Long, James 1949–
Long, James 1949–
PERSONAL: Born 1949.
ADDRESSES: Home—Devon, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, England.
CAREER: Novelist. Former correspondent for British Broadcasting Corporation.
Game Ten, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Sixth Column, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Ferney, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Knowing Max, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Silence and Shadows, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Under pseudonym Will Davenport) The Painter, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.
(Under pseudonym Will Davenport) Perfect Sinner, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004, published as The Sinner's Tale, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Whether writing under his own name or under the pen name of Will Davenport, James Long has become known for novels that often make use of the interplay between the past and the present. In some of his novels, such as Silence and Shadows, the theme of the past affecting the present is accomplished in a realistic manner, but in others, such as Ferney, the author uses elements of fantasy. Long has also used the device of contrasting two completely independent plots—one set in the past and one in the present—to illuminate themes on opposing subjects, like war and love.
Ferney uses elements of fantasy to tell of a timeless love. After suffering a miscarriage, Gabriela Martin has been having nightmares. In an effort to help his wife, Mike Martin buys her a country cottage that seems to calm her. However, he begins to grow jealous when Gabriela becomes increasingly attracted to an elderly man named Ferney. Halfway through the book it becomes clear that Ferney and Gabriela were lovers in past lives and have been meeting through a series of reincarnations. The mysterious story also includes what Booklist reviewer Melanie Duncan called "a diabolical life-or-death decision." Although a Publishers Weekly contributor found the novel's conclusion "disquieting," the critic added that "the unfolding mystery and the clever handling of the complex plot make for a provocative tale."
In both The Painter and The Sinner's Tale Long creates two unrelated stories that share a common theme. The first tale in The Painter is set in the seventeenth century and involves a competition between the painter Rembrandt and the poet Andrew Marvell, who compete to impress a woman, Amelia, with their art. The second story is set in 2001, with Amy Dale working on the restoration of the home where Amelia once lived. Amy begins to fall in love with a coworker named Don, and their discovery of a painting by Rembrandt links the stories. Inserted into this novel is a double-murder mystery. Although reviewers enjoyed the historical story about the artists, they pointed out problems with the modern tale. A Kirkus Reviews critic said the modern-day story "works far less well" than that set in the past, and Harriet Klausner, writing for AllReaders.com, called the seventeenth-century plot set "brilliantly conceived" and the twenty-first-century story "a paint by numbers" tale. Critics expressed similar concern about The Sinner's Tale, which contrasts the stories of a medieval knight with a modern British diplomat and their ideas about the advantages and disadvantages of war. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the modern tale as "a series of absurd contrivances" but asserted that the author is "far more robust in the past." On the other hand, Kaite Mediatore, writing in Booklist, felt that Long creates "two absorbing tales" that form an "astute commentary on modern warfare."
Several critics were more enthusiastic about Long's Silence and Shadows. The novel's protagonist, Patrick Kane, is an archaeologist with a painful past. In his early career, he was a punk rock singer who let fame go to his head. He is haunted by the guilt, suspecting that his bad attitude may have contributed to the death of his wife and child. In his new life as a successful archaeologist, he embarks on a dig in Oxfordshire and unearths a fascinating legend about a "German Queen." He also meets a woman who strongly resembles his deceased wife. What follows, according to reviewers, is a haunting tale that blends reality with a touch of the mystical. Commenting that the novel resembles the "nonfantasies of Peter Dickinson," an Infinity Plus reviewer asserted that even though Long's book is fairly short, it is a "major novel" that "will haunt your mind long after you've completely forgotten whatever major blockbuster it was you last read." Klausner, writing again for AllReaders.com, attested that Silence and Shadows "is an interesting romantic tale that blends legends and archeology into a fantastic love story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1999, Melanie Duncan, review of Ferney, p. 1669; March 15, 2005, Kaite Mediatore, review of The Sinner's Tale, p. 1264.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of The Painter, p. 254; February 1, 2005, review of The Sinner's Tale, p. 134.
Library Journal, June 15, 1999, Laurel Bliss, review of Ferney, p. 109.
MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of The Sinner's Tale.
Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1999, review of Ferney, p. 64.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (November 28, 2005), Harriet Klausner, reviews of The Painter and Silence and Shadows.
Infinity Plus, http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (November 28, 2005), review of Silence and Shadows.