The Disappearance Boy, Neil Bartlett, book review: ‘Utterly compelling’

Author Neil Bartlett. Photograph: courtesy Inkandescent

Behind the façade of patriarchal, heteronormative, ableist respectability lurks many a seedy reality.

Who better than a professional magician to build an act on that very duality?

Illusionist Teddy Brookes Esq is just the man – sexy, alluring, and spellbinding. Until he isn’t.

Originally released in 2014 and brought back into print this autumn by Hackney’s Inkandescent Press, Neil Bartlett’s The Disappearance Boy is an emotion-twirling tale of illusion, love and resistance.

With a new foreword by Bartlett and a dialogue between the author and magician Derren Brown as an afterword, this second edition promises to resituate the novel in Bartlett’s growing oeuvre of fiction and theatre.

The story unfolds in the spring of 1953, during the heyday of ‘traditional values’ and on the eve of the last Coronation.

Pageantry and theatricality are the order of the day, especially in the seaside playground of Brighton.

The act that Brookes has perfected is suddenly given a boost by the addition of glamorous showgirl Pamela Rose.

Their tricks are enabled backstage by diligent assistant Reggy Rainbow, whose personal demons never prevent him from making the performance flawless.

Little does the mesmerised audience know that the debonaire magician is an abusive bully; little does Brookes know of the fortitude, ingenuity and downright panache of those he subjugates.

Bartlett’s tale is elegantly crafted and utterly compelling – drawing oblique links between gender, sexuality and disability, but keeping the reader thoroughly engrossed in a pacey story.

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett is published by Inkandescent Press, ISBN: 978-1-912620-26-5; RRP: £10.99.