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Judge Savage

The truth about blurbs or at least my blurbs, is that I write down the book as I see it and then the publishers add the puff and praise as they see fit.In any event, here is the blurb to Judge Savage, followed by a few comments on when where why I wrote the book.

“There is no life without a double life. and yet one grows weary…”

Promoted young to the position of Crown Court Judge – because of his ability, because of the political convenience of promoting a man with coloured skin – it’s time for Daniel Savage to settle down. Perhaps his marriage is happy enough after all. Teenage children require a father’s attention. His career demands the most responsible behaviour. Day by day Judge Savage presides over those whose double lives have been exposed. He must be above suspicion.

But the passage from complexity to simplicity eludes him. Why does his daughter refuse to move to the spacious new house he and his wife have bought? Why does a young Korean woman keep phoning him to beg for help? As the most tangled lives are ironed out in court, Daniel Savage’s own existence descends into a mess of violence and confusion. The solid English society, of which his public school background ironically makes him the representative, has fragmented into an incomprehensible public gallery where every face conceals a different culture. And those with whom we have the greatest intimacy are suddenly the most frighteningly mysterious.

A hero by chance only to be oberwhelmed with disgrace, Daniel Savage’s attempt to keep some kind of grip on the world will keep the reader in a torment of tension to the last page. At the same time the sense of recognition is overwhelming. This is the feverish disorientation of the modern city street.

I started this book just a few months after finishing Destiny, so that would be towards the end of 1998. Destiny, for those not familiar with it, had such an obsessive style, a style suitable really only for one kind of experience, that it seemed important to change. Judge Savage is written in the third person rather than the first and instead of a guy in perennial panic we start with someone absolutely on top of events and at the top of his career.

What can I say about the content of the book? I have always been fascinated by the law. If there is any career I ever think I would have loved, aside from writing, it is that of the criminal lawyer. So it was a pleasure when I realised that the legal background would suit the plot I had in mind. I took time out to hang around in courtrooms. After which, you do wonder why people bother to read novels and go to the cinema, when they could just spend the day in court. The answer, I suppose, is that books and films, in their control over their material, have a way of being reassuring. Something the courtroom never is. In court, watching the witnesses and the accused, you can never quite be sure what has happened.

The other big decision is the main character’s colour. My life in Italy has also caused me to be intrigued by the anxieties of integration. I’ve lived here 23 years, have an Italian family, speak good Italian, do a job in an Italian institution, yet you know that for Italians you will always be different and you are. Now I see the young kids from Africa and Asia going up speaking local Veronese dialect, yet knowing they will never quite be locals the way the indigenous population are.These experiences are far from identical, yet the analogies are there. Black Brazilian, adopted at birth, educated in the best British schools, Daniel Savage can never quite know how different he may or may not be, nor be sure how much of his identity is fuelled by that anxiety.

Finally, or right up front, I should say, there’s the plot. A thriller really. A mystery. I’ve always wondered: when someone decides to do good against their best interests is, how much is this a moral decision, or an aesthetic seduction, or a matter of the image you have created for yourself and can’t let go of. Daniel savage cannot not feel that he has a responsibility toward a girl he once slept with. And so pulls his world, many worlds, down about his ears.

There are also a few court conundrums and much stuff about dealing with family, friends and city.