Nicola Barker’s Darkmans (2007) is the third part of her loose trilogy of the Thames Gateway. The novel is set in Ashford, Kent, a town not technically in the Thames Gateway at all, but which, like those places grouped under that umbrella, has been earmarked as one of the South East’s ‘growth areas’. The first two volumes in the trilogy –- Wide Open (1998) and Behindlings (2002) –- are set on the Isle of Sheppey and Canvey Island respectively and continue Barker’s interest in offshore locations. As Andrew Norton, the narrator of Iain Sinclair’s Dining on Stones (2004), remarks, Barker writes ‘about islands’. Her characters, ‘decent but damaged’, can be seen ‘behaving oddly in small communities, navigating a slant through a warped topography’. In this sense Darkmans seems to diverge from the pattern set by Wide Open and Behindlings –- Ashford is not, of course, an island. But like Canvey and Sheppey, Barker’s Ashford is introduced as a place isolated from yet profoundly connected to a wider geography and, most notably, to London.
Darkmans contains little in the way of conventional plot, but at its heart is the relationship between Daniel Beede and his son Kane. The pair occupy separate flats within the same subdivided house and they live their lives as independently as possible, each harbouring unspoken feelings about the death of Kane’s mother. At first neither seems able to break this impasse, but a dialogue begins to seem possible when their routines are upset by a series of unlikely characters. These include Gaffar, a Turkish immigrant with a terror of lettuce; Dory, an amnesiac faux-German security guard; Dory’s chiropodist wife, Elen; their precocious son, Fleet; and the loudmouthed but ultimately endearing Kelly Broad:
Kelly came from a bad family.
No. No. That was just too easy. They weren’t bad as such (no, not bad) so much as … as known … as familiar … as … as –-
That was it
And only locally. Only in Ashford –
–- and maybe in Canterbury. And Gillingham …. And in parts of Folkestone. And Woodchurch. And some of those smaller places which didn’t really matter (except to the people living there).
This is typical of Barker’s prose style, which uses italics, dashes and innovative spacing in order to describe her characters’ thought processes: their misunderstandings, non sequiturs and unvoiced opinions. Focalisation shifts between a number of figures in Darkmans and the various strands of the plot are revealed through a series of set pieces. The finer details are never resolved, but what becomes clear is that Barker’s characters are intricately linked to one other and to some strange local goings-on: cats appear and disappear, birds attack humans and people seem possessed by a medieval spirit. ‘Quirky’ and ‘sprawling’ are adjectives that spring to mind when describing Darkmans, but its plots involving local planning, forgery, road safety campaigns, religious conversion, and more besides, all converge on some serious and cogently worked themes. Of central importance is the relationship between past and present, memory and forgetting, and Beede and Kane’s movement toward reconciliation takes place in tandem with a wider reclamation of, and reconciliation with, their town’s history in the face of London’s growing influence.
Barker often eschews direct representations of London. Wide Open, for example, begins with the image of a man standing on a bridge over the A2 and ‘looking outwards, facing away from London, never towards it’. Instead she sets her books in places she feels able to ‘take over to some extent’. As Barker told Rebecca Jones in a 2007 interview, her locations ‘have to be quite quiet, sort of almost empty places in terms of literature or, you know, the history of the place’. This does not prevent her from riffing on certain literary connections –- references to Daniel Defoe’s description of Canvey Island as ‘Candy Island’ recur in Behindlings -– but it does mean that the landscapes of her fiction are largely uncluttered by literary antecedents. The Thames Gateway books in particular are set in places which, though shaped by their relative proximity to the capital, have escaped the attentions of metropolitan authors. Barker’s writing is therefore an act of reclamation: these apparently marginal areas become literary sites that foster tensions between connectedness and isolation, modernity and history, mundanity and eccentricity. But again Ashford does not seem fully to fit this pattern, for the town seems to possess few of the unique and unusual features found on Canvey and Sheppey; in the opening pages of Darkmans, Ashford’s past appears to have been subsumed under layers of unsympathetic modern development. Part of the novel’s achievement, however, is to strip off the veneer of everyday life and to reveal the hidden layers of history and civic identity beneath. By the end of the Darkmans it becomes evident that the past cannot be erased and that the ‘vengeful tsunami of history’ (13) will always make its presence felt.
