In the Friday-afternoon lull within the English Department of Bannockburn College, E. Robert Pendleton sat listening to the sound of life outside his window.
–Michael Collins - The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton - c.2006 -pg.3
The E. Robert Pendleton of the title is a professor struggling to keep his tenure at Bannockburn College where he lectures in English. He is also an author; although recently he has been suffering from writer’s block. He hasn’t had any successful books in years. And he is feeling the strain. A strain made even worse when an old rival shows up to give a guest lecture. This rival is a best-selling author; in many ways he represents everything that Pendleton yearns for.
It all seems to much for Pendleton, he has suffered previous break-downs, and he attempts to commit suicide. But graduate student Adi finds him and gets help for him. Pendleton had left his writings to her, for her thesis, and so she takes it upon herself to look after him as he recovers. Along the way she discovers a self-published novel, Scream, which details the abduction, rape and murder of a young girl. It is a true work of art, she feels, and helps arrange to get it re-published. But then discovers that the details match up with a real murder. Could Pendleton have been responsible?
I’ve previously read Collins’ Lost Soulsand The Keepers of Truth and while I’m not sure enjoyed is the correct word for them I definitely appreciated them. Similar can be said about this novel. I didn’t really enjoy any of it, it is dark and depressing in many places, but I appreciated the skill of the writing.
It is quite a clever book, and a page-turner, I read it in a day. Then again I was on holiday so that might have been part of the reason. But overall I think I need to like something about a book to really rate it.