Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Deep Sahara

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 18th December, 2017

Deep SaharaPackaged in the form of a memoir, addressed to a kind of spiritual advisor (though the hero has no defined religious belief himself), Leslie Croxford’s novel Deep Sahara (Momentum Books, £9.99) draws the reader into Algeria’s deep south at a time when both Islamist fundamentlists and groups linked to the army and the deep state were involved in mass killings. Klaus Werner — whose name we only learn towards the end of the book — is of German origin and, like the author, born in Alexandria in Egypt. Driven to a nervous breakdown by the premature death of his adored wife, Klaus is advised to carry on his wife’s work and maybe wishes in researching and illustrating a coffee table book on desert insects. Armed with a couple of letters of introduction he heads across the desert to a Catholic monastery in the back of beyond, only to find a scene of almost unimaginable horror. Far from fleeing the place, he settles in for several months, occasionally interacting with the few human beings that cross his path, but mainly searching for himself. A short but passionate affair with an American paleontolgist underlines his need to be in the company of a beautiful woman, but he is aware of other lacunae in his existence. A search then leads to yet more horror and the conviction that some terrible conspiracy is at large, as he tries to come to terms with both real and imagined truths, seeking guidance from those who sometimes do not really have his best interests at heart. Layers of mystery are peeled away, only to reveal others. But whereas this could have so easily have been turned into a pot-boiler thriller, instead the novel is psychologically complex, indirectly inviting the reader to scrutinse critically everyone who appears, not least Klaus Werner himself, in all his ambiguity. Leslie Croxford’s style and vocabulary are redolent of a former, more civilised, age, precise and yet often (deliberately?) perplexing.

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