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Midnight in the garden of England All the Devils Are Here David Seabrook 178pp Granta Near the end of this unlikely-sounding investigation into the mysteries and supposed menace of northeast Kent there is a long interview with an elderly bohemian called Gordon Meadows The author spends a darkening winter afternoon in Meadowss cottage in Deal drinking tea and listening to stories As the overheated room fills with anecdotes about local characters allegedly unsolved murders and stolen bits of statues Seabrook tries to catch every wisp of usable material I sit up and shift forward he writes as Meadows begins a particularly tantalising digression This is what Ive come to hear As if infected by my excitement Gordon jumps up and walks past me looking for something He returns with a remote control which he aims at the video recorder Countdown he explains Modern small-town England and especially its suburban southeast is a place that seems firmly resistant to quests for dark secrets Its car parks its roundabouts its high streets lined with identical chain stores - any visiting writer with romantic ideas about probing this landscape would surely not persist for too many drizzly afternoons Yet recently as London has become an over-familiar subject for non-fiction explorations thanks to the success of Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd so this hybrid genre - part travelogue part history part gothic speculation - has turned its attentions outward from the capital WG Sebald has written about Suffolk Philip Hoare has written about Southampton Sinclair himself is finishing a book about the M25 Now Seabrook has crept round the blustery coast of Kent from Rochester to Broadstairs via Margate with his notebook What he finds fills the pages much better than you might imagine Seabrook lives in the county from the autobiographical glimpses he provides he seems to have done so all his life However his book is only fleetingly interested in modern Kent that bruised thumb of land
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