Judderman

By D. A. Northwood

Judderman, a novel by D. A. Northwood
Book details

Some people love the city life, there is something to do every hour of the day. I find it a little odd. You can open the door of your million-pound house and have to step over the passed out person on your step. One street can look like it is from a movie set, whilst only one road over it looks like the scene from a very different movie. This melting pot of people is what makes the city charming for some folk, but for me it is all a little too big, noisy and maybe even scary. Perhaps I am right to fear the likes of London as even back in the 1970s people were aware of The Judderman. 

The myth of The Judderman is strong among those in London who have a keen eye on its stories; the historians or the mudlarks. The Elder brothers have always had an interest in the darker side of the city. This leads to Danny going missing. Was it the Judderman? With only Danny’s diaries to help, Gary sets out over the following months to unearth The Judderman and find his brother. As he gets closer to the dark heart of the city, Gary starts to feel the same pull that his brother did. 

This audio version of The Judderman by D. A. Northwood is a love letter to 1970s horror, an era of rich imagination and nasty shocks. Early work from the likes of King, Koontz and, my personal favourite, Herbert come to mind. Northwood was an author who fell through the cracks and has since been rediscovered by fans of this florid style of horror. This edition comes from the original Eden Society recording and has two new introductions that highlight the influence that horror had on a certain subset in the 70s. In an era before juvenile literature, horror was one of the gateways into adult books. People like me soon discovered that horror proved to be a little more adult that most other genres! 

They should file the Judderman audiobook under curio. It is a novella that was recorded decades ago and now re-released. The quality of the sound is not as perfect as today’s recordings and you can hear the scratches on the recording as if it was taken directly from the vinyl. This turns out to be in perfect keeping with the gritty storyline set in the broken London of the 1970s. Narrator, Walter Chidlow, also plays his part by mixing his old fashioned received pronunciation with the cockney accents of the characters.  

The story itself feels more like extended poetry in places. It is essentially a series of vignettes of London life as Gary seeks his brother. There is a lot of swearing but also plenty of descriptive language used to highlight the depressed nature of the city at the time. It takes the floral language of someone like Herbert and cranks it to eleven. I enjoy the way that some horror is way over the top, but in this case, it acted like a barrier between the listener and the story. Too much time was spent on describing a piece of litter or graffiti than on the story. By the end it feels less like a story and more the art of writing horror. 

There was a slight disconnect between the voice of the characters and the style of writing. These characters are course, yet their internal monologues are those of the Romantic Poets. Northwood lessens this impact by developing the Elder brothers as self-educated men who have their own fascination with horror. Even with this, the voice of the author is too close to that of the brothers. It is pages of extraneous horror with intermittent moments of earthy swearing. 

Despite its strange nature and odd structure, Judderman was still an enjoyable listen as it was so different to most modern horror. The book takes a certain style from the 1970s and embodies it more than any other book I have read from the era. Narrator Chidlow adds to proceedings with his narrative style and you end up with something that feels a little on the ripe side, just enough to make this peculiar tale fun. Fans new to 70s horror should start with the behemoths of the genre, but if you are looking for a deep cut then The Judderman will be happy to stick the knife in.  

Written on 22nd September 2020 by .

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