Binding, Tim 1947–
BINDING, Tim 1947–
PERSONAL: Born 1947, in Germany; married; children: one daughter.
ADDRESSES: Home—Kent, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Picador/Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, England.
CAREER: Writer. Former editorial director of Penguin; editor for Simon & Schuster, London, England. Writer, with Simon Nye, of BBC television comedy drama The Last Salute.
AWARDS, HONORS: Shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize, 1996, for A Perfect Execution.
In the Kingdom of Air (novel), J. Cape (London, England), 1993.
A Perfect Execution (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.
Island Madness (novel), Picador (London, England), 1998, published as Lying with the Enemy, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.
On Ilkley Moor: The Story of an English Town (memoir), Picador (London, England), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Tim Binding's novels often present singular characters and unusual situations. His first book, In the Kingdom of Air, features a narrator who is a sex-obsessed weatherman at the London Weather Centre; the protagonist of A Perfect Execution is a hangman both renowned and feared throughout England for his expertise. Binding's third novel, Island Madness (which was published in the United States as Lying with the Enemy), explores the situation on Guernsey, a British island that was actually occupied by the Germans during World War II. Binding gives readers an inside look at the idiosyncratic area in which he grew up in his memoir On Ilkley Moor: The Story of an English Town.
In the Kingdom of Air is about the fictional confession of weather forecaster Giles Doughty, who, despite his sexual prowess, is unable to truly love. When he was a teenager, Doughty was investigated when his girlfriend mysteriously disappeared; as an adult he is also haunted by the accidental drowning of his younger brother. Andrew Billen, writing in the London Observer, praised In the Kingdom of Air and called attention to Binding's portrayal of how the protagonist reconciles the positive and negative elements of his personality, adding that the strength of his ideas lies in "the intricate prose of this beautifully written, extremely funny first novel." Janet Barron, writing in New Statesman, asserted that "Binding has considerable insight into how we hide our guilty secrets, gradually revealing the events his narrator has been determined to repress," but added that the novel's pace is "ponderous." According to Billen, the novel "harnesses but never suppresses the wildness that is its motor, investigating itself, sometimes coiling into rhyme."
Adam Mars-Jones of the Times Literary Supplement noted several faults with the book's style, but summarized In the Kingdom of the Air "as a large-scale first novel of insistent strangeness, told by a highly likeable narrator…. It does have a stubborn imaginative and atmospheric power to mitigate its oddly compounded attitude to its readers, its mixture of indifference with a fierce need to impress." More enthusiastically, Andy Solomon of Tribune Books called it an "absorbing novel, alternately sexy and chilling [that] marks the debut of a writer well worth watching."
Binding's second novel, A Perfect Execution, tells the story of Solomon Straw (also known as Jeremiah Bembo), a compassionate hangman, whose goal in life is to ease the passage of those sentenced to this form of justice. When Straw is forced to execute someone he knows personally, he must deal with the psychological ramifications of his vocation. While exploring Straw's double life, the plot follows a search for the true identity of a murderer and the fate of the man condemned to death for a crime he possibly did not commit. Reviewers found much to say about the subject matter, narrative style, and plot of A Perfect Execution. Calling Binding's performance "extremely accomplished," Anthony Quinn of the London Observer stated that the author has created a "great plot … mapping out a network of accidental meetings which [usually] stay just the right side of plausibility." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Kathryn Harrison noted Binding's "descriptive genius" and commented on the plausibility of the plot: "This is a novel in which the author pulls strings and gets away with it, so long as the writing stays taut." Declaring that Binding's book "is one of many novels that sink beneath the burden of its plot," Oliver Reynolds could not accept some of the narrative's more farfetched points in a Times Literary Supplement review. He admired, however, the way in which the author made clear that "a defining moment of each life is the manner in which it is left," and concluded that A Perfect Execution's "power derives from its ability to make this question implicit for the reader."
