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Judderman D A Northwood Main

"Judderman" Book Review

Written by Gabino Iglesias

Published by The Eden Book Society

Judderman D A Northwood Large

Written by D.A. Northwood
2018, 78 pages, Fiction
Released on September 1st, 2018

Review:

I like horror narratives. I like books about books. I like stories where characters explore “the forgotten tributaries of history.” I love tales about dark dangerous monsters. I enjoy novels where someone disappears without a trace. I am a fan of writing that manages to be elegant and gripping while the author simultaneously respects your time and attention span by paying attention to economy of language. D.A. Northwood’s Judderman checks every one of those boxes.
London in the early-1970s is a place plagued by crime, racism, violence, and bombings. In the midst of that chaos, a new urban myth is taking shape: Judderman. The winos and junkies talk about it. Those who claim to know London Incognita, the city’s hidden side, are sure it’s real. People are seeing it, and people are going missing. One of those who disappears is a man who spent a lot of time studying the dark side of London. His brother tries to figure out what happened to him. What follows is a trifecta of narratives that offer readers a glimpse into the darkness, brutality, and history that allowed this monster to abandon the realm of urban legends and walk London’s streets looking for victims.

Judderman is only 78 pages, but it contains more hidden stories than most 300-page novels. The narratives, which include the brother, the missing man’s journal, and chunks of a novel, are full of strange elements and creatures that force the reader to imagine their origin. The story offers a sort of bestiary of London’s streets, the Thames, and its underground world, and reading about the many creatures that populate it adds to the overall creepy aesthetic of the narrative:

They both knew dark things lurked down in the lost reaches of the underground; forgotten troglodytic peoples who’d taken shelter from the bombs who never came back up, whose tools and ephemera Jenny Duro and the other river larks claimed to find in London soil from time to time. Blind grey rats the size of terriers. A segmented and writhing carnivorous thing as thick as a man’s arm, seen in the tunnels by workmen near Finsbury Park and dubbed the emperor worm.

While it’s extremely entertaining, this novella also packs a heavy dose of social critique. The city is suffering, but the creature hunting in its dark corners was born out of London’s wickedness. The judderman is a thing capable of making people disappear without a trace, but it came from the city itself. The judderman is a creature that couldn’t have come into existence in a clean, wholesome place. It needed darkness and brutality to come into being, and London did a wonderful job of offering those things:

The judderman is a thing born from brick and fright. The judderman is the hate that bubbles up between the cracks in the tarmac and spills over into riot and spilled blood. He is the spent fluid dripping down walls after desperate back-alley passions. He is the dereliction and the decay of London.

Another element in this book I enjoyed is its international/historical angle. Northwood knows the story of London is full of influences from elsewhere, and he gives them a space in the story. The chapters that come from the missing brother’s journal are rich in history and speak about the people who came from other places and the things they brought with them:

Those of us who traverse London Incognita know the diasporas of the world took their myths with them. So now selkies can be sometimes seen off the coasts of Boston, kelpies in murky ponds on Cape Breton Island, and spriggans in the Canadian forests now jostling for attention with Blackwood’s wendigo. In a similar way, the Jews brought their golems to the streets of London, the Arabs their djinn, and the South Africans their tokoloshes. And something of the loss and pain remained, or came and mated with the native suffering, I am not sure, but whatever happened, something new was formed and that thing was the judderman. This thing that lives in shadow, the bacterial presence in the bloodstream of London, the secret history of the city ready to take the unwary – or the too-aware.

This is one of those rare gems that had flown under my radar. D.A. Northwood is a pseudonym and the book is part of a cool project being done by The Eden Book Society. I encourage you to check out this novella because it will surely make you crave more of what these folks are doing, and that’s one of the best things a book can do.

Grades:

Overall: Fourstars Judderman D A Northwood Small
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About The Author
Gi Bio
Staff Writer
Gabino lives in Austin, Texas, where he reads an inordinate amount of books and pens down reviews only for the big bucks he makes doing so. When he was about 12, his mother would tell him that reading all the H.P. Lovecraft and Poe would not lead to anything good. Being on the staff page at Horror DNA is the confirmation of that.
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