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One of the best actors of his generation, Eric Clark was born José Fernando del Torres in Asunción, Paraguay. On a night in November, 1955, in New York City, a legendary spirit entered into him, complicating his destiny—a destiny which would make him a star in the booming Italian film industry of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s—in sword and sandal epics, spaghetti westerns and gialli.

362 pages, Paperback

First published November 21, 2016

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Brendan Connell

71 books104 followers

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,939 reviews751 followers
December 2, 2016
hugs to Anna for my copy. God, I love books from small presses!!

I also love reading Brendan Connell's books, which I'd say are tough to classify under any sort of mainstream pigeonholing system. His latest, Clark, is a mix of funny, witty, strange and disturbing; put together with his rather unique writing style, the book appeals to my love of the offbeat. Who else could possibly write a novel about a guy from Paraguay who finds himself taken over by a "legendary spirit" and goes on to become a sought-after actor in, as the back cover notes, "sword and sandal epics, spaghetti westerns and gialli" and pull it off so well?

I first realized that Clark and I were destined for each other when I started laughing out loud not too far into the novel.

The book mixes humor, satire, history, and beautiful little gems of wisdom, and I love the central focus on cinema and acting as a vehicle through which he makes some really excellent observations, which I will leave for others to discover. Connell is a master of mixing things up textually and stylistically, so if you're looking for straight narrative, forget it. There is nothing average or mainstream going on here, and quite frankly, for me that's a definite plus.

Some day soon, a real reviewer is going to come along and put everything in perspective about this novel. That's not me -- I'm a reader, not a writer, and I've never pretended otherwise. At the same time, I know when I've found something refreshingly unique that ticks a lot of my inner boxes, and this book is definitely it. Why settle for same old same old when you can lose yourself in something this good? Highly, highly recommended.

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Profile Image for James.
Author 10 books112 followers
June 28, 2019
This book proves something I've long suspected, that while most contemporary writers are content to settle for checkers, Brendan Connell has mastered the art of 4-dimensional chess (metaphorically speaking). Functioning both as an intense character study of the life and soul of an actor and also a captivating and frequently surreal depiction of the Italian film industry of the 1960's & 70's, this book is simply brilliant (and epic in every sense of the word), and is both amusing and sad in equal measure (much of the sadness comes when you turn over the final page and realize that the many bizarre films described in the narrative do not actually exist for one's viewing pleasure, though one can only hope that there's a parallel universe out there where they do). And, perhaps needless to say, the prose was, as expected, sumptuous, and Connell has a knack for making descriptions of even the most banal things come off as captivating. Simply put, this is a book I HIGHLY recommend, and one would be doing oneself a disservice by ignoring it.
Profile Image for Seregil of Rhiminee.
591 reviews42 followers
February 1, 2017
Originally published at Risingshadow.

Brendan Connell is an author who has never been afraid of writing something out of the ordinary and experimenting with his literary output. His latest novel, Clark, is a delicious slice of literary fiction that goes beyond the scope of a normal literary novel, because it has all of the elements that make his stories impressive and unique.

I'm personally very fond of Brendan Connell's fiction, because his novels and stories intrigue me and stimulate my imagination due to their originality, humour and twisted nature. One of the reasons why I love his fiction is that many of his stories simply cannot be classified as merely one kind of genre fiction, because they contain traces of several genres. I especially love his way of blending literary fiction with speculative fiction elements, absurdism and surrealism. When you begin to read his stories, you'll never know what to expect from them, because he manages to surprise you with fresh and exciting ideas.

Clark is my kind of a literary novel, because it's excellent literary fiction with a touch of experimental storytelling and literary strangeness. It's a beautifully written novel that invites readers to explore the world of Eric Clark and his somewhat different kind of life. I can honestly say that Clark is one of the most captivating novels I've read during the recent years, because it's an amusing, witty, strange and partly disturbing tale of a man from Paraguay whose life changes when a legendary spirit enters into him and he becomes a sought-after actor in Italian films.

