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The seven days of Peter Crumb - Jonny Glynn

Posted on 2008.09.02 at 22:10

"Peter Crumb is a man whose life has been overturned by a single, devastating act of violence in his past. Now, in what he intends to be his last week on Earth, he is determined to leave his mark upon humanity - randomly, unjustly, with infinite attention to detail. And Monday means murder..."

I bought the debut novel of author Johnny Glynn without any previous knowledge of the book, without recommendations or reviews and, if I'm perfectly honest, the reason why I purchased this particular book was mainly because it was in the cult section of Waterstones and the blurb caught my interest. This could have been a spectacular waste of money, time and effort. Luckily, it wasn't.

Using a linear narrative, Johnny Glynn tracks protagonist Peter Crumb through a week of hedonistic decadence and ultra violence encouraged by his schizophrenic alter ego. Potentially, this book could have just been nothing more than gore and tasteless violence as it involves near necrophilia, acts of mutilation and disembowelment and torture, yet Glynn tackles the issue sensitively and gives the reader an original and, somewhat sympathetic, insight into the mind of a person society would deem as psychotic.

Crumb is detached from many of his more abhorrent acts by the way in which his schizophrenia is presented. He often refers to his more confident, arrogant persona as 'him' rather than 'me', giving two separate personalities and creating, in his mind, two separate people. Therefore, Crumb writes as if he is not responsible for these acts of violence, although he is clearly aware that he is. This helps to disassociate the violent acts in this book from Crumb in the readers mind and allows the audience to empathise with Crumb. In this respect, ‘The seven days of Peter Crumb’ is similar to novels such as ‘A clockwork Orange’ and ‘Lolita’ as they contain protagonists that the reader knows they should despise but instead are able to understand and even pity.
Pathos is evoked with the revelation of Crumb’s past. Peter Crumb used to be an ordinary man. Happily married with a loving daughter named Emma and the fact that Crumb used to be so regular, so ordinary allows the reader to be able to connect with his on some level. It humanises him, he is no longer just a murdering psychotic monster capable of only evil but at one point he was capable of love, care and affection. However, one day, his daughter was brutally murdered and disembowelled on her way to a nearby shop. It was at this point that Crumb’s emotional well being begun to suffer. Unable to cope with this tragedy, Crumb’s mind fragments and creates a new identity as a coping mechanism. It is this new identity that seems to instigate and encourage all the sadistic; despicable acts central to the novel (“He was watching me”, “He was following me”), removing a degree of responsibility from Crumb for his actions.
One thing I found particularly poignant about Glynn’s novel was the issue of isolation, loneliness and being forgotten. Crumb obviously feels lonely. He has retreated from the world, with only his schizophrenic self for company and in an attempt to leave his mark, in an attempt to make his life less transient, to give it a purpose he sets out on his last brutal fling. Yet, for all his efforts, by the end of the novel his efforts have proved futile. When Crumb believes his acts have come into fruition and he is about to be imprisoned for his deviance, he realises that no one has even discovered the bodies of Beth and Adrian; his actions have affected no one. He is lost in a sea of anonymity. It is this realisation that leads him to phone Johnnie in a desperate attempt to gain the recognition he so seriously craves and makes a frenzied confession. Even this doesn’t earn him any acknowledgment, which is possibly the most tragic issue in the novel, not the murder, not the mutilation but the desperate struggle of one man for the recognition he never receives.

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