This is the opening sentence of Darkmans: ‘Kane dealt prescription drugs in Ashford; the gateway to Europe’ (3). Immediately the town is defined as a place existing in relation to elsewhere; as a gateway rather than a destination. Two pages later, Beede is introduced as ‘a true denizen of a town which had always –- but especially in recent years –- been a landmark in social and physical re-invention’. Ashford is described as, ‘a through-town, an ancient turnpike (to Maidstone, to Hythe, to Faversham, to Romney, to Canterbury), a geographical plughole; a place of passing and fording (Ash-ford, formerly Essetesford, the Eshe being a tributary of the River Stour)’ (5). It is a town which, with the advent of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, forms the gateway not only to the rest of Europe but also to a more commutable capital, and which is served by London Ashford Airport. Indeed, the Borough Council emphasises this connectedness to elsewhere by marketing the area as simply ‘best placed in Britain’. But its status as ‘best placed in Britain’ can also lead to dismissals of Ashford as a soulless transport hub or, as local historians have noted with dismay, ‘a town without a history’. This seems precisely to pinpoint the Ashford described in the opening pages of Darkmans, where the town is depicted as a place of generic spaces ‘increasingly unrecognisable’ (5) to long-term residents.
The aforementioned –- and ‘unquestionably venerable’ (4) –- Beede is one of these long-term residents. He has been ‘washed up and spat out by the recent boom’, having seen ‘his life and his career … irreparably blighted by the arrival of the Channel Tunnel’ (5-6). The opening chapter of Darkmans describes the background to this, beginning with Beede’s opposition to a scheme that would see two villages split asunder by the Tunnel’s access road. Long considered to be a single community, these villages also happen to contain the homes of his maternal and paternal grandparents. After successfully campaigning to alter the course the road, Beede finds that the new route will pass through the sites of several historical properties. He therefore begins a new campaign to salvage the timber frame of an eighteenth-century mill house, but it soon becomes clear that the frame lacks the structural integrity to survive. At this point Beede is reduced to the role of spectator as the bulldozers move in: ‘he stood and he watched –- jaw slack, mouth wide, gasping –- as History was unceremoniously gutted and then steam-rollered. He saw History die’ (11). One could describe Beede as a Nimby (‘not in my back yard’), but if so his attitude is indicative of the fact that, as Nick Moran writes in Reading the Everyday (2005), ‘Nimbys are politically ambiguous figures who cannot be assigned easily to left or right’ and whose ‘concerns sometimes overlap with those of radical groups on issues such as land ownership, environmentalism and opposition to big business’. This is an important caveat to apply because, as Richard Gibb and Richard Knowles point out in The Channel Tunnel: A Geographical Perspective, the full implications of the project for Kent and the South East were initially disregarded due to ‘a Government policy that prioritises the free market and market-led solutions and eschews interventionism and strategic planning’. This meant that ‘institutions and bodies charged with the responsibility for planning and the environment were largely removed from the decision-making process’, a strategy which was to anger many different interest groups. Beede’s opposition does not, therefore, take place in self-interested isolation: he is described as ‘basically progressive’ (6) and, having already sacrificed a ‘familiar geography’ (12), his campaign has simply been invigorated by a wish to preserve a deep-seated connection the locality. Beede, like his venerable namesake, symbolises an historical continuum, yet his failure to conserve something of the past is suggestive of Ashford’s unstoppable thrust onwards and outwards.
Kane is set up as the embodiment of this modernisation process. He acts as a counterpoint to his father by being ‘loose and unapologetically light-weight’ and ‘easy as a greased nipple’ (14). Having lived for a time in Arizona, Kane has ‘opted to keep the vocal cadences of that region as a souvenir’ (14) and his life appears inflected with a pseudo American accent – he looks forward, refuses to dwell on the past and lives ‘in the shallows’ (20). In fact, Kane is introduced as ‘his father’s anti’:
If Beede had ever sought to underpin the community then Kane had always sought to undermine it. If Beede lived like a monk, then Kane revelled in smut and degeneracy. If Beede felt the burden of life’s weight (and heaven knows, he felt it), then Kane consciously rejected worldly care (20).