Eric Clark is an intriguing protagonist, because he's one of the best actors of his generation. He has an interesting past, because he was born José Fernando del Torres in Paraguay. His father was a dealer in transistor radios, his mother was an expert at cooking puchero and river fish, and his grandfather was eaten by caimans. He used to listen to radio dramas when he was young, and he became enrolled in a little theatre group that the priest of his church formed. As a teenager he experienced the Paraguayan Civil War. At the age of nineteen he left his homelad and travelled to New York. One day in the middle of November, 1955 his life changed completely. He was told by a man that he is going to be given talent, but he has to take care of it, and then the man pressed the talent into him.

I won't go into details about the story, because Clark is one of those novels that must be experienced personally. When you let the story unfold and become immersed in it, you'll find yourself hooked by it. It's such an amazing and well-told story that you won't be able to stop reading it.

Brendan Connell explores José's acting career in an elegant and a bit twisted manner. I enjoyed reading about how José's career started and how got the name Eric Clark. It was fascinating to follow his career from humble beginnings to fame, because he seemed to be able to drift easily from one role to another. I was especially intrigued by his interest in seeking insight into his roles by wanting to be the characters he played.

The author has a fascinating way of exploring the protagonist's private life and what is happening to him, because his career affects his life. His life is complicated, because the spirit that entered into him has molded him and certain things have become easy to him while he struggles with other things. For example, he is not entirely happy in his relationships.

One of the best things about Clark is that Brendan Connell explores Italian film culture, movie business and acting in his own unique way. He expertly fleshes out many things and makes sharp observations about acting, fame and films. I think that many art-oriented readers will find this novel interesting, because the author mentions and refers to many names and films.

The chapter about the film Cannibali del Borneo is an especially intriguing chapter, because it features descriptions of what happens in a cannibal film and how the main character gets into trouble when his plane crash-lands in Borneo. There were certain elements in this chapter that slightly reminded me of the author's novel Cannibals of West Papua. The chapter in which the protagonist begins to film Wanda is also memorable (and slightly disturbing), because it showcases the author's sense of style.

Brendan Connell masterfully combines humour, satire, history and cinema with literary strangeness. He has quite a lot to say about various things. He doesn't hold back when writing about what goes on behind the scenes when films are being produced and made, but never overdoes anything, because there's a fine balance between style and substance. There are many fascinating scenes in which the story floats almost dreamily between drama and satire.

I like the author's use of footnotes, because they add depth to the story and they clarify certain things by providing readers information about various persons etc. If you're one of those readers who likes to skip footnotes, please don't skip them in this novel, because they're essential to the story. I think it's good to mention that the appendix contains a complete list of filmography mentioned in the novel.

I greatly enjoy the author's slightly twisted view at reality and life, because it adds fascination to the novel. By writing about things in a slightly skewed way and spicing the story with a disturbing undertone, he awakens the reader's interest in the story.

By the way, if you're a newcomer to Brendan Connell's fiction, I think that Clark serves as a fine example of what kind of an author he is, because it has all of his trademarks. If you're already familiar with the author's stories, you won't be disappointed by this novel.

Clark is one of Brendan Connell's best and most ambitious novels to date. It has an interesting, intelligent and well-told story that has thought-provoking and satirical elements. It's a rewarding literary masterpiece that should not be missed by quality-oriented readers who want to read something different and memorable.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Kulchur Kat.
61 reviews12 followers
September 24, 2022
The wild, picaresque tale of Eric Clark, a Paraguayan actor and his adventures in the Italian film industry of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Clark is a prolific and brilliant actor, no matter how bad the film he’s in, he always illuminates the characters he’s playing. We follow his rise and fall as the more he gives to acting the more he risks losing his own identity and values.

The background of the novel centres around a richly imagined, affectionate recreation of the hey day of Italian cinema; the wild burst of creative energy centred around Rome, and the Cinecitta film studios. Connell charts the rise and fall of the Italian film industry over the decades. The novel is seeded with footnotes full of film reviews, brief bios of starlets, leading men, mob related movie producers, washed-out directors and uproarious movie trivia.

The novel has a rich and colourful supporting cast, an assortment of Fellini-esque characters; Clark’s wily and hilarious agent, the grotesque Momi and his bacchanalian appetites for alcohol, drugs and women, Tina Treville, the long-suffering actress with a flame for Clark, his multiple wives, his Californian bodybuilding buddy, memorable characters all. Connell is excellent at witty, arch dialogue with a lot of the laugh out loud humour of the novel happening in the hilarious dialogue exchanges. There is something of a Boogie Nights vibe with its ensemble cast of loveable reprobates against the backdrop of the rise and fall of a movie industry.

