Croydon writer Jad Adams’ body of work is extensive and far-ranging.
But Café Europa marks a departure for the sometime TV producer and newspaper journalist whose previous volumes have tended to be historically-based biographies, as well as, of course, chairing the Croydon Nightwatch charity since its inception.
Café Europa is set on one of the far edges of Europe in those pre-Brexit days of 2015, and centres on the coming together on a Greek island of three tribes: north Europeans, Greeks and refugees, in amity and in enmity.
Hester has opened Café Europa on Doxos, but a restaurant nearby is owned by another woman who is having an affair with the mayor, who takes it upon himself to place obstacles in the way of the rival business.
The fact that the mayor has embezzled EU grants, and has got in too deep with the local crims and drug smugglers just stirs the narrative mix that little bit more as four students from Sussex, including Hester’s sibling, arrive on the island expecting a peaceful summer of sun, ouzo and… well, you get the picture.
What follows is a series of tragic events and unrequited love, until the point when bodies start washing up on the beach.
This is (half) a world away from Adams’ last book, Women and the Vote: A World History, from 2019, which was the centrepiece of one of our Under The Flyover podcast interviews.
Adams has previously concentrated on the radicals and nationalists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and written works on Absinthe (“the devil in the bottle”, according to the sub-title) and had biographies published of Gandhi and Tony Benn.
The latter was revised and had chapters added on the last 20 years of Benn’s life, making for a new book from political publishers Biteback.
This year, Adams is entering the world of the publisher himself with Café Europa, through Meles Meles Marks Books, through which he intends to bring out less commercial works and to publish his and Julie Peackman’s back catalogues.
Adams also has the launch coming up this year of Decadent Women: Yellow Book Lives, published by Reaktion, a group biography of some of the women who worked for the leading decadent journal, The Yellow Book, in the 1890s.
Also coming soon is an updated version of Adams’ Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson.
There’s a wistfulness about Café Europa, of longing regret for what we had, but lost. Adams’ practised skills as a writer carry the reader through the trials and tribulations of a new business start-up where nothing is as it seems, and by the end, where one of the leading characters won’t go to bed without a gun in the bedside table beside them.
Café Europa retails at £7.99, but Inside Croydon readers can order their copies for £7.15 (including £2.15 P&P) by emailing email@example.com – bank details for making the payment will be provided on request.
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