We were thrilled this week to read Quietus Editor John Doran’s thoughts on Tariq Goddard‘s latest novel, High John the Conqueror, which is out in November.
“Pornography by The Cure is the ultimate brown acid album; the magic mirror from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, held up to the idea of the 60s & the summer of love: all optimism, joy, energy and compassion foreclosed only nihilism, horror & collapse ahead. Disintegration by The Cure is a stately review of the wreckage, which ironically, suggests an attempt at reintegration, though there has been too much decimation for this to work. Both albums are powered by total immersion in LSD, the powerful hallucinogen which (arguably) constituted humanity’s last roll of the dice in terms of us achieving a powerful, wide-ranging and effective consciousness shift, and are soaked in the sense that we are too late. The disaster has already happened. Both albums provide some unique structure to Tariq Goddard’s latest thrilling novel, set in a significant 2016, which (I believe to be) a psychedelic, philosophical, political police procedural black comedy in a wider, solidly weird fiction universe.
The book is split into chapters such as Plainsong and The Hanging Garden and opens with the first line of one of the greatest songs ever recorded: “It doesn’t matter if we all die.” It’s uttered by Iggy, a Wiltshire waster who lives in his auntie’s caravan among the wreckage of a never ending ‘last night’ and a wank sock he pretends is Wonder Woman’s vigorously pumping fist. Iggy is the first ‘misper’ or missing person we learn of but there have been more; but who or what is the culprit? A serial killer? Drugs? Occult goings on?
The missing are among society’s least valued – the young feral underclass and burdensome OAPs – and the Wiltshire constabulary have an upcoming visit by the Queen to contend with but a pair of (relatively) idealistic detectives, DCI Terry Balance and DCI Tamla Sioux will not let it go and pull on the threads until the reveal.
Assuming you have the taste for a lot of West Country police banter, this book is brilliant and crackles with wit, invention and insight. The title alludes to the African folk hero John de Conqeror, John the Conqueroo, a visionary root, in Voodoo practice, leading to the not unreasonable shorthand: this is the Wiltshire/Hampshire borders’ True Detective. Various strands of post punk (and industrial and goth) hover in the background but the real touchpoint probably isn’t by The Cure at all but is Spectre Vs. Rector by The Fall.
Goddard can see the great gyres of time turning slowly & sense mass shifts in consciousness repeating first as tragedy then as farce, and then again, most recently, as pure eschatalogical nihilism. Except it’s funnier than I’m making it sound. It’s true that this novel ticks most of my boxes but you should still take this as the hardest of hard recommends anyway.”
—John Doran is Editor of The Quietus.