If you are a regular reader of the blog, you may be thinking this doesn’t look like the kind of book I usually read and you’d be right. When Portobello author Brian Pendreigh got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in reading his novel The Man in the Seventh Row I was very intrigued but did say to him I wasn’t sure if it was my kind of thing. I’m so glad I decided to read it though as I thoroughly enjoyed it – proof that it is good to read outside your comfort zone from time to time. You can read an Author in the Spotlight feature with Brian here.
This book is about Roy Batty who as a young boy was a film fanatic and saw so many classic films of the 60s and 70s. Still a film buff as an adult, he finds himself watching himself playing the familiar characters on the big screen from his seat in the Seventh Row. I’m sure that many people have imagined themselves in a favourite film, to escape into that different world, what they’d do, how they’d react in certain situations and so on. It seems that Roy is getting to live out this fantasy – or is it all in his head?
Film fans will love the references to films throughout the years. The book created a sense of nostalgia for my younger years when going to the cinema was a big event. I particularly enjoyed the mention of various Edinburgh cinemas, some sadly no more. I remember Gregory’s Girl record breaking run at the Dominion cinema – I’m sure it was on for over a year such was its popularity! I also remember going to the ABC Cinema in Lothian Road (I think it’s now an Odeon cinema) and wondering anxiously if I would get in. You had to queue up behind signs for cinema 1, 2 or 3 and hope, as the queue crawled forward, that the usher wouldn’t turn the sign to House Full just as you reached the front. If he did, then you had to make the quick decision about whether you wanted to see one of the other films on offer and make a dash for one of the other queues.
There’s even a nod towards Portobello’s cinematic history with mention of The George cinema on Bath Street playing its final double bill. This grand art deco building is still standing. It was a bingo hall when I first moved to Portobello though now is sadly empty and becoming derelict as plans to convert it into flats have been turned down. Perhaps this reflects the demise of the golden age of cinema, its fading grandeur.
As you read you feel a bit like you are watching a film of this man’s life yourself, that you’re a bit of a voyeur. Roy is a fascinating character. I really enjoyed his boyhood cinema trips either in Edinburgh or North Berwick. They brought back so many memories for me. Equally intriguing are his experiences watching himself on the big screen – just what was going on there?
The Man in the Seventh Row is a very clever well-written novel, with a wealth of information about film history, without it feeling like you are reading a history book. The short stories at the end of the book picking up on a few minor characters or themes from the main novel, round the book off nicely almost coming full circle. I really recommend The Man in the Seventh Row to any cinema goers who will enjoy reliving their youth. This highly unusual and compelling read will also appeal to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking literary fiction.
My thanks to the author for my review e-copy of this book. It is available now in ebook and paperback formats. It should be in stock at The Portobello Bookshop or you can order a copy here: The Man in the Seventh Row
From the back of the book
A man is sucked into the action of the classic films he watches, The Graduate, Braveheart, The Magnificent Seven, Blade Runner. Is this real? Or in his head? And why?
Ultimately The Man in the Seventh Row is about childhood and adulthood, about obsession and love, and about loss and possibility of redemption.
It is available here for the first time with three short stories that complete the journey.
About the author
Brian is the author of several books and his latest is The Man in the Seventh Row which is about a man who is sucked into the classic movies he loved as a boy! It was recently featured in The Scotsman newspaper’s column “Write Stuff … showcasing the nation’s best writers”.