And when Kane and Beede meet by chance in a place called the French Connection –- a real life Brewer’s Fayre pub on the outskirts of the town –- the suggestion seems to be that Kane’s ahistorical vision of Ashford has triumphed over Beede’s rootedness. The French Connection is described as ‘a vulgar, graceless, licensed “family restaurant” … on the fringes of the Orbital Park, one of Ashford’s three largest –- and most recent – Greenfield industrial development sites’ (3). Its name and location alone (the French Connection, situated in the Orbital Park) seem to imply travel rather than connectedness and to represent precisely what Marc Augé calls ‘non-places’. In Non-Places (1995), Augé identifies an increasing preponderance of spaces ‘that cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity’ as being a defining feature of ‘supermodernity’. Augé suggests that one ‘can contrast the realities of transit’, a defining feature of non-places, ‘with those of residence or dwelling’, as are found in spaces containing a sense of place. Also relevant here is Edward Relph’s earlier study, Place and Placelessness (1976), which takes a geographical approach to the topic and defines placelessness as ‘a weakening of the identity of places to the point where they not only look alike but feel alike and offer the same bland possibilities for experience’. Relph writes of ‘Roads, railways, airports, cutting across or imposed on the landscape rather than developing with it’. These act not only as ‘features of placelessness in their own right’, but also as catalysts for its spread: ‘by making possible the mass movement of people with all their fashions and habits, [they] have encouraged the spread of placelessness well beyond their immediate impacts’. Relph acknowledges that improved transport links ‘also provide a connecting link, albeit a transitory one’, but his conclusions are still largely negative: this type of development makes ‘no provision for people not in the appropriate machine — there is no shelter, no walkway, no humanitarian gesture’.
Whether one speaks of non-places or of placeless landscapes, modern transport and transitoriness are at the root of this syndrome’s aetiology and, in the context of Ashford, even celebrants of the town have acknowledged the pitfalls of development in this area. In Ashford: A History and Celebration of the Town, for example, local historian Les Lawrie indicates that Ashford’s ring road scheme of the 1970s was ‘almost universally unpopular with inhabitants’ because it cut a swathe through the town, fundamentally altering its topography and character. This sense of a town dominated by its transport infrastructure also feeds into Darkmans, whose characters are portrayed in a near-constant state of motion. On mopeds and motorcycles, in cars and pickup trucks, though almost never on foot, Beede, Kane and the rest of Barker’s huge cast of characters circulate around the town, moving between locations without ever really arriving anywhere. Ashford is described as ‘“a city [sic] which professes to celebrate journeying while being basically almost unnavigable on foot”’ (399): an American model has been imposed upon an ancient English town, creating roads that avoid the centre, leading instead to elsewhere and, most importantly, to London.
Ashford’s modern development is inextricably linked to the capital. As early as 1947 a government report concluded that ‘“of the Kent towns within a reasonable distance of London, only Ashford is suitable for industrial expansion; it is a good distribution centre”’, and by 1959 an agreement was reached with the London County Council that would see five thousand new homes built in the town, 4, 250 of which would be designated for London overspill. It is important to distinguish Ashford from those places officially designated as ‘new towns’, but one can see similarities with them in terms of its development. This process of creating a new town is analysed by Henri Lefebvre in his essay ‘Notes on the New Town’ (1960):
Streets and highways are becoming more necessary, but their incessant, unchanging, ever-repeated traffic is turning them into wastelands. Retail is becoming more important than production, exchange more important than activity, intermediaries more important than makers, means more important than ends. And everything is subsiding into boredom.
Just a few minutes away from his hometown of Navvarrenx, Lefebvre feels that he is ‘surrounded by the derricks of a building estate without a past’, a place of differentiated spheres of behaviour in which ‘the intermediaries between these disjointed elements … take on an exaggerated importance’; the ‘links become more important than the “beings” who are linked’. In Lefebvre’s new town, as in Ashford, development has been imposed from the top down, meaning that transport and commerce are placed ahead of human needs.
However, as Moran argues, Lefebvre’s reading of the new town ‘seems to close off questions of historical context and cultural meaning’ and, in a British context, the ‘unthinking dismissal of the new towns as non-places has obscured their more complex cultural politics’. Following this, Barker’s depiction of Ashford is in fact more ambiguous than it at first appears to be. Although Barker has described herself as re-inhabiting places where there is ‘“just enough going on … to be interesting but not enough to be overwhelming”’, this approach should not obscure the geographical specificity of her settings and the way in which place informs her fiction. Darkmans is set in Ashford because it is ‘such a mobile place, about moving from one place to another’, as well as being ‘a re-created place’ built around an obscured, ancient core. As Laura Miller describes in her review of the novel, the town is slowly revealed not as a blank page but as a palimpsest:
Ashford exists, without distinction or texture, in a web of highways, which is why the book’s characters spend a lot of their time in cars or trucks and on motorcycles, rather like Los Angelenos. But the American tradition of reviling suburbs for their soullessness is based on the idea that these neighborhoods are noplaces, built over formerly blank spots on the map; in England the maps have no blank spots.
