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Veritas is a rock-and-roll story which digs deeply into the roots of 1960’s British Rock. Told by Peter Quaife – the co-founder and bassist of The Kinks - the novel follows Marcus Manton from his earliest days and his discovery of music to his life as a working musician and the leader of the Elmores.
The novel opens in the 1920s with Margaret Chase, a lively and colorful young woman as she is about to conceive Marcus’s oldest sister and manipulate her marriage to the kindly and shy Jegs Manton. Through Marg and her young family, we see a nation, particularly the working class, struggle through not only financial hardship but also the uncertainty and dangers of the Second World War. With Jegs in the military, Marg and her four daughters move from London to Slough and then to a farm in Tavistock, a small, Devonshire village in the southwest of England.
In 1943, Marg and Jeg welcome into the world Marcus Edward Manton, their first son. The family reunites after the war and returns to a devastated North London, where they begin to maneuver their way through a “new landscape,” a new England – lamented by some for the fast slipping away of Victorian values and traditions and lamented by others for that loss not being fast enough. It was a volatile time in England: one of rationings, housing shortages, loss of Empire, disillusionment, and class conflict, but also one of new attitudes and new musics.
While Marcus’s story is fictional, it parallels that of many rock-and-roll heroes. His and many of theirs is a story marked by struggle, frustration, teenage angst, exhilaration, at least some serendipity and some incredibly hard work. It is his Aunt Josie who first notices Marcus’s attraction to music and offers him basic piano lessons, at which Marcus excels. In school, Marcus develops an appreciation and dedication to American blues.
Coincidentally, his schoolboy friend, Trevor “Nobby” Gardener, receives a guitar from an uncle. The reckless “Nobby” is fascinated by sound and electronics and designs his own amplifiers and guitar gadgetry, often with dangerous results. His curiosity, however, helps to shape him into an original and vibrant guitarist.
As the Elmores, (after American blues man Elmore James) the two embark on a musical journey which takes them from school dances and local clubs to London and the recording studio. Along the way, they enlist Alan Fitzgerald, a schoolboy friend to play bass, and then a local drummer of Danish descent, Jørgen Begyndelsen or Yern. With the fledgling musicians, readers will encounter a fascinating cast of Londoners: dedicated musicians, rock and blues fanatics, club owners, impresarios, mentors, frauds, swindlers, and drug dealers.
With Veritas, perhaps his greatest work, the late Peter Quaife has left us a wonderful rock-and-roll story to fascinate, absorb, and enlighten us. We are grateful to him.
Tom Kitts