Purity by Douglas Clegg

This is the first Douglas Clegg novel I’ve read, and it’s also the first ebook I have read. For a time, it was available for download free from Clegg’s website. I wish more authors would follow this example. Consider all the authors you pass by on the bookshelves, thinking that they might be good, that you might get around to trying them out someday. Why not give the readers a little free taster to get them interested? Well, Clegg has done just that. And he has created a new fan in me, and who knows how many more besides.

Purity is a novel (or novella, if we want to be particular) about a love triangle. First there is Owen, a boy who has spent his entire life on a remote island. Then there is Jenna, a girl who comes to the island every summer – a girl whom Owen grew up with and loves with a passion. Enter Jimmy, handsome, educated and oozing with money – Jenna’s new boyfriend. The purity of the title refers to the single-minded desire to have something or someone. As you may have guessed, things get ugly between these three people, but in ways that will surprise you.

The beauty of this novel in the characters. No one is allowed to be mere cannon-fodder for the story. Everyone is intricately drawn with their individual personalities and viewpoints, making them ooze with life. Usually it’s good practice for an author to make his central characters likeable, in order to help the reader care about what happens to them. Clegg doesn’t take that approach. There are some really dislikable characteristics in them all – especially Owen – and yet I found myself strangely gripped by these people’s lives. They were just so real.

One odd aspect of this story is the inclusion of Dagon, especially for a story that does not quite fit the description horror. Dagon is the fish-god from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft – in particular from the novella The Shadow over Innsmouth. So, for Lovecraft fans, there’s a little something extra for you here. But don’t be expecting bulbous eyeballs and writhing tentacles. Purity is not a Cthuluhu mythos tale, and it’s certainly not necessary to have read Lovecraft before tackling it.

As for the ebook format, my personal opinion is that it will never rise to equal or outshine real books. People are just not comfortable reading for long periods from a screen and would sooner spend money on a paperback than a ream of A4 paper for their printer. Reading Purity from the screen, I broke this up into far more sessions that I would have done otherwise. But whatever the future holds for the ebook format, there’s no doubt it’s a great promotional tool.

Purity is a tale about love and obsession and madness. Sometimes touching, sometimes shocking. Highly recommended. Douglas Clegg is on my watchlist from here on in.

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