Miller concludes that ‘the British construct their suburbs over a festering swamp of history’. In Darkmans this swamp begins to bubble up through the cracks in the tarmac, drawing Ashford’s citizens into its depths.
One person for whom the past becomes particularly significant is Dory. Dory is prone to lapses of memory and bouts of outlandish behaviour, and Beede helps him by researching this condition. His investigations reveal something very peculiar indeed: it would appear that the ghost of John Scogin, a fifteenth-century court jester, is abroad in modern day Ashford. Initially glimpsed in his bright yellow fool’s motley, this malevolent figure begins to assert his presence more forcefully by invading the dreams and lives of Barker’s characters. Thus, Dory’s son, Fleet, finds himself compelled to build a matchstick replica of the medieval Cathedral at Albi, but is unable to finish it because, he insists, ‘“They haven’t built it yet”’ (155): in Scogin’s time the cathedral would not yet have been completed and this is reflected in the replica. The first stage of Fleet’s construction is a bridge, which is not only a model of an actual bridge across the Tarn River at Albi but also a metaphor for the spanning of ‘some kind of a divide (mentally, physically, symbolically)’ (148). Across this bridge Scogin gains access to the modern world, turning even the reserved Beede into a priapic, cat-murdering physical comedian. Under this influence, re-enactments of Scogin’s famously cruel jests begin to take place and a sense of medieval misrule pervades, reinvigorating the present.
Language is also central to this process and forms a vital link with the past. Indeed, the word ‘darkmans’ itself comes from old English thieves’ cant meaning ‘the night’. Like the novel’s epigraph this is taken from a compendium of vagabond lore called A Caveat for Common Cursitors (1567), a text which provides the earliest known citations for a number of English words. To modern ears ‘darkmans’ suggests ‘a dark man’, perhaps Scogin himself, but there is also this hidden, somewhat disreputable lineage behind the word. Likewise, other words begin to take on multiple meanings in the minds and mouths of Barker’s characters, becoming unmoored from their apparently fixed uses and returning to their ancient roots. Thus, when Fleet reaches for the word ‘worms’ he first comes up with ‘mathek’ –- the root of the dialect word ‘maddock’, meaning earthworm or maggot –- and then ‘Beita’ (443) –- the Norse root of the words ‘bait’, ‘bite’ and even ‘abet’. And when Beede comes around from a Scogin-induced reverie he struggles to put a name to the colour of his blood (‘Reudh? | Ruber? | Rood? | Rud? | Red? | Red? | Blut-Red? | Eh? | Blut?’) and remains dissatisfied with his conclusion: ‘he felt […] a rupture … a sudden cutting off, a terrible, maddening, frustrating cleft –- a chink –- between his understanding and his feeling, as if the idea and the emotion had been violently rent’ (677). Darkmans emphasises the ‘uncontainable’ nature of the English language, which is a liquid entity that ‘bubbles up and splashes and spills’ (398). Words furnish a link to the past but they are also living, changing entities that cannot be fixed: like a settlement, they must be allowed to develop without forgetting their origins.
The return of the medieval in Darkmans therefore has a figurative use, describing the abiding presence of an inescapable historical referent. However, it is also applied with a degree of historical specificity. This is linked to Ashford, which still retains its medieval core, but also to an implicit suggestion that contemporary Britain has something of the medieval about it. In a direct reference to Johan Huizinga’s The Waning of the Middle Ages (1924), for example, the phrase ‘blood and roses’ becomes a leitmotif in Darkmans (88; 253; 395; 610). The relevant passage from Huizinga’s text describes the late medieval period as one of extremes, in which ‘So violent and motley was life that it bore the mixed scent of blood and roses’ (88). Barker’s novel depicts contemporary life as equally full of extremes and tacitly implies that there are certain parallels between the two periods. This is made explicit when Kane comes across these lines, ‘underlined with great zeal’ in Beede’s copy of the Huizinga text: ‘After the Middle Ages the mortal sins of pride, anger and covetousness have never again shown the unabashed insolence with which they manifested themselves in the life of preceding centuries.’ To this Beede has appended the remark: ‘UNTIL NOW!’ (88-89). The medieval celebration of cupidity and excess is seen to be echoed in the ‘meaningless and gratuitous acts of consumption’ (397) of modern day ‘bling’ culture, while the medieval tolling of bells is compared to the ubiquity of the mobile phone ringtone, ‘which also chimes –- and must be allowed to chime –- at every available opportunity’ (396). The difference being that whereas Huizinga sees medieval bells as a unifying force, the mobile phone cuts the individual off from those around them. Elsewhere in Barker’s fiction, there is surely something of the medieval spectacle about the British public’s hostile reaction to David Blaine’s 2003 performance Above the Below, an event which she fictionalised in Clear (2004).
