Posted in Damp Pebbles Tour

Captain Clive’s Dreamworld by John Bassoff.

After becoming the suspect in the death of a young woman, Deputy Sam Hardy is reassigned to the town of Angels and Hope, which, within its borders, holds the once magnificent amusement park, Captain Clive’s Dreamworld. When he arrives, however, Hardy notices some strange happenings. The park is essentially empty of customers. None of the townsfolk ever seem to sleep. And girls seem to be going missing with no plausible explanation. As Hardy begins investigating, his own past is drawn into question by the town, and he finds himself becoming more and more isolated. The truth—about the town and himself—will lead him to understand that there’s no such thing as a clean escape.

This is such an incredible mix of genres and influences! I’ve seen so many suggestions but for me at different times I felt: The Truman Show, Hot Fuzz, Black Mirror and 1984. Every so often a little lightning strike of recognition would occur – such as everyone denying someone’s presence or dropping strange sayings like ‘the greater good’ – and my brain would fire off into a film or TV series. I also think it’s no coincidence that a lot of these references are visual. This book grabbed hold of my visual memory and didn’t let go. It also felt like a cautionary tale, bringing up some of the same points as Russell T. Davies’s Years and Years. It read as a warning against rampant consumerism and the sort of faux nostalgia people cling to that made Brexit happen in the U.K. I find it strange that a book with so many points of recognition still managed to feel entirely unique.

At first, Sam thinks Angels and Hope seems like a lovely place to live. Almost idyllic. At the centre of this community is the amusement park Captain Clive’s Dreamworld; the town was built to house staff of the park. It’s motto is ‘Where dreams really do come true’ and you could be forgiven for thinking they have. Sam isn’t the average man though, and he starts to notice anomalies. No one ever seems to visit the amusement park for a start, so why are the staff necessary? There’s also the problem of Bridget Bishop, a girl that no one else in the town seems to remember now she’s gone missing. Or maybe they can remember her but are denying her existence? This is the last straw for Sam and he starts to investigate what’s really going on in the village. This is where the book becomes very disturbing, in a couple of scenes that are unexpected and disturbing. However they do seem to fit what I know about Bassoff’s writing, he likes to mash-up genres and expectations. The scenes are also in-keeping with the idea that seems to be the undercurrent of this novel; life is unexpected, our place in it is total chance.

Bassoff seems to be posing the idea that we like to create myths and religions in order to give life pattern and purpose, but they are an illusion. Real life doesn’t seem to have any sense to it and we’re so scared by that, we have to create philosophies that make sense of it. When something terrible happens there is an emotional seismic shock in society, in my lifetime that’s probably 9/11 or the death of Princess Diana. Then, conspiracy theories spring up around the event. People would rather believe a shadowy conspiracy of men in grey, headed up by the Duke of Edinburgh arranged Diana’s death. This is more palatable then a Princess was driven at high speed, by a man who’d been drinking, only to die in a tragic car accident while being pursued by paparazzi. Having watched a bit of David Lynch over the years I was reminded of some of his work. In Twin Peaks we had the beautiful Laura Palmer who is found dead in the river wrapped in plastic and a beautiful town goes into mourning for its Homecoming Queen. However, as people slowly begin to tell their stories it’s clear that this town didn’t know the reality of being Laura Palmer. She was addicted to cocaine, suffering from sexual abuse and sleeping with most of men or women she came into contact with. I remember being quite disturbed by the scenes from the night Laura is killed and her cousin Maddie. This book does the same as Lynch’s work on Twin Peaks and in films like Blue Velvet. Places have a surface, but underneath there’s a dark underbelly that most people never see. So, the revealing scenes are disturbing, but they are also needed for the story being told. The surface story of this book is disgraced cop is moved to a small town with an amusement park promising dreams that come true. Dig a little deeper and we find something terrible.This is far from a world where dreams come true, unless your dreams are nightmares.


Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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