The Demolition of the Century
Last weekend I had the pleasure of interviewing writer, film-maker and performer Duncan Sarkies at the Mapua Literary Festival. As part of my preparation I read The Demolition of the Century. This is a novel that skips along apace with its curious plot, wry observations, clever characterisation and farce that borders on slapstick. The tale is told via two voices. Tom Spotswood, a ramshackle alcoholic who, through his association with the local racing industry and an insurance deal, has a big pile of cash, feels under threat. He believes his life is endangered, he skips town, leaving his wife and young son. Spud, the other voice in the novel, makes a living knocking down buildings and flogging their contents, making ends meet for his family. In this novel, the building which some of the action centres around is the Century Theatre, sadly being pulled down rather than restored. When Tom returns to town, looking to connect with his son, Frank, intent on making up for his inadequacies as an absent father, relationships become strained and paranoia sets in (Tom is sure someone is following him) as he tries to chase down the mysterious Robert Valentine. And someone is following him: Spud has a bone to pick with Mr Spotswood and he's tracking him on the streets of Dunedin. And just when it's all coming together, we veer off and realise that there's something else going on here too - a revelation that is both melancholic, bitingly real and heartfelt.
Tom Spotswood (a.k.a. William McGinty) is an insurance investigator who has lost his socks, his suitcase, his career, his ex-wife and, most importantly, his son, Frank. He is being followed by Robert Valentine, the mysterious owner of the horse with no sperm; Alastair Shook and his van of guards; and Spud, a demolition man who is using his wrecking ball to bring down the most beautiful movie theatre in town, the Century. To find his son Tom will have to come to terms with his past - a past he ran away from. But first will have to find those socks. The Demolition of the Century is the second novel from Duncan Sarkies, the highly acclaimed author of Two Little Boys. In his latest novel, Sarkies takes a sometimes savage, sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking look at families, memories, demolition and the fragility of the human mind.
The multi-talented Duncan Sarkies is a screenwriter, playwright, novelist, stand-up comedian and short story writer. He is best known for writing the hit black comedy Scarfies, one of New Zealand's highest grossing films. He also penned an episode of the HBO TV series Flight of the Conchords. Duncan has written film scripts, plays and musical theatre, touring several shows around New Zealand and abroad. He won the 1995 New New Zealand Play of the Year award for Saving Grace, and the 2000 Montana New Zealand Best First Book Award for his short story collection Stray Thoughts and Nose Bleeds. Duncan's debut novel Two Little Boys was published in 2008 to rave reviews, and was brought to life as a major motion picture in 2012.