A Perfect Execution demonstrates a much simpler narrative style than In the Kingdom of Air. "Occasionally the writing breaks out into a nervous gallop, giving rein to a regrettable sloppiness," noted Quinn. He added, however, that the book's "infelicities are steamrollered by the momentum of Binding's narrative, [even though] the grand showdown is a touch melodramatic, the storytelling verve is irresistible." "Binding's achievement in simplifying his style is impressive," remarked Reynolds.
In Lying with the Enemy, Binding wrapped his tale of German-occupied Guernsey in a suspenseful mystery. During World War II, German forces took over this island in the English Channel. Islanders had never felt fully British anyway, and their reactions to the occupation ranged from angry to complacent. Some residents interacted freely with the Germans, while others harbored deep resentments, both against the Germans and those who accepted them—particularly those young women who became involved in sexual liaisons with the German soldiers. The situation is ignited by murder of one such woman, loved by a Guernsey policeman and a German soldier; the "delicate balance between occupied and occupier is disrupted," reported Budd Arthur in Booklist. Tom Blackburn, a reviewer for Palm Beach Post, described the unique nature of this book, stating that the story "sometimes reads like a meditation, is cast as a whodunit, but the murder appears late, is ignored for pages at a time and solved after the climax. The book stands on its characters." Los Angeles Times reviewer Merle Rubin found it a "powerful and provocative" novel.
In his memoir On Ilkley Moor: The Story of an English Town, Binding tells the story of his own youth. Famous for its waters, Ilkley flourished as a site for hydrotherapy in the mid-1800s. His book is both personal and general, tracing the town's history and also recalling incidents from his childhood, such as the drowning death of a friend. "This book is a curious and sometimes difficult weave of memoir, travelogue and local history, full of long, patient sentences whose harshly syllabic clauses are studded with facts as hard as the millstone grit upon which Ilkley is built," declared Sukhdev Sandhu in Daily Telegraph. It is a "meandering, oddly compelling account," affirmed a writer for the London Sunday Times. Martyn Bedford concluded in New Statesman, "As a fusion of collective and personal histories, On Ilkley Moor far exceeds the sum of its parts. By turns tiresome and diverting, mundane and captivating, its cumulative effect is magical. In this respect, Binding's book is not unlike Ilkley itself."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 15, 1994, p. 900; July, 1996, p. 1806; October 1, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. 345; January 1, 2001, Ted Hipple, review of Island Madness (audiobook review), p. 987.
Bookseller, February 1, 2002, p. 34.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 12, 2001, Sukhdev Sandhu, review of On Ilkley Moor: The Story of an English Town.
Independent (London, England), May 28, 2001, Philip Hoare, review of On Ilkley Moor, p. 5.
Library Journal, January, 1994, pp. 157-158; June 15, 1996, p. 89; October 15, 1999, Christine Perkins, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. 103.
Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2000, Merle Rubin, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. E3.
New Statesman, July 9, 1993, p. 40; May 14, 2001, Martyn Bedford, review of On Ilkley Moor, p. 54.
New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1996, p. 22; January 2, 2000, Alan Furst, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. 2000.
Observer (London, England), July 4, 1993, p. 62; June 2, 1996, p. 14; June 13, 1999, review of Island Madness, p. 14.
Palm Beach Post, July 7, 2000, Tom Blackburn, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, p. 62; September 6, 1999, review of Lying with the Enemy, p. 79; February 14, 2000, "'Enemy' Makes Friends," p. 87.
Sunday Times (London, England), July 15, 2001, review of On Ilkley Moor, p. 42.
Times (London, England), May 23, 2001, Iain Finlayson, review of On Ilkley Moor, p. 12; March 16, 2002, Fanny Blake, review of On Ilkley Moor, p. 19.
Times Literary Supplement, July 2, 1993, p. 22; May 31, 1996, p. 22.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 13, 1994, p. 1.