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About the Author

Patrick McGrath was born in London and grew up near Broadmoor Hospital, where for many years his father was medical superintendent. He is the author of Blood and Water and Other Tales, The Grotesque, Spider, Dr. Haggard's Disease, and Martha Peake, and he was the co-editor, with Bradford Morrow, of The New York Gothic. He lives in New York City and London, and is married to actress Maria Aitken.


Spider Cleg moves into a London boarding house near the squalid East End neighborhood where he lived 20 years earlier. Here memories of his mother's murder and other childhood traumas arouse his latent schizophrenia. Spider tells his own story in the form of a secret journal, and hallucination sometimes displaces reliable narrative. Since events of the past and present unfold simultaneously, the book skillfully maintains two levels of suspense. We wonder what happened to Spider as a child and what this past suffering will lead him to do. As in many stories by Poe, McGrath's portrayal of a diseased mind evokes disquiet but also voyeuristic fascination.-- Albert E. Wil helm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville

McGrath here pares away the campy, macabre elements of his previous works ( Blood and Water and Other Tales ; The Grotesque ) in favor of a closely observed study of madness, memory and storytelling . Dennis Clegg, affectionately nicknamed Spider by his mother, returns to his London neighborhood after 20 years in a mental hospital and begins a journal to ``create some order in the jumble of memories''--that is, to unravel the murky circumstances surrounding his mother's murder. This crime, he contends, was committed by his father, but has been pinned on Spider. Through lucid, poetically charged reconstructions, we are introduced to an unhappy family triad: alcoholic father, passive mother and an only child who becomes increasingly delusional. In Spider's telling, the truth of things is elusive, but the stormy wonder of the prose--Spider describes himself as a ``baggy, threadbare sort of a customer, really--my clothes have always seemed to flap about me like sailcloth, like sheets and shrouds . . . and they always look vacant, untenanted . . . as though I were nothing and the clothes were clinging merely to an idea of a man''--perfectly conveys the roiling vertigo of mental illness along with the clarity it often incites. Spider's unreliability as narrator deepens McGrath's portrait of an unfathomable reality and preserves the refinements of his philosophical skepticism. An admixture of Poe and the comic vulnerabilities of Beckett, this tale lingers long and disturbingly in the mind. (Oct.).

"A small classic of horror." -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Brilliant. . . . The sensuous world that McGrath creates is intense in its beauty. . . mesmerizing." --Katherine Dunn, The New York Times Book Review "Disturbing, wholly absorbing. . . a combination murder mystery/dark-night-of-the-soul. . . touchingly, menacingly brilliant." --Chicago Tribune "A gorgeous, painful howl of madness, shockingly perfect." --Jonathan Hawkes "Has the compelling quality of felt reality [that] feels like the inevitable truth. Spider is a thriller of sorts, as well as a psychological case study. . . a gem." --Washington Post Book World "McGrath especially excels at evoking the latent horro in commonplace sights. . . . [He] has created a manifestly untrustworthy storyteller without sacrificing suspense or sympathy for his characters." --Cleveland Plain Dealer "[Spider] is as creepy as a fleshy incarnation of an Edward Gorey drawing. . . . McGrath's a shrewd performer. You're fascinated; you're enthralled. . . it's a pleasure to be mesmerized." --Newsday "Truly outstanding. . . evocative. . . Accomplished in the sinister and macabre, McGrath transcends his already solid reputation with a powerfully realized character who simply won't let you go." --Christian Science Monitor "The strength of Spider is in the character of the deeply human, if mad, protagonist who emerges as a formidable sufferer among the Gothic trappings. . . . McGrath is a sly literate who. . . has talent--in spades." --Philadelphia Inquirer

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