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Stephen Gilbert is best remembered for his novel "Ratman's Notebooks" , twice filmed as Willard, and for his friendship as a young man with the much older novelist Forrest Reid. This first-ever reprinting of Gilbert's scarce novel coincides with its 60th anniversary and features the original jacket art by legendary book designer Berthold Wolpe. Get A Copy.

The Burnaby Experiments

Paperback , pages. Published December 18th by Valancourt Books first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions 1. Friend Reviews.

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Sort order. I can't remember when or how I originally heard about this book, but for some reason, I had long regarded it as a rare curiosity, almost impossible to get hold of. The Burnaby Experiments opens with a framing device: the unidentified narrator has been named as 'literary executor' in the will of Marcus Brownlow, whom he knew at school but hasn't had any contact with since. The scene is set as th I can't remember when or how I originally heard about this book, but for some reason, I had long regarded it as a rare curiosity, almost impossible to get hold of. The scene is set as the narrator outlines what he learns of Marcus: that he became secretary-companion to the eccentric, reclusive millionaire John Burnaby; that he wrote a lengthy autobiography, which the executor attempts to publish, to no avail.

The story, then, is the executor's edit of Marcus's memoir and Burnaby's papers, rewritten as a novel. As a boy, Marcus discovers he has the uncanny ability to see the future in his dreams. In his late teens, he is contacted by Burnaby, who has similar abilities. I loved the weirdness of Burnaby's first appearance, in which he takes the form of a boy Marcus knew at school — it's many years later, but this boy is still a child, exactly as Marcus remembers him. Burnaby is counting on the power of this image to evoke Marcus's happy memories of school and boyhood, and only when the pair reach Burnaby's house does he reveal his true, elderly form.

Burnaby promises that, through a series of gruelling 'experiments', the two of them can learn to harness and control their shared power, and even find a way to cheat death. And so Marcus enters his tutelage, living with Burnaby at his County Donegal home 'The Garrison' and telling his family he has found employment as a secretary. Over time, however, Marcus's naive commitment to the experiments turns out to be something of an albatross, and he begins to tire of Burnaby's insistence that he devote his whole life to them at the expense of all else.

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I often see those who read a lot of romantic fiction bemoaning the phenomenon of 'instalove', and I thought of this when the story turned to a rather tedious scenario involving Marcus falling for a local girl named Hazel. It serves the plot very neatly that Marcus not only fancies Hazel but falls so head over heels in love — in a couple of days — that he's ready to give up his whole life. And in fact I'm rather inclined to agree with Burnaby that 'if you'd slept with her a few times and lived with her for a month you'd be sick to death of her'.

Really, you need to know that the novel is based on Gilbert's relationship with his much older mentor, Forrest Reid; it then becomes clear that Marcus's desire for Hazel, and the idea that forsaking her is some great sacrifice, is symbolic of so much more than a youthful crush. This knowledge also makes some elements, such as Burnaby's obsession with touching Marcus, seem rather more sinister. Even so, the amount of time Gilbert spends on the Hazel story is frustrating when there are so many more interesting avenues to explore. Purchase paperback Paperback. Stephen Gilbert was born in Newcastle, Co.

Down in He was sent to England for boarding school from age 10 to 13 and afterwards to a Scottish public school, which he left without passing any exams or obtaining a leaving certificate.

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In , just before his nineteenth birthday, Gilbert met novelist Forrest Reid, by that time in his mid-fifties. Gilbert married his wife Kathleen Stevenson in ; the two had four children, and Gilbert devoted most of his time from the s onward to family life and his seed business. Burnaby seems to hint at adventure and a change of fortune.

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But what Marcus doesn't know is that Mr. Burnaby wants his help in a series of strange experiments whose ultimate goal is to discover what happens to the soul after death. What begins as harmless fun as Mr. Burnaby teaches Marcus how to project his spirit out from his body quickly becomes more sinister, and may lead to a horrible fate even more terrifying than death. This first-ever reprinting of Gilbert's scarce novel coincides with its 60th anniversary and features the original jacket art by legendary book designer Berthold Wolpe.