: R.L. Stine is now many people. In the past, authors such as Lionel Fanthorpe were too prolific and books were published under a host of pseudonyms in order not to overload the market. Graham Joyce used a pseudonym for this book just because he could and it seemed like a good idea at the time. The true identity of the author was never a secret - the information was posted, by Joyce, on the Internet at the time of publication. The whole point about this particular book is that it is a fake from start to finish. It is a small hardcover with no dust jacket.

It has been designed to resemble an old, scuffed leather book (from a distance - you won't be fooled the moment you hold it in your hand). The first person narrator is William Heaney. He has specialised in making fakes from his college days. Now he and two friends make a good living at it. The current project is the three volume first edition of Jane Austin's 'Pride And Prejudice'. They have two possible purchasers, each willing to pay large sums of money for it. The problem is that when Stinx, the member of the team who does most of the work, get dumped by his partner, he goes off the rails.

Heaney has another problem. He can see demons. They are all around but are invisible to most people. There are one thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven known demons. Alcohol is not one of them, though a demon may tell you to have another drink and another and another. Most people are infested with at least one demon, some with many.

Part of the novel relates how Heaney first came to be able to identify demons. The memory is triggered by an invitation to a book launch from the man who used to be a student in the same hall of residence. More of the novel relates to Heaney's problems in the present. He is having family problems.

His wife moved out to live with a celebrity chef but still expects him to pay all the expenses for the children. The money raised from the sale of the fakes goes to GoPoint, a charity that helps the homeless. Antonia, who runs the centre, needs money desperately to pay the rent for the premises. As the sale has been delayed, he puts his own money, which he can ill afford into GoPoint's account.

The third member of the team is Jaz. He is a photographic model, bi-sexual and a Sikh, so when Heaney writes a few poems, they pass Jaz off as the poet, especially as he has the stage-presence to perform them. He is very successful.

From the binding to the by-line, this is a convincing fake. The three central characters are frauds. Their activities revolve around the fraudulent. The book is fiction from start to finish. Fiction by its very nature is fake. Antonia and the work she does is the vein of truth that runs through the novel and the lives of the characters. She is the real world imposing itself on the fakery. On one level, Graham Joyce is telling an excellent story about the way that demons haunt us. He is also pointing out the ways in which all our lives are entwined with fakery of some kind. Nothing that Joyce writes is without a subversive sub-text. This is no exception.

Pauline Morgan

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