Monday, 15 September 2014



In this masterful debut, Martin Clark proves to be the heir apparent of great Southern raconteurs and the envy of more seasoned novelists as he takes us on a frantic tour of the modern south.

Hung over, beaten by the unforgiving sun, bitter at his estranged wife, and dreading the day’s docket of petty criminal cases, Judge Evers Wheeling is in need of something on the morning he's accosted by Ruth Esther English. Ruth Esther's strange story certainly is something, and Judge Wheeling finds himself in uncharted territory. Reluctantly agreeing to help Ruth Esther retrieve some stolen money, he recruits his pot-addled brother and a band of merry hangers-on for the big adventure. Raucous road trips, infidelity, suspected killers, winning Lotto tickets, drunken philosophical rants, and at least one naked woman tied to a road sign ensue in The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, one part legal thriller, one part murder mystery, and all parts all wild.

THE MANY ASPECTS OF MOBILE HOME LIVING is a remarkable creation, combining Southern gothic, black comedy, courtroom drama and explorations of faith and redemption in a first novel that will be long remembered for its astounding writing and brilliant, unexpected conclusion.

Made me laugh so hard I fell off the sofa – Newsweek.

This book whilst sitting on the TBR pile admittedly was an unintentional read in August. My wife took this one on holiday drawn in undoubtedly by a fantastic description on the back of the book. Upon opening it, the miniscule text – 42 lines to each page - proved too difficult to follow especially reading in the evening; after 5 pages we swapped. My kindle was confiscated and I read a couple of paperbacks until this was the only thing left available.

Originally published in 2000, 14 years on some of the cultural references in the book passed me right on by, which as I’m in the UK and the book is US and setting may well have done anyway, even if it had only been written last week. Most times, I have a tolerance for a slow burner that an author takes time to build; I’m in favour of a writer’s setting the scene but in this instance I think we read about 110 pages before anything of any substance happened. I think the small print did my wife a favour and hazard a guess that text issues aside the book would have lasted no more than 20 pages maximum in her hands, before being tossed aside. I read it, Hobson’s choice really, kind of enjoyed it in the end, but didn’t really like it.
Anyone seen my telescope!

Going back to the text for a minute, scanning the typeface on a couple of other books on the shelves, the line count typically is 30 to each full page of prose. On the basis of 42 here versus 30 elsewhere; this book is probably in the region of 40% longer than the page count would indicate. On that basis the 352 pages here, would roughly translate to 490 plus normally printed pages – I doubt I would have bought the book had it weighed in at around 500. I’m not totally averse to longer books, but I prefer shorter.   

We had a rambling story that took absolutely ages to get where it was going. Populated throughout by characters, including our judge who were either feckless wasters or drunks or just totally unlikeable. I didn’t like the judge, his brother or his friends. I liked his estranged wife even less. There were moments of humour, but in truth if the Newsweek reviewer fell off his sofa, it could only have been because someone chain-sawed a leg from it, when he had been momentarily anaesthetised by a passage of spectacularly dull prose that led nowhere.

Second half of the book improved and in the end the story was ok and it was far from the worst book I have ever read in my life. I think my expectations were higher though. I might be in a minority though. has close to 90 reviews of this, with 60 plus scoring it top marks and another 10 giving it 4 from 5. I did enjoy the courtroom scenes, but these were fleeting moments only - unfortunately.

Several passages of writing, gave me pause for thought when reading. These went some small way to redeeming the book in my eyes…..

Page 125….the brothers had developed a rapturous affection for each other. Never a fight, a sulk, a lie or a hard word, never a hint of envy, anger or resentment – good companions, Evers and Pascal. They would go days without talking, and Evers didn’t know his brother’s birthday….but the two men had their own sequences, their own rituals, their own way of getting along.

Page 200…….“I’ve often thought that there are really just two sentiments in the world: envy and pity. The world’s divided into people and places below you and above you.”

Page 300……. “The world spins around on small kind gestures.”

Martin Clark
Overall a 3 from 5.

Martin Clark has written two other books – Plain Heathen Mischief (2004) and The Legal Limit (2008). I hope I like them better than this one. The author’s website is here.

Bought second hand earlier this year on Amazon UK site.


  1. Col - I wondered whether this Martin Clark was the same one who wrote The Legal Limit. I'm sorry to hear this one didn't exactly sweep you away. I'll be keen to know what you think of The Legal Limit as it's not this sort of book at all (or at least didn't strike me that way).

    1. Margot, yes one and the same. I suppose it is unrealistic to expect every book I read to rock me, but like I say, I have read less enjoyable books in my time.

  2. Col, notwithstanding your take on this novel I'd probably read it on the strength of the title and some of the plot elements like humour and legal scenes that I seldom move away from.

    1. Prashant - horses for courses. A lot of readers liked it more than I did, so it may well be more you than me. I thought the title a real mouthful, but I liked the cover on my copy which was more of an attraction.

  3. I read this when it first came out - I was living in the USA at the time and it got a lot of publicity. And.... I hated it, really disliked it, for all the reasons you mention. I have been waiting to hear what you thought of it since you mentioned it last week, and am glad we are in total agreement. I think at the time I felt cheated because it had such good reviews, and I shelled out for a full-price hardback. At that time I never got rid of books, but I gave this one away...

    1. Nice to find ourselves on the same page yet again. Yes - definitely fell below my expectations and I'm happy to see I'm not the only one who thought so. Perhaps he was undecided as to what sort of book he wanted it to be, but it kinds of surprised me that it was a debut book and got published? Kind of reminded me a bit of John Irving, in the way it rambled and went off on a tangent, which Irving can do on occasion, but it was a really really poor reminder. maybe it's an unfair comparison.

  4. So many things to say about this I may run out of space or time. I might be attracted just by the title, although I shy away from books about the South. And books that are supposed to be funny. I don't remember anything about this book when it came out, but maybe that was about when I got back into fiction and mysteries. I had taken a ten year hiatus in the 90's.

    I had a similar problem on my trip to Alabama. I ended up having to read mostly from my Kindle (which I had not planned) because there was not enough light for me ... anywhere. On the plane. At my sister's house. I have problems with both small print and not enough light, which is pushing me away from the old vintage paperbacks I love and towards the Kindle, that I don't love.

    1. Tracy, I would struggle to recommend it. It had it moments, albeit fleeting ones.
      I prefer print to paperback Sometimes Kindle reading seems like an extension of work, because I spend all day looking at a screen anyway. Small print is quite bothersome, particularly as I get older.

    2. Doh, I prefer print to "digital" - I ought to reread what I say before posting!