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"Do you know what the last four things are? In the

Christian catechism they are Death, Judgment, Heaven

and Hell. But in our secular age they should perhaps be

changed. I suggest - First Love, Friendship, Betrayal

and Death . . . These also happen to be the staples of

the novelist. Is that the sort of thing you want?"'

Thus Cornelius Marten asks the researcher who turns up one night

at his house. Cornelius has forgotten his invitation to the young

man. But the young woman who accompanies him seems strangely

familiar. Cornelius is flattered by their attention. He had thought

himself almost forgotten; his great works neglected. And Cornelius,

monstrously selfish, whisky glass constantly in hand, his mind

shifting between past and present, finds that his mysterious guests

release memories and truths he had preferred to forget.

The stories which follow Four Last Things complement and explore

some of the same themes: the poet who has published only one

poem; a bizarre stag night; a child who is haunted by his encounter

with the adult world of a religious maniac; a dreamed murder;

an academic who stirs the ghost of Byron in modern Venice;

the shifts and deceptions of language and memory; and in a great

jazzman's last wordless hurrah, a final flowering of beauty.

This irresistibly powerful volume by the author of The Good

Republic, Leporello and The Contract confirms William Palmer as

one of our finest writers.

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