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The Missing


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The Missing by Andrew O'Hagan: 'The Missing, part autobiography, part old-fashioned pavement-pounding, marks the most auspicious debut by a British writer for some time.' Gordon Burn, Independent

About the Author

Andrew O'Hagan was born in Glasgow. He is the author of The Missing, which was shortlisted for the Esquire Award, the Saltire First Book Award, and the McVities prize for the Scottish Writer of the Year. His debut novel, Our Fathers, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Prize. His second novel, Personality, was published in April 2003. Be Near Me was published in September 2006 and is longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize.


British author and journalist O'Hagan is predisposed by his experience to write about the lost. In 1976 three-year-old Sandy Davidson disappeared from the Glasgow suburb of Irvine and was never seen again. O'Hagan was eight at the time, but the espisode still smolders in his memory, and he was confronted with the grim truth that shapes his narrative, that "people could disappear." Even before O'Hagan's birth his grandfather was lost at sea during World War II‘the body never recovered. These memories spill over into his accounts of several disappearances and inform his ruminations on the phenomenon of missing persons. Fans of traditional true crime will be frustrated by the lack of resolution in the many case histories. There is little speculation as to what might have happened, and few details on the ultimate fates of those missing and later found murdered. The reader is adroitly situated to encounter the unsettling feeling of absence known all too well to those with loved ones who have gone missing. Highly recommended for literary nonfiction collections.‘Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"

This remarkable book defies simple classification. Although ostensibly a study of missing persons (both from the perspective of the missing and those left behind), it is also an autobiography, an investigative report and a memoir of the effect of a story on the reporter who covers it. O'Hagan, a Scot of Irish ancestry, grew up in a "New Town" housing development near Glasgow. His childhood memories, which make up much of the first third of the book, are rich in stories of people who disappeared: a grandfather lost at sea, legends of Bible John (something of a Glasgow Jack-the-Ripper, who was never found), a neighborhood child about his own age who (perhaps) was lured into a van and never seen again and, the same year, a local young mother and her child who mysteriously dropped out of sight. O'Hagan's memoirs are noteworthy for their unromanticized treatment of children's cruelty toward each other. The second third of the book consists of interviews with parents of missing children, with a London missing persons police officer, with a coroner, with special workers concerned with runaways and with runaways who don't want to be found. The book ends with a long firsthand investigation of a Gloucester serial killer who buried his victims in his backyard. Quibbles could be made about the book's balance, as some sections are allotted more space than they need. A new introduction in which a Baltimore kidnapping is examined briefly has been added for this American edition. It would be unfortunate if the book's highly British ambiance keeps this insightful and personally affecting study from an American audience. (Nov.)

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