The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

Category: Horror
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Jack Sparks is dead, but before his passing he was able to write most of his next book all about the supernatural. Read all about his adventures in this slightly confused novel that ends on a scary high.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 377 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780356507187

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The great era of Lad Lit spanned from 1995-2005, but writers like Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace grew up, so in 2016 they are doing something a little more serious like writing fiction. Jack Sparks is an imaginary writer of this Lad Lit, but whilst his first book had him on a pogo stick bouncing from one end of Britain to the other, his later books tackled gangs and drugs. For his final book he chose to tackle the supernatural, a subject that could be the end of him.

Jack Sparks is not a pleasant man. He has grown his personality in a petri dish of booze, drugs and writing for the NME. He is famed for his pithy words and scathing view on others. He does not believe in God or the Church, so he sets out to debunk the world of the supernatural by tagging along to an exorcism, but what he discovers may make him a little more humble.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks tries to break the fourth wall between the reader and the writer. We are told that Jack was a real person and that he died whilst writing this book, in our hands we have the last words that he ever managed to write. So, this is a piece of fiction dressed up in the guise of non-fiction. For it to work, it would have to be a decent story, but also remain true to the convention that it is written as non-fiction.

In some ways the format of Jack Sparks works. Each chapter is introduced with a lost email or transcript that sheds light onto the story. As the bulk of the book is written by Jack we are given sources that suggest he is not always the most truthful of writers. He portrays himself as effortlessly cool, but we actually get eye witness accounts of him being strung out on drugs and barely holding it together. The juxtaposition between the truth as written by Jack and the real truth is very well played; just remember that all of it is actually fiction!

Structurally, the book holds interest, but it is in representing Lad Lit that the book falls over. As a fan of Danny Wallace, Louis Theroux and Jon Ronson (name checked by Jack as contemporaries in the book), I just did not think that Jack Spark was a very good writer. We are told that this is the unedited book that was left behind, this can excuse some of the poor writing, but not all of it. Sparks is not a nice man and the type of books he is meant to write rely on the central person being likable.

I also feel that Arnopp is not able to keep the book true to itself. Jack Sparks is writing the book, so how come he seems to slip into a fiction style? It is a hard skill to pull off and I don't feel that Arnopp manages to do so. As a straight forward narrative it would not have mattered, but by wrapping the story in a non-fiction cover, he has to make the reader believe.

With the wishy-washy writing of the first half and an unlikable character at the centre, Jack Sparks is hard going to begin with. This is a shame as the book opens up towards the end and there are some horrifying set pieces that are very good. There is also another intelligent play with the writing that works well. It is just that you have to get through a slightly ill-judged attempt at writing a fictionalised non-fiction book to get to this point.

An experimental horror book that works better is Nod by Adrian Barnes, or for younger readers, the excellent Railhead by Philip Reeve.

Buy The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp at Amazon.com.


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