The Poet and the Private Eye

A Novel Dylan Thomas Perspective.

In this anniversary year of celebrations for the life of Dylan Thomas, one of the most interesting books to appear featuring a famed poet, has to be The Poet and The Private Eye a novel from writer, Rob Gittins, better known for his work on television and radio. From Eastenders to Tracy Beaker and much, much more, Gittins is a writer who not only writes dialogue which rings true to character, he writes brilliant characters who ring true to us all. The main characters here are the private investigator, whose name is Jimmy, and the ‘mark’ known at all times as Subject Thomas, who never gets a first name throughout the book but we the readers are not in any doubt to whom he refers. Running alongside the cat and mouse plot as the private eye chases the poet around and through the bars and theatres of New York, Subject Thomas’s own wife also enters into the story when Jimmy leaves the US to visit Wales on a mission to gather ‘background’ on the poet. In Laugharne to his surprise, the famous poet’s wife is not sitting at home knitting, but is out and about, behaving every bit as riotously as her husband appears to be doing in the States.

This is an excellent read with all the excitement and page-turning enjoyment of a good story and the additional buzz of seeing stories of Subject Thomas which have not perhaps been seen before. The quality of the writing is high, the research immaculate. It has thrills, shocks, humour and perhaps even a subtext of devotion. It is only now and again when faced with a genuinely bizarre situation, that we are jolted back into recognising that the person being written about here wrote some of the most astonishing and beautiful poetry ever, and that he was a man respected throughout the world for his gift. Despite the fact that Jimmy does not initially understand the poetry, what he does see and appreciate is the effect the poetry has upon others wherever his mark goes. Especially if he performs.  Gittin’s introductory statement at the opening of the book claims that the events recorded are a true record, though not necessarily chronologically captured, of the situations that occurred during the lifetime of Wales’s most famous and highly regarded poet. Jimmy’s reflections on the poetry itself, and on Under Milk Wood, the ‘Play for Voices’ are amusing and reflect an almost universal response to poetry when understanding does not instantly occur. Interestingly there are lines which crop up in the story, to light the way for the uninitiated, ‘as I was young and easy under the apple bough’, ‘rage against the dying of the light’ and ‘death shall have no dominion’ as though the writer is urging the reader to look for it for themselves. It is a morality tale and one which sits well with the other works which have been produced in memory of Dylan Thomas, an extraordinary man whose words stirred the hearts and minds of so many.

The Poet and the Private Eye by Rob Gittins is published by Y Lolfa and is available in all bookshops or online at ylolfa.com

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