Thursday, 29 January 2009

Wanted Man

Wanted Man is sub-titled ‘The Forgotten Story of Oliver Curtis Perry, an American Outlaw’. It was written by Tamsin Spargo four years ago, but I only came across it recently. It turns out that Tamsin is an academic based at Liverpool John Moores University, where she is Director of the School of Media, Critical and Creative Arts, and a Reader in Cultural History. She and I have a friend in common and he prompted her to get in touch and send me a copy of her book. I’m glad he did.

I didn’t know what to expect, never having heard of Oliver Curtis Perry. His story, I discovered, is quite fascinating. Tamsin Spargo describes his brief career as a train robber, but this is in some respects merely a prelude to the meat of the story, an account of a proud and contradictory man who persists in cocking a snook at authority. After he is caught, he behaves like a celebrity, arrogant but entertaining. However, authority has its revenge. His prison sentence is harsh, and because he continues to defy those with power over him, his conditions worsen. All this is quite poignantly described.

There is one especially shocking episode during Perry’s incarceration that startled me not only because it came as a bolt from the blue but also because it bore an uncanny resemblance to an element of a story idea that I’ve been toying with idly. A weird coincidence.

I enjoyed this book. It is highly readable – not something that can be said of everything written by those in the academic world – and tells a fascinating, if sad tale. Tamsin Spargo is quite an easy name to remember, and the quality of this book suggests to me that you will hear much more of her in the future.

No comments: