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Memoirs of a Master Forger by Graham Joyce
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Memoirs of a Master Forger (2008)

by Graham Joyce

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William Heaney, head of the the UK’s National Organisation for Youth Advocacy, leads a troubled life. His wife left him for a celebrity pastry chef, his teenage son hates him, and his oldest daughter has moved back in with him — and brought along her boyfriend. Heaney can also see demons. In his latest novel, How to Make Friends With Demons, Graham Joyce brings these entities to vivid life for his readers, too.

Ever since a traumatic event in college some 20 years ago, Heaney witnesses the hidden demons that haunt us all, creatures that only a few can see.

There are one thousand five hundred and sixty-seven known demons. Precisely. Okay I know that Fraser in his study claimed to have identified a further four, but it’s plain that he’s confusing demons with psychological conditions. I mean, a pathological tendency to insult strangers in the street is more likely caused by a nervous disorder than the presence of a demon. And chronic masturbation is what it is. I suspect that Fraser didn’t even believe in his own case studies. I think he just “discovered” four new demons so that he could peddle his bloody awful book.

According to Heaney, common demons include the “messy intellectuality” manifested in compulsive footnoting, the “collecting demon,” and demons that feed on various emotional ailments. Alcohol is not one of them, but rather “a series of volatile hydroxyl compounds that are made from hydrocarbons by distillation. The fact that it is highly addictive or that it can drive men or women to extreme and destructive behavior does not make it a demon.” Heaney, incidentally, spends large portions of the novel in pubs, often inebriated.

He also fronts a trio of forgers who fake antiquarian books. Heaney sells the illicit products to unsuspecting marks. At heart an altruistic philanthropist organization, his crew promptly donates all proceeds to the GoPoint Centre, a perpetually underfunded London homeless shelter.

Through potential buyers, Heaney meets two individuals who change his life. Toy-shop owner Otto introduces him to the first, the homeless Desert Storm veteran Seamus, who has chained himself to a railing in front of Buckingham Palace. Lashed with what appear to be explosives, he threatens to blow himself up if the police approach him. Heaney and Otto meet with Seamus.

“I want an audience with the Queen. I want to tell her what I know.”

“Eh? The Queen? Queen doesn’t give a fuck about the likes of you and me, Seamus.”

“I’ve been a fucking loyal soldier to the fucking Queen. I want to tell her what I know. And if she won’t come down here, she can ride raggy-arsed to Birmingham.” Whatever this phrase meant, Seamus found its utterance very funny. He tipped back his head. “Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Otto looked at me again. “Tell him the Queen won’t come. Tell him she’s eating pie in the palace, and too busy.”

“He’s right, Seamus,” I said. “The Queen won’t come here.”

The old soldier looked around at the gritty pavement on either side of him. “Yeh,” he said seriously, “it’s bit mucky, innit? Maybe we should sweep up a bit.”

The second encounter occurs while Heaney drinks in the Museum Tavern — legendary watering hole for Karl Marx located across from the British Museum — where he runs into poet and frequent Heaney client Ellis, and Ellis’s beguiling young companion.

She held out a tiny white hand across the table. “My name’s Yasmin.”

No, it isn’t, I wanted to say, because she didn’t look or talk at all like a Yasmin. Demon of false naming, we know all about that one. But I held my tongue. “William Heaney.”

“I know.”

Well, there we had it. She knew my name before I’d revealed it; I didn’t know hers even after she’d declared it to me. Another demon in there somewhere. Perhaps we held each other’s gaze a splinter too long because Ellis said, “I think I’m going to vomit.”

“How do you two people know each other?” I asked genially.

And as she told me, my demon, my real demon, who had been listening, crouched, always attentive, breathed its sweet and poisoned breath in my ear. “Take her away from the lout. Take her home with you. Lift her skirt.”

She talked at length and I listened. Voices are sometimes like the grain in a strip of wood. You can hear the character of someone’s experience in their voice. Hers was warm, and vital, but damaged.

