Candlemoth Paperback – Aug 2 2004
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Roger John Ellory's Candlemoth makes a decent but not entirely successful stab at being several novels. It is a protest against the death penalty and about inhuman treatment of prisoners that dramatises both issues by showing us Daniel, who has been railroaded to the electric chair over the brutal murder of his best friend. Inevitably though, Daniel is so passive and battered by his situation that the book can show us little except his pain. Offstage, it is a thriller about the process whereby he was framed and might be acquitted, but Ellory de-emphasises this aspect of the plot in favour of Daniel's suffering.
Much of the book is taken up in a memoir of the 60s, when Daniel and his best friend Nathan had a relationship that crossed racial boundaries in a south torn by conflict and when they went on the run to avoid being drafted into an unjust war. The book is vivid in its sense of the time, but again there is a sense of Daniel as someone who never really lives his own life--even in love and friendship he is the person to whom emotions and events happen. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
CONFIRMED INTERVIEW: Roger was interviewed by PUBLISHING NEWS for the Debut feature which appeared on 23rd May. Candlemoth was a ONE TO WATCH in THE BOOKSELLER star ratings on 11th April. Roger will be interviewed about the book on BBC RADIO WM on 29 July on the Fiona Dye evening programme. A full page interview with Roger was in the SUNDAY MERCURY newspaper in Birmingham on 3rd August. CONFIRMED REVIEWS: THE TIMES PLAY 26 JulyBIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL 30 AugustNEW BOOK.MAG Summer issue out on 29 July EVENTS: Roger is attending BODIESIN THE BOOKSHOP at Heffers in Cambridge on 9th July. Roger will be spending a day with local rep Jon Small (either 15th or 22nd August), visiting Birmingham bookshops, meeting key buyers and signing stock. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
`I ask myself what life is, what does it mean? Perhaps nothing more than a story, and each story different and rare and pronounced with its own voice.'
Father John Rousseau has been assigned to talk with Daniel during this last period of his life, and it is their conversations that lead us through Daniel's life. Daniel's friendship with Nathan started when they were aged six, and had its own difficulties in the American south of the 1950s: Nathan was coloured. The narrative takes us through the tumultuous events of the 1960s and 1970s in America: the backdrop of racial tensions; civil rights marches; assassinations and conspiracy theories; and the shadow of the Vietnam War shape the world in which Daniel and Nathan grew to adulthood.
So, what happened for Nathan to be killed and Daniel to be convicted of his murder? We learn Daniel's story as he tells it to Father Rousseau - the history is familiar, and the personal events unfold against that backdrop. If Nathan's murder defines the beginning of the end of Daniel's life, then it is necessary to go back to the beginning to understand how and why Nathan was murdered. We readers do not have the answers until the end of the novel.
'Best as I can recall it all started with a baked ham.'
This is the third of Mr Ellory's novels that I've read (although it was the first one published), and I enjoyed it. Daniel is a totally believable character, as are many of the secondary characters in the novel.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
His insights into the thought processes and personality traits of the main character, Daniel, really get your emotions rising and falling as Daniel remembers events leading up to his incarceration and then as Daniel faces his final few days.
This is more of a why-did-it than a who-done-it but your emotions get tugged in all directions along the way. RJ Ellory also manages to get you thinking seriously about what motivates people and why people make certain life choices.
A great first book and a great read.
36 year old Daniel Ford, a convicted murderer is on death row for the murder of his best friend Nathan. With thirty six days before he faces the electric chair piece by piece he relates his lifestory to the Prison Chaplin Father Rousseau. His story starts in rural North Carolina when in 1952, at six years old he meets Nathan and the two boys (one born white the other black) become best friends, their friendship lasting until Nathan's brutal murder 20 years later.
I really loved this. It was enthralling, with well drawn characters and covered the history of the period, the racism, political corruption and deaths of Martin Luther King and Kennedy well in an informative way without being boring.
The publisher's comparisons to THE GREEN MILE relate only to Daniel Ford's prison life, the mechanical aspects. Ford is the symbolic vehicle in this complex, terrifying tapestry of respect and honor. He's on death row, convicted of slaughtering his best friend since 1952. At age six, "I met Nathan Verney at the edge of Lake Marion outside of Greenleaf, South Carolina." That improbable friendship causes racially motivated onslaughts against them throughout their lives.
