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Down the panThe Man Who WalksAlan WarnerJonathan Cape 1099 pp279In a four-novel career Alan Warner has created two highly successful and distinct voices more than many talented novelists manage in a lifetime It is a testament to his energy and range that he has ditched each of these - the glassy deadpan of Morvern Callar and the hooched-up babble of The Sopranos - to start againThe Man Who Walks inhabits the same constituency as its predecessors the West Highlands orbiting the coastal town of Oban The Port The dialogue is instantly recognisable as are many of the recurring topics poverty getting mortal on booze and drugs pishing shiteing boaking extreme sexual behaviours bodily harm But the voice is new The Nephew was lain silent up atop the paper sacks of pony nuts near the roof of the agric supply warehouse dreaming about ghost bags when his mobile diddled Rule Britannia Britannia rules the WavesIn this way the Nephew aka the Macushla learns that his insane uncle aka The Man Who Walks has disappeared again with 27000 stolen from a pub in The Port a trail of barbecued budgerigars and bewildered landlords behind him a series of soon-to-be-desecrated Bonnie Scotland Heritage sites ahead like stations of the cross en route to his probable destination Culloden Field Where at the end of the book our hero seems to find himself now badly maimed on a film set Tears came into the Macushlas two remaining eyes beyond mere tears of pain He clawed himself onwards through the dummy corpses and towards the ruddy murk of another sunsetSandwiched between these two tremendous passages - tough and gaudy lyrical and funny transformingly intelligent - is nothing except promise and talent betrayed and the burnt-out ruins of a few ironic ideas As an experience The Man Who Walks is comparable to an afternoon locked in a Portaloo with a wino It makes Warners only misfire to date - the surreal These
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