Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge: Galley Beggar Press, 2016 – Republic of Consciousness Prize Short List*

‘This is not a casserole we are making here, it is a philosophical work.’

A pair of misfits set out on an adventure into notoriety and oblivion. Don is a writer who hates writing and his downtrodden servant, Is, has recently been struck by lightning. Prepare to laugh out loud as, dressed in rabbit skins to give them the appearance of prehistoric men, this eccentric duo embark on a riotously entertaining odyssey with the emphasis firmly on the odd.

With no map to direct them or conscious idea of their destination, Don and Is go round in circles, frequently ending up back where they started. Undeterred, they eventually make a peculiar path across Essex and into London, analysing along the way what it means to be alive in the world. Travelling on foot, by boat, and on other people’s shoulders, these intrepid adventurers spend a lot of time in the pub, join what they think is an alternative community of Druids, get intimidated by a gang of cows, and sleep in a graveyard, amongst other things. There are also several altercations with the police.

‘Without destination or intent – onwards!’


It is not always clear which, if either, is the wiser of the two protagonists. Don certainly thinks he is right about everything and his grandiose aim is the ‘salvation of Being’. A self-proclaimed expert on many bizarre subjects, he likes to question the fundamental norms of society, speaking with authority but not always sense. Is, like the reader, does not always know what his master is going on about. On occasion a witty and shrewd observer, he takes Don’s waffling in his stride and often brings him down a peg or two with well-timed quips. Inspirational messages do, however, emerge sporadically from amidst the absurdities Don spouts, such as his respect for mindfulness and desire to live in the now.

The characters are often at the mercy of the all-seeing (and meddling) narrator, who takes great offence at Don’s attitude to writing and manipulates the story to punish him. Pursued by a crowd of thousands who mistakenly believe them to be their leaders, the purpose of their trip having been mistaken for a re-enactment of the 14th century Peasants’ Revolt, Don and Is face an ongoing battle to regain control over the chaos.

‘The reader can rest assured that a story will very soon be dragged out of all this nonsense…Read on!’

Intricately detailed and daringly innovative, Forbidden Line is a book unlike any other. The reader is swept into the story, drifting alongside the two strange friends with no idea where the narrative is heading. Don and Is bring to mind an eclectic mix of double acts as random as Blackadder and Baldrick, Dogberry and Verger, and Doc Brown and Marty McFly. The prose is witty and elaborate and the story has a timeless quality to it. So much so that the rare reminders that it is set in the contemporary age come as a bit of a shock, the reverie rudely interrupted by passing cars and mobile phones.

The ambitiously complex way of writing occasionally results in the story tying itself up in knots and it is certainly a challenging read. But this book is a magnificent accomplishment by the ground-breaking author Paul Stanbridge.  Thought-provoking, perplexing, vivid and surreal, this is a laugh-out-loud funny tour de force and definitely one to watch out for.

Click here to buy Forbidden Line directly from Galley Beggar Press.

About the Publisher

Galley Beggar Press is committed to producing beautiful books. Nurturing unique and innovative writers and publishing works of the highest quality and integrity, they also believe in the ‘fantastic potential of ebooks to reach new audiences, to spread our writers’ precious words around the world and to revive and revitalise books that would otherwise either be out of print or lost on the backlist’.

About the Reviewer

Becky Danks is an avid reader, creative writer, dog lover, poet and reviewer of books. Amongst other things! Follow her on Twitter: @BeckyD123

 *The Contemporary Small Press is celebrating the first ever Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses by reviewing a range of titles from the long- and short-lists throughout early 2017.  The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by writer Neil Griffiths to support and reward adventurous new fiction published by small presses in the UK and Ireland.  The judges have selected some of the most exciting and innovative new fiction to highlight through their long- and short-lists, demonstrating the breadth and depth of high-quality literary fiction currently being published by small and independent presses.  The winner will be announced at an award-ceremony held in conjunction with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster in March.



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