Martin, Brian 1937-
Martin, Brian 1937-
Writer and educator. Oxford University, Oxford, England, literature teacher, beginning c. 1960s.
North (novel), Pan (London, England), 2006.
Contributor of book reviews to periodicals, including the Spectator, Times Literary Supplement, Financial Times, and the Literary Review.
Brian Martin taught literature at Oxford University for forty years, wrote and edited academic books, and reviewed literary novels before producing his first novel at the age of sixty-eight. North revolves around a young man named North, whose story is revealed by the novel's narrator, an aging and lonely teacher at a distinguished Oxford school. An English master, the narrator is enamored of North, who claims that Milton's Paradise Lost is his bible and who shows great affection for the narrator by constantly kissing him on the cheeks. In fact, the narrator, whose wife has suffered irreparable brain damage and whose children have long ago moved away, is under North's spell.
North, who is confident far beyond his years, is so sure of his sway over the narrator that he reveals his plan to seduce a young and pretty female teacher named Bernie. When young Monty Ross, the married science teacher and an evangelical Christian shows signs of jealousy, North correctly surmises that Monty is enamored of Bernie but also that he is bisexual. As a result, Bernie sets out to seduce him as well. "To add to his mischief, North encourages the latent attraction between Monty and the headmaster Aitken, also married and bisexual," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. As expected, North's machinations lead to suffering by many, including a suicide attempt, teachers being suspended, a broken marriage, and ultimately death.
As the reader follows the narrator's story several questions arise. First, despite the narrator's protestations over North's evil plans, the narrator does little to truly try and dissuade North or stop him in any way. Although he is well aware of how North's devious games will ultimately lead to disaster, the narrator even goes so far as to abet North's schemes and seems to relish their final outcomes. As a result, the narrator appears to be a "a lecherous and hypocritical voyeur," as noted by Digby Durrant in a review in the Spectator. In addition, North is so evil that the question arises as to whether or not the narrator will also become a victim of the Satan-like North. Spectator contributor Durrant commented that the protagonist "combines the looks of Dorian Gray and the evil of Iago with the same passion to bring about the downfall of others that recalls Laclos' Liaisons Dangereuses." Durrant also noted: "Brian Martin has waited too long to write his first book. He should give his vivid imagination another outing soon."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of North.
Spectator, April 1, 2006, Digby Durrant, "Machiavelli at School," review of North p. 53.
Pan Macmillan Web site,http://www.panmacmillan.com/ (February 8, 2008), brief profile of author.