In 1982, "two floors up from Hell," Ford narrates to prison priest John Rousseau events that led to his conviction for murdering Verney, an uncontested sentence. Ford recalls a host of people who influenced his life. Despite experiencing racial atrocities that only fused their friendship, and knowing he's days away from execution, Ford feels "there is some universal balance present in all things." Verney's father believes his innocence.
Rumored to be a witch, Eve Chantry tells childhood Ford, nocturnal "moths are attracted to light because they wish to be seen." The interracial young friends come to trust Eve and gain valuable insight. They learn what they've been told by prejudiced villagers is false, a lesson not yet appreciated by many in today's society.
Ford tells of early loves, Caroline Lanafeuille, and briefly, Linny Goldbourne, a corrupt congressman's daughter. "Linny possessed sufficient enthusiasm to make even armed robbery sound like a swell idea." Verney dodges the draft when Uncle Sam summons him to Vietnam, Ford in tow because of allegiance. On the lam from military police, they head to Florida instead of Canada. Verney deduces authorities assume two teens would travel the Underground Railroad route of a century before.
Linny comes back into Ford's life, after President Carter grants amnesty for the draft dodgers, and they return to South Carolina. She lives with them in the same house, and in the free love era, samples both components of the Oreo cookie. Despite color TV, their town is still black and white, hues on opposite ends of the spectrum. Predictably, things get dicey. Threats turn into attacks against Verney, "And the fact that [Ford] said nothing was therefore a contributory factor to his death."
En route to his execution, events unfold that bring the metaphor full circle. Is there a reprieve in the offing for America's moral decline, or is the hangman's noose already too tight?
This masterfully written "time capsule" examines through "Hindsight, our cruelest and most astute adviser" political and social issues that, for good or bad, define American culture today. It made me question all I learned growing up in the South in the '50s and '60s.
The recipient of nine literary awards and shortlisted for a dozen international accolades, Ellory took top prize in Holland's Crimezone Hall of Fame. He resides in Birmingham, England. Previous titles available in the US by Overlook Press are A Quiet Belief in Angels: A Novel, A Simple Act of Violence (my favorite), The Anniversary Man, and A Quiet Vendetta.
Candlemoth: A Thriller
Reviewed originally for Bookreporter by L. Dean Murphy
The plot description is here already, so no point in repeating it. What the plot description does not reveal is the sheer power and intensity of the writing, and hence the reading experience. Candlemoth is one of those rare works which you wish would last for ever, but at the same time you need it to end soon, so that you can understand how the players are as they are, and how they end.
There is history everywhere, because this is an American history novel. There are conspiracy theories galore, because this is a story of conspiracy. There are betrayals, and love, because this is a novel of love and betrayal. Most of all there is endless humanity; Ellory has produced characters impossible to ignore, and as alive as only the best fictional folk can be.
Do yourself a favour. Allow a couple of hours when you start reading Candlemoth, so that you can allow yourself to fold into the alien world of 1960s southern USA. This is not a book for dipping into in TV commercial breaks. It's funny, sad, gritty and tiring. Rewarding, too. Loved it, me.
"Candlemoth" is set in the American South, which is an interesting choice for a debut novel from an Englishman. Ellory did his research weaving the story of death-row convict Daniel Ford with the events that have taken place over the past 50 turbulent years in the U.S. From reading the book, I'd say Ellory probably knows more about American history than most Americans.
History, though, is not what the story is about. It's about Ford's death-row conviction related to the death of Ford's best friend, Nathan. With the execution date only 30 days away, Ford begins to relive how he got to where he was. It is a story of friendship, betrayal, prejudice, and coming of age. It is a story of murder and the meaning of justice. The central question I had running throughout, of course, was more personal: did Ford really brutally behead his best friend Nathan or was something going to twist in the end? You'll have to wait until the very end for that answer.
What I loved best about "Candlemoth" is how everything ties together. Historical references are made for which there seems to be no relation to the story, conspiracy theories are introduced that, while interesting, don't seem to have anything to do with anything. And then, it all blends together and makes sense in a story that is tight, suspenseful, and - most importantly - human. This book is a great start for what has already become a brilliant career.
- Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker ([...] and founder of Killer Nashville ([...] He reviews books daily for Killer Nashville's Book of the Day. Publishers Weekly has named Stafford and Killer Nashville as one of the top 10 Nashville literary leaders playing "an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers" not only in middle-Tennessee, but also extending "beyond the city limits and into the nation's book culture." (PW 6/10/13) Having over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print, Stafford's latest projects are the feature documentary "One of the Miracles" ([...] and the music CD "XO" ([...]