With much acclaim Thomas McMullan has released his debut dystopian novel, The Last Good Man, which is dark and demoralising and will cause anyone to despair, most of all lead protagonist, Duncan Peck. With praise from Margaret Atwood and a head nod to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, this title certainly stirs intrigue and raises question.
Thomas McMullan is a writer, critic and journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Guardian, Observer, Times Literary Supplement, Frieze and BBC News, and has been published in 3:AM Magazine, Lighthouse and Best British Short Stories. This is his debut novel, and for such, maturely written.
Duncan Peck, a city dweller, travels to Dartmoor in search of his cousin. In his James Hale’s village, Peck finds a place with tea rooms and barley fields, a church and a schoolhouse. Despite the honest life, they have a strange way of settling trouble, with words scribed for all to see on a vast wall. Anyone can write on the wall, anonymously, about their neighbours, about any wrongdoing that might have a negative impact on the community. Then comes the reckoning.
However, it is not long before Peck himself sees his name scrawled on the wall and there is controversy around his position in the village, and his relationship with his cousin. And what can words scribed on walls do, certainly they can plant seeds about wrong doing and extinction?
The Last Good Man is an unsettling title, with language and a world created that considers justice fear and atonement, and allows us to consider the implications of violent writing or even more laterally hate speech perhaps. Certainly in a modern day context this would allow us to consider the implications of words scribed on social media, the impact of Tweets and posts. The disturbing elements of this novel make you continue on, despite the discourse and albeit a difficult time to be reading around issues of violence, McMullan handles this sensitively enough to allow us to engage and ponder on these issues, enough to render this novel worth sticking with.
The Last Good Man is available now, published by Bloomsbury.