There’s a really interesting facet to Connell’s writing in that the prose can be very malleable in regards to style. At any moment the narrative will be intruded upon by an entirely different register, such as bullet-pointed lists (16 ways cowboys die by gunfire) or the filmic grammar and layout of the screenplay. The narrative is prone to stop, then replay the last sentences from a different perspective, almost like a filmic retake of a scene. The prose can also slip into an impressionistic register reminiscent of modernist poetry.

This was my first full length introduction to Brendan Connell and loved the playful and irreverent attitude to narrative and style. Alongside Justin Isis and Quentin S. Crisp, he seems one of the shining lights of the small presses - I’ll definitely be tracking down more of his work.

More Snuggly Books and Brendan Connell reviews at
14 reviews4 followers
May 22, 2018
This novel is in a way two stories. One is the account of the life of a Paraguayan actor named José Fernando who, after being blessed by a former legendary actor (and was this actor in turn blessed by someone else, and him by someone before him and so forth?), renames himself Eric Clark and embarks on a new career with newfound talent. As the book's backcover synopsis tells us, Eric Clark was one of the best actors of his generation—but, as is the case in any artistic industry, talent does not necessarily translate to renown.

And here is where the second of the two stories kicks in: through Eric Clark's path through all sorts of movie productions with varying degrees of quality, budget or even repute, this novel also tells the story of Italian cinema during the industry boom of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Clark moves through period pieces, westerns (both serious and comical), crime thrillers, action films, all with an ease to deliver competent and engaging performances that made him a reliable man in such a chaotic industry. As a character Erick Clark is fascinating. Often he reminded me of Mad Men's Don Draper, another self-made man who despite his many successes was always longing for something that kept eluding him.

The novel is beautifully written, poignant when it needs to be, funny or ironic when appropriate. It has an odd dare-I-say structure in the sense that the narrative is complemented by copious footnotes detailing bibliographical details on numerous characters (some real figures) or imparting amusing trivia. There's also odd chapters that consist of interview fragments, assorted quotations from various people who worked with Clark, reviews of Clark's movies, script excerpts and other miscellanea (Chapter 32, for instance, consists of a list of sixteen ways you can die by gunfire in a movie.) But at no point does any of this supplemental material feels like filler. It was all either informative, providing more context for the story and setting, or amusing.

Ultimately the novel is also about what it means to be an artist in an industry, any industry, that often cares about everything except the art itself. It is a shame that Eric Clark wasn't a real person. I'm sure that by now he would've at least become a celebrated cult figure, not unlike Pierre Kirby who I'm pretty sure the novel was referencing when Clark was hired to do a movie in Asia fighting ninjas sporting colorful headbands that actually have "ninja" written in them.

All in all, this is a very good novel. Brendan Connell is an amazing talent that deserves to be discovered and read by as many people as possible.
Profile Image for Ursula Pflug.
Author 35 books46 followers
June 30, 2019
A strange and wonderful book. It's not a genre book to my mind, not even an unclassifiable one, but straight up literary fiction, stylistically akin to Latin American authors Julio Cortazar and Roberto Bolaño among others—and not because the main character is Paraguayan. Often thought of the first time I saw Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West as a teen, and how it blew me away. The night I finished Clark, I headed back to the living room, where my hubby was watching a low budget spaghetti western. "Why are you watching that?" I asked. I hadn't told him about the book—a clear if pointless example of synchronicity. "No reason," he said. "It looks awful," I said. "You can learn a lot from watching spaghetti westerns," he pointed out.

And you certainly will, reading Clark, both about the awful and sublime examples of the genre. The actor Clark is a believable if sad character, whom we constantly hope will make better life choices (he doesn't—but maybe, Connell infers, he isn't supposed to), and his story is injected with scraps and glints of spirituality and beautiful prose.
Profile Image for Des Lewis.
1,071 reviews67 followers
January 5, 2021
This book’s closing scenes to die for, if not in which to die. I am often not affected so deeply by books, but this is one where I think I have been affected more than most. This whole novel never lets up, and I am not disappointed by the ending.

The detailed review of this book posted elsewhere under my name is too long to post here.
Above is its conclusion.
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