by Bill Liversidge
The highest compliment one can pay to a novelist is to buy the book. I first read Bill Liversidge’s A HALF LIFE OF ONE by printing off his free online version finding it through Jennifer Armstrong’s Free Online Novels website (http://www.free-online-novels.com/). I was so taken with the novel that I wanted to pass it along to my son, Roy, a voracious reader—so I paid a super compliment to Bill Liversidge by buying A HALF LIFE OF ONE via the UK Amazon.com, paying the price of buying a book overseas with diminished U.S. dollars and paying the airfreight with that same diminished currency, but the book is worth the cost.
My review of A HALF LIFE OF ONE:
This is the story of a businessman, Nick Dowdy, who is a failure in everything he does because he reaches beyond his capabilities. His business fails, his marriage is on the edge of failure, his relationship with his son is awful. As we move through the novel, we find how self-centered, how selfish and how ruthless Nick Dowdy is. The writing moves right along, the story has twists and turns that keep it very interesting, I found myself wondering what would come next and covering up the bottom of pages so I would not leap ahead of the course of my reading.
Nick Dowdy is a man with all kinds of schemes to get out of the predicament of the failure of his business. He is not willing to take a menial job. He thinks of himself as something special. Even he recognizes that his schemes are ridiculous and unworkable until he moves ahead in desperation to carry out the kidnapping of a successful woman entrepreneur. He isn’t what he seems. She isn’t what she seems. She doesn’t have as much money as he assumes. In the process of kidnapping her, he kills a fishing guide. This novel takes place in Scotland. And like so many kidnappers he finds his victim is more of a burden than he ever imagined. You know he is going to be caught. Just when he is on the edge of taking the step towards demanding the ransom, which certainly would lead the police to him, his house is saved by his wife from creditors and a job he has applied for opens up.
The ending is another version of the Edgar Allan Poe’s THE CAST OF MONTILADDO. Dowdy leaves his victim to die an awful lonely death in the darkness of an unheated shack, filled with rats in the bridge between winter and spring. The cruelty of this act by a man who considers himself a decent guy is astonishing and draining. In the end you see through Dowdy’s thoughts how little he thinks of his son and how willing he is to cheat on his wife and how he justifies the murder of two people, the fishing guide and the woman entrepreneur, and how he reveals his guilt in contributing in a small way to his father’s death, and his happiness in seeing his mother, who was a mental patient, die.
This was a well-written, smoothly moving, stinging portrait of a seeming everyman, who is decent and willing to work hard, but within himself lurks a self-centered selfishness that enables him to be startlingly cruel. At the same time, there is an element of guilt and the fear of being caught that is his sentence to a torturous life.
(Note: You can find out a lot more about novelist Bill Liversidge at his blog, View from the Pundy House at http://www.pundyhouse.blogspot.com/).