The medieval in Darkmans is seen as both a very real presence and as the symbol of a wider historical dimension in contemporary Ashford. Whereas at the beginning of the novel Beede seems like an isolated figure, fighting alone as ‘the vengeful tsunami of history’ (13), this tsunami gradually takes on its own momentum and floods the present. This process restores a sense of place to Ashford, which ultimately comes to symbolise ‘“history in paradigm”’ (398). As the mysterious and bizarrely named forger, Peta Borough, muses:
At its centre beats this tiny, medieval heart, but that heart is surrounded –- obfuscated –- by all these conflicting layers; a chaos of buildings and roads from every conceivable time-frame. It’s pure, architectural mayhem. A completely non-homogenous town, utterly half-cocked, deliriously ramshackle … And then, clumsily imposed on top – the icing on the cake –- this whole crazy mish-mash of through-roads and round-roads and intersections and dead-ends -– Business Parks, Superstores, train stations, train tracks -– which slice blithely through all the other stuff, apparently aiding it on the one hand, yet completely disregarding it on the other (398-99).
Far from the homogeneity implied by notions of non-places, new towns or commuter satellites, Ashford contains strata of history that are, it seems, unignorable. Barker’s conception of history is therefore more forceful than the Derridean notion of the hauntological, because the suggestion is not that history haunts the present, but rather that if ignored it will vengefully possess the present. She implies that what Dory calls ‘the terrible weight’ of history or ‘the storm of pure emotion raging behind everything’ (732), must be addressed.
However, Beede is also testament to the fact that the past should not be allowed to overburden the present. Unwilling to accept change or to adapt to it, he suffers from a condition explored more extensively in Behindlings. In that book there are repeated references to the work of Alvin Toffler, whom Barker thanks for his ‘widely celebrated genius’. Toffler’s The Third Wave (1980) seems to have been the primary source of material for Behindlings, but Barker’s knowledge of his other work appears to have carried over into Darkmans. More specifically, her portrayal of Beede describes the central idea of Toffler’s most famous book, Future Shock (1970). In a passage quoted in Behindlings, Toffler describes ‘the invasion of Europe by an alien time sense’ imported from the United States and heralding ‘a new, quicker, and very much unwanted tempo’. According to Toffler this can lead to ‘future shock’, a condition brought on by ‘the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time’: future shock ‘is the disease of change’. In his relentless focus on the past, Beede seems to represent the future-shocked individual, unable to adapt to change; whilst his son, Kane, represents the antithesis of this, floating along in the present with never a glance backward. Neither of these positions is ultimately endorsed, however, and Barker instead suggests that some kind of synthesis must be achieved.
In the latter stages of Darkmans Beede and Kane are move toward some form of reconciliation, both with each other and with the past. The pair begin to develop a ‘“common language”’ (652) and there is the implicit suggestion that Ashford, too, needs to develop a common language between past and present. There is no sense in which Darkmans is a reactionary plea for a museumified reconstruction of ‘Olde Ashforde’, but the novel does contain an identification of –- and a plea to acknowledge –- the uniqueness of location and history in the face of being simply ‘best placed’ to do business with the capital. As the commutable territory around London spreads well beyond its traditional boundaries, Barker suggests that it remains possible for outlying towns to retain their own histories and identities. Indeed, it is important that many of the reconciliations in Darkmans begin fully to be realised when a road accident brings the town’s traffic to a halt and people are forced to slow down, to step outside of their vehicles and to engage with one another. It is only when people navigate the landscape on foot –- only when they ‘loiter’, as it is described in Behindlings –- that they begin to appreciate the history and unique identity of a place. Darkmans is, therefore, set on another of Barker’s islands, only this time it is bounded by a sea of traffic; Ashford is a traffic island whose transport system links it to elsewhere but isolates it from itself. In this sense the novel is already a period piece because, almost as Darkmans was being published, the town’s controversial ring road was being broken up and reconfigured using the Dutch concept of ‘shared space’. This plan is intended to make Ashford more pedestrian and cyclist friendly and was heralded by ‘Lost O’, a series of artworks installed across the town. The Lost O website describes a need to change Ashford from ‘an island in the midst of fast flowing traffic’ and into a place where the old and the new are united: where ‘the inhabitants of this gentle town will be able to rejoin their suburban neighbours’.