The alluring Yasmin promises the most riveting and engrossing fictional femme in fantastic literature since the elusive title character of Jeffery Ford’s sensational
[b:The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque|998119|The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque A Novel|Jeffrey Ford|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1180103753s/998119.jpg|1434750]
.

Leaping forward and backward through time, Joyce expertly weaves a cohesive novel that essentially chronicles a mid-life crisis. The book successfully explores a range of emotional states with a heady combination of horror, humor, and wonder, while maintaining its center on the kindhearted, confused, and at times delusional narrator Heaney. How to Make Friends With Demons, expanded from his O. Henry Award-winning short story “An Ordinary Soldier for the Queen,” displays author Graham Joyce in all as his finery and ranks among the best novels of the year.

This review originally appeared in the San Antonio Current, September 9, 2009. ( )
1 vote rickklaw | Oct 13, 2017 |
William Heaney, head of the the UK’s National Organisation for Youth Advocacy, leads a troubled life. His wife left him for a celebrity pastry chef, his teenage son hates him, and his oldest daughter has moved back in with him — and brought along her boyfriend. Heaney can also see demons. In his latest novel, How to Make Friends With Demons, Graham Joyce brings these entities to vivid life for his readers, too.

Ever since a traumatic event in college some 20 years ago, Heaney witnesses the hidden demons that haunt us all, creatures that only a few can see.

There are one thousand five hundred and sixty-seven known demons. Precisely. Okay I know that Fraser in his study claimed to have identified a further four, but it’s plain that he’s confusing demons with psychological conditions. I mean, a pathological tendency to insult strangers in the street is more likely caused by a nervous disorder than the presence of a demon. And chronic masturbation is what it is. I suspect that Fraser didn’t even believe in his own case studies. I think he just “discovered” four new demons so that he could peddle his bloody awful book.

According to Heaney, common demons include the “messy intellectuality” manifested in compulsive footnoting, the “collecting demon,” and demons that feed on various emotional ailments. Alcohol is not one of them, but rather “a series of volatile hydroxyl compounds that are made from hydrocarbons by distillation. The fact that it is highly addictive or that it can drive men or women to extreme and destructive behavior does not make it a demon.” Heaney, incidentally, spends large portions of the novel in pubs, often inebriated.

He also fronts a trio of forgers who fake antiquarian books. Heaney sells the illicit products to unsuspecting marks. At heart an altruistic philanthropist organization, his crew promptly donates all proceeds to the GoPoint Centre, a perpetually underfunded London homeless shelter.

Through potential buyers, Heaney meets two individuals who change his life. Toy-shop owner Otto introduces him to the first, the homeless Desert Storm veteran Seamus, who has chained himself to a railing in front of Buckingham Palace. Lashed with what appear to be explosives, he threatens to blow himself up if the police approach him. Heaney and Otto meet with Seamus.

“I want an audience with the Queen. I want to tell her what I know.”

“Eh? The Queen? Queen doesn’t give a fuck about the likes of you and me, Seamus.”

“I’ve been a fucking loyal soldier to the fucking Queen. I want to tell her what I know. And if she won’t come down here, she can ride raggy-arsed to Birmingham.” Whatever this phrase meant, Seamus found its utterance very funny. He tipped back his head. “Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Otto looked at me again. “Tell him the Queen won’t come. Tell him she’s eating pie in the palace, and too busy.”

“He’s right, Seamus,” I said. “The Queen won’t come here.”

The old soldier looked around at the gritty pavement on either side of him. “Yeh,” he said seriously, “it’s bit mucky, innit? Maybe we should sweep up a bit.”

The second encounter occurs while Heaney drinks in the Museum Tavern — legendary watering hole for Karl Marx located across from the British Museum — where he runs into poet and frequent Heaney client Ellis, and Ellis’s beguiling young companion.

She held out a tiny white hand across the table. “My name’s Yasmin.”

