Henry Shukman has worked as a trombonist, a trawlerman and a travel writer. He is also a prize-winning poet. His first poetry collection, In Doctor No's Garden, was published by Cape in 2002. Darien Dogs is his first work of fiction.
With this assured and powerful first collection, Henry Shukman springs fully-formed into the poetry world, having already won a raft of prizes for individual poems. His sensibility is unique, engaging and immediate; we are drawn into the worlds of these poems by his accurate eye, his sensual line and the warmth of his communion with the scene he describes. Ranging across the globe, from Mexico to Japan, from the States to Southern England, these poems can be lyrical and deeply affecting, wryly funny or wildly imaginative. From a lonely mother attempting to learn the piano to a ski-jump that never ends, from a redemptive encounter with horses on a cold day to a miraculous bowl of chicken soup, these poems display a vibrancy and variety rarely seen in contemporary poetry. But Shukman's great strength is in the domestic: the complexities of love, and the rites of passage of childhood and parenthood, are re-entered with candor, grace and originality. In Doctor No's Garden is an affectionate, refreshing debut, striking in its imagery and insight, remarkable for its lightness of touch and emotional weight.
It has been over a decade since Henry Shukman published his award-winning first collection, In Doctor No's Garden. Now, in his greatly anticipated second collection, he explores a little-known piece of Jewish history, in a sequence of poems that forms the centre-piece of this book. In 1917 several thousand Jewish tailors were deported from London and shipped back to Archangel and the Russian Empire they had recently fled, ostensibly to fight on the Eastern Front. They arrived just as the Revolution was unfolding and the old regime was collapsing into chaos. Among them were Shukman's grandfather and great-uncle, and these poems chronicle their four-year struggle to return to their wives and children in London. With poems on loss and mortality, on love in difficult circumstances, and on the familiar themes of childhood and family relationships, Archangel tells the stories of many journeys - from youth to maturity, from loss back into love - and the migrations of Shukman's Jewish grandparents are echoed in his own move with his wife and family from England to New Mexico. Whatever the theme, though, these are all love poems: poems lucid with intensity, bright with the longing for love - both its fleeting rapture and its slow contentment - and Archangel is a book of great reach, power and beauty.
Invalided out of the army at barely twenty, Jackson Small returns to England traumatised by the violent death of his fellow soldier and blood-brother Connolly. Unable to settle and incapacitated by grief, Jackson sets off on a lunatic quest, back to the Peruvian jungle in search of something he cannot even be sure is real: the lost city of La Joya, the ancient capital of a vanished empire - a place of rare wonder once glimpsed by Connolly and never forgotten. The city is hidden in the cloud forest that hangs between the copper-green rivers of the Andes and the impenetrable jungle of Amazonia. The pilgrimage Jackson has to make to reach it will bring him into contact with worlds he has never before imagined: that of the American patriarch farming in the wilderness, a great-hearted native priest, and the love of his life. But the lethal green depths of the forest that hide La Joya turn out also to conceal other searchers, with motives far more sinister and complex than Jackson's.
Former foreign correspondent Charles Mortimer is all washed up, living a hand-to-mouth existence in Manhattan, wondering how things could have gone so wrong for him. A chance discovery of a newspaper obituary takes him back to the beginning of his career, when he was a young, hopeful man reporting from the Sahara Desert in the company of beautiful French photographer Celeste Dumas. The two narrowly escape death by bullet, grenade, thirst and heatstroke and, ultimately, drowning. By the end of their adventure, Mortimer has begun his life as a successful, cynical journalist. Fifteen years roll by, and Mortimer finds himself again in Algeria, where he perpetrates the great error of his professional life and realizes, finally, what it was he lost so long ago in the desert wastes. By the winner of the Author's Club First Novel Award, Guardian First Book Award and The Times First Book Award.
Jim Rogers once had everything: a successful career, the love of a beautiful woman, a Manhattan penthouse and more money than he knew what to do with. Now it had all gone wrong and he was in a seedy hotel in Panama realising that the prostitute he'd just been with had stolen his wallet. Though it wasn't the money he was worried about but a sheet of folded paper, which he'd just been given by the mysterious Albert Jones: a piece of paper that might have saved his life. The search for the girl and the stolen document lead the two men deep into the Darien archipelago - a primitive, treacherous idyll that seems like Paradise but may in fact be Hell. The short novel, Darien Dogs, and the four stories that accompany it, mark the fictional debut of an assured and thrillingly gifted writer.