Like the ‘tourniquet’ of the M25 as envisioned by Iain Sinclair, then, development in Ashford has in the past created false divisions and unnatural breaks in the landscape. And like Sinclair, Barker attempts to re-establish a sense of place and to look beneath apparently banal surfaces, an approach which moves Darkmans away from the more Ballardian vision of non-space introduced in the novel’s opening pages. As David Cunningham has noted, it should not be ‘a fatuous question of choosing between Sinclair and Ballard’, but if one follows Cunningham’s persuasive analysis of these two writers, then Barker is closer to Sinclair’s attempts at a ‘re-enchantment’ of non-places than she is to Ballard’s taxonomy, or even celebration, of them. Barker’s landscapes tend not to be filled with the traces of earlier writers (indeed, in Dining on Stones Sinclair’s characters follow in Barker’s footsteps and are aware of ‘being fated to follow a path trampled flat by earlier, better informed artists’) but like Sinclair she attempts to recuperate the unique from the seemingly generic. The Ashford of Darkmans may initially be described in terms of transitoriness and the nondescript, but it is gradually reclaimed from this. London may have shaped the town’s development, but Barker suggests that it retains a unique sense of place; that the ‘vengeful tsunami of history’ cannot be held back.
 Government Office for the South East, ‘Growth in Kent’ [accessed 7 June 2009].
 Iain Sinclair, Dining on Stones; or, The Middle Ground (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 389.
 Nicola Barker, Darkmans (London: Fourth Estate, 2007), p. 40. Hereafter page references will be indicated in parenthesis.
 Nicola Barker, Wide Open (London: Faber and Faber, 1998), p. 1.
 Rebecca Jones, interview with Nicola Barker, BBC Radio 4, broadcast 13 October 2007 [accessed 2 June 2009].
 See Nicola Barker, Behindlings (London: Fourth Estate, 2002), pp. 18, 56, 78-79, 102.
 With the advent of the domestic High Speed Rail Link, the journey time between Ashford and St Pancras is now just thirty-seven minutes.
 Ashford Borough Council website [accessed 28 May 2009].
 Arthur Ruderman and Richard Filmer, Ashford: A Pictorial History (Chichester: Phillimore, 1991), p. 1.
 Joe Moran, Reading the Everyday (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 149. This interest in local politics seems set to continue in Barker’s current work in progress, an epistolary novel entitled Burley Cross Postbox Theft. An extract published in a recent issue of Granta describes, in Pooterish detail, one man’s campaigns against various bêtes noires of modern life, including mobile telephone masts, land access rights and dog fouling. See Nicola Barker, ‘For the Exclusive Attn of Ms Linda Withycombe’, Granta, 14 (summer 2009), 69-92.
 Richard Gibb and Richard Knowles, ‘The High-Speed Rail Link: Planning and Development Implications’, in The Channel Tunnel: A Geographical Perspective, ed. by Richard Gibb (London: Wiley, 1994), pp. 177-198 (p. 188).
 Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, trans. by John Howe (London and New York: Verso, 1995), pp. 77-78, 107.
 E. Relph, Place and Placelessness, Research in Planning and Design, 1 (London: Pion, 1976), pp. 90, 131.
 Les Lawrie, Ashford: A History and Celebration of the Town (Salisbury: Francis Frith for Ottakar’s, 2004), p. 99.
 Arthur Ruderman, A History of Ashford (Chichester: Phillimore, 1994), pp. 87-88.
 Henri Lefebvre, ‘Notes on the New Town’, in Introduction to Modernity, trans. by John Moore (London and New York: Verso, 1995), pp. 116-26 (p. 120).
 Lefebvre, pp. 116, 120.
 Moran, Reading the Everyday, pp. 117, 118.
 Alex Clark, ‘I won’t make you feel better’, interview with Nicola Barker, Observer, 29 April 2007 [accessed 6 May 2009].
 ‘Interview: Nicola Barker’, British Council New Writing 13 [accessed 6 May 2009].
