Published today by Bloomsbury, Benjamin Myers’ latest novel follows the crop-circling pursuits of traumatised Falklands veteran Calvert, and affable, chaotic Redbone. Between its pages, Matthew Shaw finds a belief in the beyond.
“Be glad, be glad for the song has no ending” – The Incredible String Band
The Perfect Golden Circle and its protagonists Calvert and Redbone inhabit the fields of England. They are part of an ancient story that has no ending. Theirs is a life tuned into the agricultural cycles that work across and through the landscape as well as through Calvert and Redbone themselves. These are not characters living in a nostalgic rural idyll with a fanciful or overly romanticised view of the world: they work tirelessly at their missions, governed and directed by a strict code. Putting in the graft. This code is obeyed with the utmost respect for the land and all the creatures that dwell within it. Creating a magic of their own making, feeding the myth and striving for beauty; living a mythical life.
Calvert and Redbone share a belief in reincarnation and in the making of crop circles. Their work is an act of healing that creates a feeling of wonder; it is both therapeutic and radical.
Lovers of stone circles will be delighted with the appearance of the Avebury complex and Silbury Hill. One of the finest crop circles I ever saw was viewed from standing on top of West Kennett Longbarrow; as I read on about these ancient sites surrounded with mysterious crop circles, reality dissolved and fiction and real life combined, remembering hot summer days of my own in Wiltshire fields. I was especially excited about Redbone and Calvert working in the proximity of obscure and lesser-known stone circles, their minds consumed with the stones’ ancient secrets, the possible origins and how and what they were used for.
As well as ancient sites there is a passionate environmentalism at work; ‘A world without birds and birdsong will be a sad and lonely place’. Redbone and Calvert have a deep connection to wildlife, noticing foxes, rabbits, a hare, cuckoos and a corn bunting. Our heroes have an awareness of the dangers of herbicides and pesticides; the depletion of hedgerows removing vital habitat; of monoculture in farming and the effects of chemicals on the insect population — and in turn the availability of food for predators, creating a real problem, upsetting the entire ecosystem. Calvert and Redbone love the land and nature and never take it for granted. Unbalanced ecosystems make up the subject of an entire subplot; climate change, drought and food sovereignty, the challenges of arable farming when water is scarce and soil is depleted. A scorched, hardened, lifeless field longing for the respite of a good downpour and some goodness to be reintroduced. This drives Calvert to explore and to study land ownership, local history, myth and folklore, creating his own solutions from these many areas of reading and his lived experience.
As the book takes us through the season, both the present tense activity of circle making and the deep memories of the past gather and gain influence. The trauma Calvert carries from his long years of military service, the memory of war and the hurt humans are capable of creating. For Redbone the precarious, unsettled and free life on the road.
The names of the crop circles (and each chapter) read like a fantasy line up of a future (or past) Stonehenge free festival, or at the very least a new album of tracks by Hawkwind. The weather shines and pours out through the pages of this book, as Calvert and Redbone explore their friendship, their loves — and lovers in Redbone’s case, and solitary living, in Calvert’s. They share a web of many parts, of many unspoken understandings.
Calvert and Redbone have entered my heart and captured my imagination. A duo in the same vein as Kerry and Kurtan from This Country, Lance and Andy in Detectorists, or Mortimer and Whitehouse. By the time I finished reading they were like old, familiar friends. I found myself wondering where life had taken them, and what they could be doing today. My mind turned to old friends and passing acquaintances, people I’d met at Stone Circles; at freezing winter solstice dawns and on balmy summer afternoons siting in a field.
‘People just want to believe in something bigger than all this. Something beyond.’ says Calvert.
Benjamin Myers with The Perfect Golden Circle provides just this.
‘The Perfect Golden Circle’ is our now and available here (£15.79).