The Underground Man

By Mick Jackson

Short-listed for the 1997 Booker Prize -- a haunting old novel from an impressive new British talent

Victorian England's most renowned eccentric, the Duke of Portland was once well known for either his huge, immense wealth and for the flowery sequence of tunnels he had equipped underneath his titanic property. The Duke, who's a fountain of nineteenth-century wisdom and interest, faithfully files in his magazine the occasions that make up his days. His learn extends into the fields of chiropractic drugs, and the learn of auras, archaeology, and phrenology in a chain of hilarious episodes that echo the recent Age exploits of our personal period whereas revealing the Duke to be a real naif: splendidly humane, painfully shy, and untouched via the facility his nice wealth provides him.

As the Duke's enthusiasms steadily flip inward to the operating of the brain and reminiscence, he slowly slips into insanity. The typical finish of his trip of self-discovery provides The Underground guy its scary and unforgettable climax. an excellent comedian and tragic production, Mick Jackson's Duke of Portland is among the such a lot memorable and heartbreaking characters to emerge from contemporary fiction.

"A exceptional research of human foibles". -- the recent York occasions e-book Review

"Ingenious ... Jackson's portrait, during the Duke's eyes, of an age poised among credulity and technological know-how is smart and fascinating". -- Kirkus Reviews

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And that i stepped again a foot or to take the complete photo in. within the very centre of the map stood the home in miniature (a strong likeness, i need to say, performed in pen and ink) observed by means of all of the stables and outhouses – every one in actual fact labelled in italic script. the complete property was once etched out round the apartment, with the woods and drives all conscientiously marked in. As we either stood there taking a look dumbly down on the map Mr chicken discreetly made from his breast pocket a small pencil stub. He raised it to his mouth, gave the lead a bit lick and, with a precision any medical professional will be happy with, marked out the 1st tunnel, as I regarded anxiously on. The squat little pencil travelled east from the home, coolly dissected the lake, crept correct up the Pudding Hill and got here to leisure within the outskirts of Worksop city. Mr fowl driven himself again on an elbow and seemed up at me. I nodded again at him, encouragingly. A faint whiff of sweat hung within the air among us and it happened to me how our hushed excitement had by some means controlled to awaken the infrequent stench of horse-heat in that enormous cool room. within the mins which Mr chicken proceeded to pencil in one other 3 tunnels, which left the home and headed north, south and west. now and then they swung a little to left or correct yet, probably, stored pretty well to the directly line. Mr Bird’s pencil lead complex throughout the forests and fields at really a cost and whilst it reached the tip of every tunnel I pretty heard a sticky sound because it used to be plucked from the map. The mark it left was once not anything greater than an entire cease on the shut of a sentence, yet in that tiny speck I observed particularly sincerely the tunnel front, as craggy as a cave. A small gatehouse stood the place every one underground thoroughfare emerged, each one with the be aware resort as a origin. The map proficient me how those motels are at the moment occupied through Digby, Harris, Stoodle and Pyke, whose task it is going to be to fasten and liberate the gates as worthy, to gentle the gaslights down their tunnel if notice is obtained that they're for use after darkish and to make sure that no little ones get in. The chart now consisted of 4 basic pencil-paths, of approximately equivalent size. a home with 4 roots sprouting from it, might be, or whatever vaguely corresponding to a compass face. but if Mr chook had bought his breath again and rainy his pencil a 5th time the set of tunnels he introduced into being prompted the picture to alter so much appreciably. Expertly, he outfitted a moment pass over the go already at the map. The pie which had formerly been quartered was once now divided into eighths, in order that while he had performed together with his pencilling the entire association of tunnels used to be now not compass-like and extra just like the spokes of a rimless wheel. For a moment I had difficulty swallowing and that i felt myself come over really faint. It had by no means formerly happened to me – a Wheel, with my residence as its hub! Mr fowl appeared down on the map with glaring pride, as though he had simply conjured the tunnels into lifestyles with a wave of his modest wand.

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