Alongside the names of James Hadley Chase and Erle Stanley Gardner we must now add that of John Hartley Williams - though Mystery in Spiderville is no run-of-the-mill hard-boiled thriller. The decor is by Dali, the plot is a mixture of Breton and Burroughs, and the main character - the protean and unkillable Spider Rembrandt - has six toes, sleeps in a grave and dreams of congress with the pert and playful Reedy Buttons.
Sucked into the vortex of Spider's philandering mind is a narrator - sometimes Spider's adversary, sometimes his victim - who lies upon a bed brooding on the absence of a nameless, brown-haired woman. He, too, is protean: full of passionate longings and homicidal tendencies.
A surrealist film-noir that blends the forensic with the erotic, the seedy penny-dreadful and the lyric prose-poem, Mystery in Spiderville is one of the strangest, strongest and most arresting fictional debuts in years.
John Hartley Williams has published nine poetry collections, including Spending Time with Walter and, most recently, Blues (2004). He co-edited Teach Yourself Writing Poetry and won the Arvon International Poetry Competition in 1983. He teaches English at the Free University of Berlin, where he has been since 1976.