 Laura Miller, ‘The case of the gassy ghost’, review of Darkmans [accessed 6 May 2009].
 In Robert H. Hill’s Tales of the Jesters (1934), a text that features in Barker’s novel, yellow is described as ‘the fools own colour’, and the jester’s clothing as an extension of the medieval obsession with bright hues. Robert H. Hill, Tales of the Jesters (Edinburgh and London: W.M. Blackwood, 1934), p. 42.
 There remains some uncertainty over the details of Scogin’s life, but most of what is known about him comes from a posthumously compiled collection of his jests. For the earliest extant edition of this text, see Andrew Boorde, The first and best part of Scoggins jests full of witty mirth and pleasant shifts, done by him in France, and other places: being a preservative against melancholy. Gathered by Andrew Boord, Doctor of Physicke, 2nd edn (London: Printed [by Miles Flesher] for Francis Williams, 1626), Early English Books Online [accessed 2 June 2009].
 The epigraph reads: ‘“These demanders for glimmer be for the most part women; for glimmer, in their language, is fire.’” Fire recurs as a symbol in Darkmans and Scogin is described as having ‘“this powerful association –- this affinity –- with fire”’ (643).
 Harman’s book is the earliest known source for seventy-seven entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. These include words such as ‘tamper’, ‘hare-lip’, ‘glimmer’ and ‘drawers’, which are still in common usage. See Thomas Harman, A caueat for commen cursetors vvlgarely called uagabones, set forth by Thomas Harman, esquier, for the vtilite and proffyt of hys naturall countrey. Newly agmented and imprinted Anno Domini. M.D.LXUII. Vewed, examined and allowed, according vnto the Queenes Maiestyes iniunctions, 2nd edn, London: In Fletestret at the signe of the Faulcon by Wylliam Gryffith, 1567, Early English Books Online [accessed 8 June 2009].
 See J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages, trans. by F. Hopman (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1976), p. 25.
 Huizinga, p. 25.
 These thoughts on the significance of bells in medieval life also appear to be taken from Huizinga, who describes their peals as rising ‘ceaselessly above the noise of busy life’. Huizinga, p. 10.
 So incensed was Barker at the British public’s inhospitable reaction to Blaine’s 2003 performance, in which he was suspended in a transparent box without food for forty-four days, that she broke off the writing of Darkmans to write Clear, a novel centred around the spectacle. See Nicola Barker, Clear: A Transparent Novel (London: Fourth Estate, 2004). For details of the background to the novel, see Lorna Bradbury, ‘A Writer’s Life: Nicola Barker’, Telegraph, 29 August 2004 [accessed 11 June 2009].
 In a mirroring of the novel’s depiction of Ashford, Peta responds to Kane’s questions concerning her name –- does she mind being ‘“named after one of Britain’s most pedestrian towns”’? –- by describing the ‘“incomparable”’ transport links and ‘“fascinating history”’ (382) of Peterborough (a ‘new town’).
 See Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, trans. by Peggy Kamuf (London and New York: Routledge, 2006) and Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx, ed. by Michael Sprinker, (London: Verso, 2008).
 Barker, Behindlings, p. 535.
 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (London: The Bodley Head, 1970), p. 40. See also Barker, Behindlings, p. 258.
 Toffler, p. 4.
 Joe Moran, On Roads: A Hidden History (London: Profile, 2009), pp. 116-17.
 Lost O website [accessed 18 June 2009].
 Iain Sinclair, London Orbital (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 3.
 David Cunningham, ‘Re-Placing the Novel: Sinclair, Ballard and the Spaces of Literature’, in City Visions: The Work of Iain Sinclair, ed. by Robert Bond and Jenny Bavidge (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), pp. 134-46 (pp. 145, 142).
 Sinclair, Dining on Stones, p. 389.
Ashford Borough Council website [accessed 28 May 2009]
Augé, Marc, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, trans. by John Howe (London and New York: Verso, 1995)
Barker, Nicola, Behindlings (London: Fourth Estate, 2002)
—–, Clear: A Transparent Novel (London: Fourth Estate, 2004)
—–, Darkmans (London: Fourth Estate, 2007)
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To Cite This Article:
Huw Marsh, ‘Nicola Barker’s Darkmans and the ‘vengeful tsunami of history’’. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, Volume 7 Number 2 (September 2009). Online at http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/september2009/marsh.html. Accessed on [date of access]