Pewter Stapleton is drowning under a pile of marking. He teaches creative writing at a university in Sheffield, a campus peopled with malign cost-cutting accountants, baffled security staff and colleagues cloning themselves.
Pewter is a brilliant comic creation, an endless lister of tasks which are never quite completed, who is strung forever between seriousness and send-up, a commitment to his writing and boundless cynicism about writers and the arts industry.
From Pewter's desk and his marking, the novel radiates backwards and forwards in time, to his childhood in the small volcanic Caribbean island of St. Caesare and memories of his headmaster, the libidinous Professeur Croissant and Horace his half-mad cousin, and to his relationships with Carrington, a highly successful Caribbean writer whose plays Pewter is editing, to Balham, a professional of the race industry (where Pewter is a self-admitted slow learner in blackness) and to Lee, the woman he loves, but who despairs of him as 'sporadic'.
As a novel about life and writing, factuality and invention rub shoulders to hilarious effect as Pewter is incessantly driven to turn his experiences, his friends and their experiences into works of drama and fiction. Yet we note the awkward questions he asks about the Academy...
Jim Hannan writes in World Literature Today: '[In] Marking Time, his first novel, Markham demonstrates a laudable wider range of talents, and shows himself to possess an inquisitive, keenly perceptive, and jocular mind. Marking Time succeeds in part because of its broad perspective not only on Caribbean affairs but on contemporary English manners and society. Readers of this book will undoubtedly hope that Markham will publish another novel soon.'
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E.A. (Archie) Markham died unexpectedly in Paris on 23rd March, Easter day. Born in Montserrat in 1939, E.A. Markham worked in the theatre, in the media and as a literary editor.