NEW BOOK: John Martin. The Man That Never Was. Daniel Defoe 1644-1731 A Critical Revision of His Life and Writing, Heritage Publications, July 2013. Hardback. p 541 Price £35. ISBN 978-0-9543172-4-9
John Martin, a best-selling Defoe biographer, has written a compelling new biographical account of Daniel Defoe, one of English Literature’s most controversial writers. It is a peer reviewed by six academics including two Professors of English and several Defoe specialists. Martin’s central thesis that Defoe was born in 1644, some 15/16 years earlier than previously supposed, and that he kept the first thirty-six years of his life a secret, is supported by a mass of archived material. It is impossible to refute it although many will try.
Martin’s conclusions has set the academic world of the Daniel Defoe Society, of which he is a member, a-flutter and a fierce ‘battle of the books’ is underway. Martin writes into the received wisdom of nearly three hundred years of ill-starred scholarship. No teaching academic wishes to tear up lecture notes 30 years in the making.
Martin has written an enjoyable and enthralling life of a man of great complexity, The Academic Readers were at one in concluding that it is an important work of scholarship fundamental to Defoe studies and that it has implications for all fiction written in the Early Modern Period.
But at a simpler level Martin has written a lively and enthralling account of a complex man. While it is a must read for the academic, it is simply a great read for the rest of us. Do you wonder about Robinson Crusoe? Who he was and was and whether in real-life he was marooned on an island? Read on