'We will be the hammerhead shark in the filthy ocean of corruption that comprises our present sorry state.'
Banking executive David Mapleton is working in his Sydney office when he receives a phone call from wealthy business and newspaperman Charles Reynolds. Charles would like Mapleton to join his covert organisation, The Hammer. Reynolds has grown impatient with the failures of the United Nations and other government agencies, and has assembled a group of people who may be able to bring some justice to what he sees as a corrupt body politic. Mapleton has the necessary financial and educational background required by Reynolds, but is he ready for an unknown and dangerous reality that will cause him to re-evaluate himself, his country and his ideals?
The story in this novella is told by David Mapleton, contrasting his deepening involvement in The Hammer’s activities with periods of introspection. Moving between Australia and Europe, Hammerhead also examines the difficulties that come for David and his two companions, Thérèse Sablon and Anton Partl, as they negotiate what Mapleton calls ‘My violent, improbable world.’
With the growing incongruities that culminate above the waters of Sydney Harbour, this tale of fantastical intrigue finds a contemporary parallel for the moral and political uncertainties of the post-9/11 era.
Readers will hope that Mr Nicholson will give us a sequel to this fine novel! Review by Charles Edward Brooks
Mr Nicholson's absorbing novel treats themes that couldn't be more topical, in particular the incompetence of many of our institutions and also of the control organs supposedly watching over them. Of course, more than mere incompetence is involved. There are downright evil operators in today's world whose actions are only dimly known to the general public--for example, certain hedge fund managers.
These various forces create an atmosphere of nihilism in our society that is destructive to the last degree. Already in 1955 Flannery O'Connor wrote: "If you live today you breathe in nihilism. ... Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul."
In the book a mysterious organization known as The Hammer undertakes to change this state of affairs--by quite unconventional means.
Without giving away any of the organization's secrets, one can suggest the kind of moral dilemma which it faces and resolves in its own way: If I have a chance to kill Hitler and don't do so, are my hands clean? They're evidently clean of the Führer's blood. But what of the blood of the millions who will perish if he stays around?
Readers will hope that Mr Nicholson will give us a sequel to this fine novel! (Posted on 19/04/12)
Peter Nicholson writes so extraordinarily well... Review by Grady Harp
Peter Nicholson writes so extraordinarily well that it takes some time while becoming absorbed in this unique novel of intrigue to appreciate the two levels on which the story seems to be written. Perhaps it is the philosopher in Nicholson, perhaps it is the poet in Nicholson, or perhaps it is the intense concern for the current milieu in which society finds itself/ourselves that makes the novel so intensely poignant. And it is entirely possible that this reader has missed the mark in believing this book is more a meditation on social mores than merely a well-crafted story. That decision will be each reader's choice. Whatever brings attention to this novel the rewards are both those of entertainment of the highest caliber as well as food for thought and hopefully some social action.
The story (unless it is a train of thought from the mind of our main character, banking executive David Mapleton as he sits at his desk in Australia daydreaming a fantasy to give answers to the world situation and his own decisions about how to deal with what is happening with his life) involves the invitation for Mapleton to join a group called the Hammer ('The Hammer wants to seek out those who are abusing power. The United Nations is hopeless. Enough is enough.'). With colleagues Charles Reynolds, a wealthy newspaperman, his soon to die cohort Roy, the enigmatic Dame Enid, and the facilitator Anton and the one love interest Thérèse, the covert operatives fly throughout the world disposing of those in power whose abuse of that power keeps them from being controlled for the better of society. As David states 'I know what we were involved in was unlawful, but such a consideration could not be allowed to predominate here. Democratic sovereign states have the right to defend their territory and people. We had seen them do that spectacularly and effectively in recent times. Our group, a kind of fight club for a just world, was different. We were a mixture of political idealists, and I knew from my own experience that if ideals could survive your thirties, then they were real. We would leave the talk about ethics for others. Youth wasn't always wasted on the young if you could learn form your past inaction and immaturity.'
Rather than his contribution to the Hammer as an advisor in money and banking, Mapleton becomes actively involved in the hunt and chase of the designated 'victims' to be brought to justice. it is this direct participation in intended death that at first unsettles him but gradually finds a role in his psyche. The incidents that occur at bullet speed take the reader to Munich, Vienna, Berlin as well as locations in Australia. At each location Mapleton is absorbed by the architectural wonders as well as the history of the great minds whose home or influence passed through these same portals. 'It passed like a phantasmagoria at the far distance from repose'. To share more details of the story would be to deflate the balloon of suspense that bears its shadow on every page.
It is quite refreshing to read an author who is as comfortable in delving into psychology (Mapleton frequently recalls the influence of Nietzsche whom he studied at Oxford - and for those who need a bit of refresher, `Nietzsche recognized the emergence of a new human he called an "Übermensch," a new, better human with personality qualities far beyond those of the ordinary person of that time. As described by Nietzsche, this higher, advanced person was a self-created person who was emotionally "harder" than the average person in part because of having synthesized many contradictory personality dimensions. In addition, such "free spirits" were morally stronger and easily resistant to external social controls because of the development of their own individual values for living.' Nicholson is equally concerned with the poetics of writing and his descriptions of places and sites glow: on a plane ride back to Australia, mapleton pners `Below,on the shards of countries hugged by oceans, rough destinies collided as I sampled fine food and an ipressive wine list. I gradually withdrew form my fellow passengers to consider the seriousness of what the world hade become for me, veering into violence.... Crops would soon take in the morning sun as water ran form mountains top to delta. With what splendour came incomprehensible lives: from bright nervelines of desire to the plump, crying torso; from defeated, arthritic decades into that looming and most uncertain renewal of all....Ideals were still possible.'
And so it is in many ways the reader's choice which avenue into the lyricism of Peter Nicholson's novel HAMMERHEAD to pursue. Either is justifiable. This is a most impressive achievement. (Posted on 19/04/12)