Gower Bibliography

The Invention of Fire

Holsinger, Bruce. "The Invention of Fire." New York: HarperCollins, 2015 ISBN 9780062356451

Review

"The Invention of Fire" represents Holsinger's follow-up to "A Burnable Book" (reviewed in eJGN 33.1 (2014) by Michael Livingston). It is the second of a projected three novels featuring John Gower as the central character. In Holsinger's telling Gower is part honest sleuth, relied upon by the great and powerful, part professional extortionist, who makes his living dealing in dirt. As in "A Burnable Book," murder, treason, forgery, prostitution and petty thievery find their way into every cranny and corner of Holsinger's noir London, intertwining with the precise historical detail (for which Holsinger has a fine nose) that is both accurate and workable. In "The Invention of Fire," the moment is 1386, the fire emanates from "handgonnes" just then being developed, in this telling, to effect a coup d'etat, and the results are slaughtered women and children in Normandy, entangled corpses below the Thames-side public privies, and high-level betrayals that, if true, would go far to explain events in parliament and court in that year. Gower, whose progressively deteriorating vision (clearly Holsinger's fortuitous take on the handicap requisite for "private eyes"--think Holmes' cocaine use, Philip Marlowe's drinking) plays a larger part in this second novel than in the first, is asked on the Q.T. to follow a thread that leads him not only abroad (!) where he meets his son, Simon (!!), but more plausibly to the highest and lowest social strata. Like "A Burnable Book," this one is a good yarn, and if it feels a bit thinner and more rushed-out than the first, it nevertheless still offers many pleasures for Gowerians, not the least of which is watching Gower perform as an almost-man of action, while Chaucer (again) comes off as more than a little shifty, a bit of a worm trending cad-ward directly. [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 35.1.]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Influence and Later Allusion

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata