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Candlemoth [Paperback]

R.J. Ellory
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 2 2004
Daniel Ford has 30 days to live. Accused of the horrific murder of his best friend Nathan 12 years before, he has exhausted all appeals and now faces the long walk to the electric chair. All he can do is make peace with his God. Father John Rousseau is the man to whom the last month of Daniel's life has been entrusted. All the two men have left to do is rake over the last ashes of Ford's existence. So he begins to tell his story. Beginning with his first meeting with Nathan, aged 6, on the shores of a lake in 1952, through first loves, Vietnam, the death of Kennedy, and finally their flight from the draft which ended in Nathan's brutal murder.

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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.

Review

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.

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By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's 1982 and Daniel Ford is thirty-six years old. Twelve years ago, Daniel was convicted of the murder of his best friend, Nathan Verney. In thirty-six days, he will walk to the electric chair and pay with his life.

`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.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great first book June 11 2008
By JT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I recently read "A Quiet Belief In Angels" and became interested in RJ Ellory's style of writing. That prompted me to purchase Candlemoth and I'm glad that I bought this book. As Ellory's first published book, the story is tight, holds together well and, with the subject being someone on Death Row, raises many interesting questions regarding the treatment of prisoners awaiting execution.

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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific! Aug. 3 2008
By Big Bertha - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
'Four times I've been betrayed - twice by women, once by a better friend than any man might wish for, and lastly by a nation..'

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Power Play March 8 2013
By Fj Westworth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Roger Ellory's books are as individual, as complex as the man himself. And as varied as any man can be. What they have in common is that they are utterly immersive; they pull in the reader to the point at which other worldly distractions fade away as the story demands all available spare attention.
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Moths are attracted to light because they wish to be seen" May 17 2013
By L. Dean Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
CANDLEMOTH is R.J. Ellory's fifth novel published in the US, but a decade ago his first of 11 in Europe. Each standalone is epic, cinematic in scope, and spans decades of characters' lives that often involve political corruption. This one is a metaphoric tale of America's consummate glory days and moral decay resulting from racial intolerance, assassinations of the Kennedys and King, and the Vietnam War, when "America felt like a clenched fist, a seized heart."

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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strong "memoir" fiction April 28 2013
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 1982 as he sits on Death Row in South Carolina's Sumter Penitentiary with thirty days left before his execution for murdering his best friend Nathan Verney, thirty six year old Daniel Ford muses he has been betrayed four times in his life as he chats with Father John Rousseau. Daniel, who has lived on Death Row for a third of his life, explains to the Chaplin that he and Nathan became friends as six year olds in 1952 Lake Marion, North Carolina though he being white and his buddy colored made their friendship difficult to sustain, but they did it. In the 1960s, they fled the draft. In 1971 Nathan was murdered and Daniel convicted.

This is a strong "memoir" that grips the audience throughout as Daniel tells his tale of betrayal to the backdrop of major events in the Deep South through three decades of tumultuous change. The twisting storyline hooks the reader with a need to know what happened as R. J. Ellory provides a fascinating dark bittersweet spin through recent Carolina history.

Harriet Klausner
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