Richard Bowker
Dover Beach

Richard Bowker's Dover Beach is a science fiction novel set in a post nuclear war Boston and various parts of England. The locations do not include Dover despite the appearance of the white cliffs on the book cover. The Dover Beach referred to is the poem by Matthew Arnold that is one of several literary allusions ons in the text. The title is not the only piece of misdirection as the book is now the first in a series called The Last P. I. [Private Investigator], but when the novel first appeared in 1987 it was a standalone thriller starring Wally Sands, an ex-soldier trying to emulate his fictional hero, Sam Spade. The novel is about Sands' first case helping Dr Charles Winfield trace Robert Cornwall the scientist who Winfield is convinced he is clone. The book is written in the style of a pulp noir, but it is hard to define it as a detective novel. Dover Beach is better defined as a dystopian thriller about cloning that centres around a main character who is obsessed by the romance of being a private eye, but with limited talents as an investigator.

The novel begins in an America gradually recovering a sense of an ordered society after a post nuclear war descent into lawless violence. Another misdirection of the blurb is the expectation that most of the novel is set in England, whereas there is a very slow start in Boston that takes up more than a third of the novel. When the novel gets to the business end of the plot there are a lot of deductions from Sands, but the reader is given no clue about the detecting process in what amounts to a whole pantheon of deus ex machinas. Bowker likes his twists in the tale, but focuses more on announcing the twist than in actually telling the tale.

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