How I Left The National Grid
Could a famous musician ever completely disappear?
In the 1980s Robert Wardner, eccentric frontman of post-punk band ‘The National Grid’ became famous overnight after committing an act on Top Of The Pops that shocked a nation. But a year later he had vanished, leaving a 'masterpiece' record abandoned in his wake. More darkly, rumours grew that his disappearance was due to him having brutally murdered an obsessed young fan.
Twenty-five years later word has spread that the singer is alive and scheming to re-emerge. Sam, a journalist who helped first bring his band to the public eye, is commissioned to track Wardner down so he will at last tell his story for a book. Finding Wardner is the only way for Sam to save his collapsed career and relationship. But it gradually becomes apparent that by cornering his quarry Sam may in fact be planning his own murder.
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'Anyone who remembers Melody Maker, or who attended indie nights in clubs strewn with Snakebite, will fall in love with this book immediately. Mankowski captures brilliantly the psychology of ‘fan obsession’. Those of us who marvelled at ‘The Secret History’ or ‘A Passage To India’ are sure to find it equally enthralling.' ~ Matthew Phillips, The Huffington Post
'This book is the epitome of cool. A cross between Twenty Four Hour Party people and Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers, written by Julian Barnes. It contains a narrative as spiky as a punk set, a whole symphony of ideas composed by Mankowski within a few subtle bars of text. A brilliantly written literary treat.' ~ AJ Kirby, reviewer for The New York Journal of Books
‘A taut and psychological look at the life and times of a man thrust into the limelight, whether he enjoys the fame or not.’ ~ Narc Magazine
''How I Left The National Grid' captures the heart of post-punk Manchester and successfully depicts the struggle between wanting to be somebody and the fear of losing yourself along the way. Anyone with a keen interest in Manchester’s music scene or celebrity culture should read this book; you will not be disappointed. How I Left The National Grid leaves you with a sharp taste in your mouth and a beat in your step.' ~ We Love This Book
'Already recognised as a major rising talent, Mankowski here establishes himself as a significant voice in British fiction with a novel that will raise knowing smiles from the rock cognoscenti, plaudits from literary critics, and will captivate readers everywhere. This is clearly a writer of great talent.' ~ Andrew Crumey, author of Pfitz and Sputnik Caledonia, longlisted for The Man Booker Prize
'The intensity of the narrative is breathtaking, the rush and push to resolutions that disappear as quickly as the protogonist Wardner did is beautifully handled – as are the detailed descriptions of the live performances. Johnny Lydon sang, “Anger is an energy …” in the Public Image Limited song ‘Rise’ and that lyric perfectly describes the ride that is ‘How I left The National Grid’'. ~ After Nyne Magazine
'It's fascinating what you've done with the book, you've taken it into areas I'd have never thought about. Respect for that.' ~ Alan Robson, Metro Radio
'I enjoyed reading this...I like how the people & places seem familiar, yet not quite...re-moved from documentary fact, the fragments re-assembled. I think there's a place yet for a sprawling fictional compendium about Manchester, full of city hobgoblins to quote Mark Smith.' ~ LoneLady, Warp Records artist
'Some of the descriptions of the feelings and anxieties (and egotism) of being on stage are unbelievably spot on.' ~ Kingsley Chapman, singer of The Chapman Family
'The National Grid’s rise via Robert Wardner’s own inner narrative, beginning with their champing-at-the-bit Top of the Pops appearance in 1981 (which includes some hilarious Julio Iglesias baiting) through to disaffection and disappearance… and beyond. If there’s a third key character, it’s the band as a collective entity; Mankowski’s descriptions of gigs and recording sessions hint at the way a group becomes an organism with its own needs and desires – urges that spring from, but exist independently of, the individual musicians. The band is the means of expression of a sound, and once that sound takes on a life of its own, the band members must run with it or fall by the wayside. We also experience the shock of the city. It's thrilling: hectic and surging, I found I was reading the novel through a phantom cloud of Insette hair spray, hearing the music through remembered arcs of darkly gothic feedback. Via these means, I was able to bring the magic of memory to bear on The National Grid’s journey through the eighties, creating some vivid mental gig-scapes of my own.' ~ Damon Fairclough, Louder Than War
'Mankowski creates a very convincing band and history. The novel has a lot of classic story lines- the search for the missing hero, the last chance at dreams and ideals, the tension between a 'real' job and an artistic life- along with a thriller element. It's funny too, at times I laughed out loud. With the character of Robert Wardner I felt he was channeling Richey Edwards, Mark E Smith and Ian Curtis simultaneously. Very powerful. There's so much about this book that people would enjoy. I really enjoyed it.' ~ Lyn Lockwood, Chief Examiner for A Level Creative Writing, AQA
'Guy Mankowski’s latest novel, How I Left The National Grid, showcases the rich research, scintillating prose, and psychological depth that characterised his earlier books. Here, though, those qualities are used to bring to life a potent and still vital place and time in British culture: post-punk Manchester. Set in the present, but reflecting on the past, How I Left The National Grid reveals that so much of where we are now grew from who we were then. Flashbacks and corrupt memories flesh out the ambitions of a band formed in those past moments, in vivid, haunting, and haunted scenes. But readers can also experience the thrill of the chase to find people who do not want to be found in the present. In doing so, we are forced to ask: what becomes of our dreams? Mankowski’s original and captivating alternative history depicts the conflicted start of a turbulent era when we were told there was ‘no alternative’, and thereby perhaps sketches a different landscape for the future.' ~ Dr. Adam Hansen, editor of 'Litpop: Writing and Popular Music' and author of ‘Shakespeare and Popular Music’
In How I Left the National Grid, Mankowski writes for every disaffected young person who turns to post-punk for solace, and for every person who is passionate about the possibilities that this kind of music opens up. For every mass-produced Joy Division t-shirt taken off a coat hanger in a high street store, perhaps there is a person for whom this music is an antidote – perhaps the only antidote – to such a homogenized, commercial culture? Post-punk represents something which remains vital and alive when so much seems sanitised, stale and – in the words of one of Manchester’s finest, Howard Devoto – so very humdrum. Mankowski’s novel speaks to this market. ~ Northern Soul magazine
‘Mankowski’s novel is about the pitfalls of externally defined identity. The inability to find meaning and purpose on an individual or societal level results in an attachment to mere symbols of existence. There is attractive nostalgia for a time of anticipation and patience; of small paper treasures, chance encounters, and private, personal missives from bedroom to bedroom.’ ~ Laura Waddell, Glasgow Review Of Books