Seabrook, David

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Seabrook, David

PERSONAL: Male. Education: Attended University of Kent at Canterbury.

ADDRESSES: Home—Canterbury, England. Agent—c/o Granta Books, 2/3 Hanover Yard, Noel Rd., London N1 8BE, England.

CAREER: Writer. Has also taught English as a foreign language.

WRITINGS:

All the Devils Are Here (nonfiction), Granta Books (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: In his 2002 work All the Devils Are Here, British author David Seabrook "travels the decaying resorts on the southeastern coast of England, tracing the adventures of literary and other madmen," according to a contributor in Publishers Weekly. Seabrook's explorations take him to Rochester, Broadstairs, Deal, and other towns in Kent, "a county of brutal extremes," observed Spectator critic Jonathan Keates. "Think of photogenic Canterbury and bijou Whistable, then blink and up comes filthy Folkestone or those grim mining villages northwest of Dover. Something in the water, what's more, nurtures the grotesque, whichever side of the Medway you happen to dwell."

According to Times Literary Supplement critic Robert Carver, Seabrook's "is an artistic-literary-political extremist-criminal trail, the several callings not at all as distinct as one might imagine. The result is a sort of marine Newgate Calendar, a Baedeker of minor demons."

The character begins his tour in Margate, a resort village where British writer T. S. Eliot once stayed while working on his masterpiece, The Waste Land. Seabrook "finds a few lines about Margate Sands in The Waste Land, describes how Eliot spent a few weeks in the town in 1921 while convalescing after a nervous breakdown, and identifies the chipped Victorian pedestrian shelter, still standing on the front, where the poet wrote, watching the grey waves and the shell-shocked veterans of the world war just gone," noted Manchester Guardian critic Andy Beckett.

From there, Seabrook journeys to Rochester and Chatham, where he attempts to link Charles Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the infamous case of Richard Dadd, an artist who murdered his father and spent much of his life in an asylum. "Here, as in Margate, the sheer rumness of Kent and 'all that therein is' seizes the author by the throat," Keates remarked. Seabrook also investigates the murder of boxer Freddie Mills, visits an estate in Broadstairs that served as the inspiration for John Buchan's thriller The Thirty-nine Steps, and ventures to Deal to investigate the origin of Robin Maugham's The Servant.

All the Devils Are Here received strong critical praise. The text's "acute sense of place, its restless need to make associations, its moments of feverish interior monologue—at first it all seems simply an original prose style; but then it takes on a greater emotional weight," Beckett stated, adding: "There is empathy here, and that is rare and welcome in this kind of book." Carver described Seabrook's work as "strange" and "compelling," and Martyn Bedford, writing in the New Statesman, commented that the author "draws on his local knowledge and literary interests, as well as on darker, more personal reservoirs. The result is an effective and impressively researched amalgam of history, reportage, literary criticism, photography, travelogue and autobiography." According to Library Journal reviewer Glenn Masuchika, All the Devils Are Here serves as "a compelling and fascinating personal narrative on the level of literature," while the Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed it an "impressionistic and erudite debut."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Guardian (Manchester, England), March 16, 2002, Andy Beckett, "Midnight in the Garden of England."

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 240.

Library Journal, April 1, 2002, Glenn Masuchika, review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 129.

New Statesman, March 18, 2002, Martyn Bedford, "A Deranged Exploration," review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 55.

Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002, review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 61.

Spectator, March 16, 2002, Jonathan Keates, review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 47.

Times Literary Supplement, April 12, 2002, Robert Carver, "Medway Boys Make No Sense," review of All the Devils Are Here, p. 36.