Spend time with a novelist or two and you’re bound to hear horror stories on book tours. Although many of the readings are well attended and rewarding for both the author and the audience, when these events take place in remote towns where the writer does not know anyone, having suffered all the inconveniences of traveling alone, all too often , attendance turns out to be negligible. In “The Book Tour”, a graphic novel by Andi Watson, GH Fretwell takes his new novel, “Without K”, on the road. Arriving in the big city, presumably London, he endures one miserable read after another, while gradually suffering from an increasingly lower class hotel as his editor, who also appears to be the ghost of a reunion expected, continues to extend the tour without explanation. Fretwell isn’t particularly introspective, it seems, primarily concerned with getting his itinerary updated, finding his next hotel, and where he’ll dine, preferably on his own, usually a steak. The story has everything to be as tedious as its existence is at this particular moment, but when one of the bookstore clerks goes missing and the police want to speak to Fretwell since he was the last person to see her , his Kafkaesque life (“Sans K”, do you understand?) becomes much more so, and the 272-page graphic novel comes to life like a real page turner.
Watson puts the book in a sort of timeless version of a town, in black and white, where Fretwell always wears some sort of Edwardian costume and analog phones have rotating dials. The shops are the epic bookstores of the imagination, with shelves up to the ceiling in endless deserted alleys, echoing the city streets and its vintage buildings and equally empty streets. I sometimes imagined it was Jack the Ripper’s London, a notion reinforced by Watson’s vintage drawing style.
Watson is a British comic book writer who has pursued eclectic work, most notably for Marvel and DC, but more recently for young adult audiences. This, apparently, is her first adult book in quite some time. I’m waiting for another one.
The book tour
Top Shelf Productions, 272 pages