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A Necklace of Slings

A Necklace of Slings. Dave Gregory. The Ernest Press, 1995. 181 pages. Line drawings. £15.

Dave Gregory gives us a real potpourri: personal narrative, fiction, a little poetry, even a comic, pseudo-scientific treatise on cooking porridge. I found the personal narrative best, full of convincing grit. Here is some nice description: “She reaches three left finger ends onto a small triangular hold above her head. I freeze as her right hand moves slowly up like a slow motion replay of a crawl stroke to grip the very bottom of a small ripple of a flake.” Gregory has a true feel for rugosities.

The fiction is less successful, I think. The dialogue, some of it in dialect, often works well, but the characterization is decidedly thin. Several of the endings are unsatisfying and melodramatic (“The Black Hollow”) or unconvincingly hopeful (“The Last Straw”).

Many of these pieces have appeared in the journals of British climbing clubs, and the tone is often rather clubby. The identity of some of the climbers is footnoted for a wider readership, but be prepared for a lot of British vocabulary: peg ring, krab, boot (of a car). The volume is enhanced by excellent production and by many fine line drawings by Male Baxter.

In a brief introduction, Jim Perrin, who has met Dave Gregory only once, says that he felt as though he had always known him. Many readers will have the same response. He emerges from this book as a climbing Everyman, without overweening ambition, but gifted with a love of the crags. You may find yourself somewhere in the pages of this book.

Steven Jervis