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The Late Hector Kipling


The Late Hector Kipling

Hector Kipling is having a hard time lately. The successful
artist is not as successful as his best friend Lenny, who is up for
a prestigious award; his other friend, Kirk, has a brain tumor; and
his father is in the hospital having a reaction to a couch his
mother bought upon advice from a voice in her head. But
that’s not all! His girlfriend is in Crete attending to her
mother, who was horribly burned in a grease fire, and the young
poet he is having an affair with is into violent sado-masochism.
Still, things are about to get even worse for Hector when the man
who disfigures his most famous painting at a gallery show starts
stalking him and finally promises to kill him. “Is it
just me,” Hector wonders, “or has my life just turned
into some sort of drunken collaboration between Feydeau and

Hector is the frazzled and unraveling narrator in THE LATE HECTOR
KIPLING, the debut novel of British actor David Thewlis. It is the
story of a middle-age crisis but not one for the weak of heart;
it’s a gritty, messy, manic tale about a man quickly losing
his bearings.

It all seems to start with a painting by Edvard Munch. Hector is
overcome by emotion he cannot really define and reduced to tears at
the Tate Gallery in London after looking at a painting by Munch.
Moments later he runs into the sociopath who, in just a short
period of time, will provide the catalyst for Hector's final and
dramatic “artistic” expression. After his
mini-breakdown, the bad news comes fast and furious for Hector. His
anger and frustration grow, and he spends more and more time drunk
and avoiding the people he should be with. He becomes obsessed with
death (not his, but the deaths of those around him) because it is
through death, he surmises, that one knows life. Basically, Hector
is losing his mind and eventually is running around London, bloody
and mostly naked, stalking the man who is stalking him and finding
himself dealing with the stranger's murderous intents by
entertaining murderous thoughts of his own.  

While Thewlis's book starts out as a typically dark-humored English
story (Hector is a charming, grumpy and eccentric artist, dedicated
to his family and friends, and really facing mortality for the time
in his 45 years), it turns even darker as it goes on. Violence and
irrationality escalate to the point of absurdity. Hector's behavior
and motivation often make little sense. But, the point is, Hector
is a man who has lost his sense, and Thewlis has allowed us
front-row seats of the ensuing disaster. The novel either strayed
from its original course as it was written, or Thewlis followed his
artistic instincts to their logical conclusion given full reign to
Hector's increasing madness. Either way, it takes a dangerous turn
halfway through. Hector starts off as a likable enough guy but soon
becomes captive to his jealousies and the idea that death would
bring him attention. 

Thewlis's writing is natural and witty; Hector's parents are
especially well-conceived. The world of contemporary art that the
author depicts is fickle and confusing, full of hypocrisies and
idiosyncrasies but also full of passion and meaning. Although not
without its problems (a too-sharp plot turn, for example), THE LATE
HECTOR KIPLING is an interesting and wickedly fun debut.


Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 30, 2010

The Late Hector Kipling
by David Thewlis

  • Publication Date: November 6, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1416541217
  • ISBN-13: 9781416541219