No, it isn’t, I wanted to say, because she didn’t look or talk at all like a Yasmin. Demon of false naming, we know all about that one. But I held my tongue. “William Heaney.”

“I know.”

Well, there we had it. She knew my name before I’d revealed it; I didn’t know hers even after she’d declared it to me. Another demon in there somewhere. Perhaps we held each other’s gaze a splinter too long because Ellis said, “I think I’m going to vomit.”

“How do you two people know each other?” I asked genially.

And as she told me, my demon, my real demon, who had been listening, crouched, always attentive, breathed its sweet and poisoned breath in my ear. “Take her away from the lout. Take her home with you. Lift her skirt.”

She talked at length and I listened. Voices are sometimes like the grain in a strip of wood. You can hear the character of someone’s experience in their voice. Hers was warm, and vital, but damaged.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce was originally published in 2008 as Memoirs Of A Master Forger under the nom de plum William Heaney. Normally when I review a book, I go by its original title, even if I read a reissued version under a new name. As the author seems to have decided to take back the pen name, I'm going with the reissued title and author information.

William Heaney, the narrator as nom de plum, is a forty-something, divorce who has a government job and dabbles in making book forgeries on the side. He also for reasons never fully established can see demons. A prank from his school days has come back to bite him on the ass and now he has to clean up his mess.

The book was a pretty quick read, sort of a mashup (at least in my head) of Supernatural and Black Books. Sometimes, though, Heaney reminds me more of an adult Watanuki from CLAMP's xxxHolic manga series than Dean or Sam Winchester, in that he's not especially brave about the demons he sees and he's not exactly out to put an end to them.

For all the fun mix and matching I was doing in my head, I wanted more from the actual novel. It lacked coherence. There wasn't enough conflict or narrative drive to keep me turning the pages. I didn't especially connect with Heaney or any of his friends. They were there and they were entertaining but not especially memorable. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 17, 2015 |
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked this one up to read. I did not expect to sit an entire day and finish the entire book. I did not expect to cry. I though I might laugh, and yes I did several times out loud. I did not expect to have a verbal conversation with the story teller. At one point I might have said "Why did you not go home with that women you crazy man". Again I was sucked into this world. What world you ask. Well I am not sure. The world that cats see and we can't? The world that as children we see but when we reach adulthood we loose our vision ? And best yet, this is a story about books and the power they have. This story is about family and friendship. And maybe a love story as well. And lets not forget the demons. They are the most important part. ( )
  jaddington | Feb 16, 2015 |
I read this book basically in one sitting, which is a rare thing for me. Graham Joyce is a joy to read. This one was a little different than his later works that I've read, but the bones of what makes his work good are here. Good, believable characters caught in some quite unbelievable circumstances. How they handle what is thrown at them makes his work fascinating. ( )
  alsatia | May 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This novel builds up a powerful head of steam—but it does it slowly enough that I wondered at times how Joyce was going to pull all the threads together by the end of the relatively slender volume. This is typical of Joyce's novels. They aren't zero to sixty in point six seconds Ferrari-style books. They're more like old-style Soviet tractors: the kind that run on bear grease at eighty below zero, plow a straight furrow in solid rock, and can be conveniently retrofitted as tank chassis the next time the Germans invade.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Joyceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dringenberg, MikeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are one thousand five hundred and sixty-seven known demons.
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"William Heaney is a fraud. A charming fraud, but a fraud nevertheless. He writes poetry so that a more attractive friend can pass it off as his own, he produces fake Jane Austen first editions so that he can fleece foolish and greedy book collectors. He can see demons. He drinks rather too much wine." "This is his story. The story of a man who is living with regret. The story of a man who is prey to his own demon and who can see the demons of others: shadowy indistinct figures waiting, hunched, at people's shoulders. Waiting for a mistake, for a moment of weakness." "And meanwhile William is waiting. Waiting without knowing he is waiting. Waiting for love. But until then, perhaps just one more drink..."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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