Born the illegitimate son of an aristocratic politician and an actress in 1868, Meyrink set up as a banker in Prague. He achieved notoriety as a dandy while at the same time winning prizes at international rowing regattas. About to commit suicide, he chanced on a pamphlet about life after death, put his revolver away and started a lifelong interest in the occult. He unmasked false mediums, and experimented with alchemy, drugs and clairvoyancy until an affair of honour led him to challenge the whole of the Prague officer corps, setting machinations in motion which resulted in him being wrongly imprisoned. His bank collapsed and he became a writer, the author of The Golem.
Mitchell's biography is fascinating and extensive [he] excels at his concise organization and his ability to effectively portray Meyrink through both facts and as he appeared to his contemporaries. This examination of a dark, begrudging and sensational individual makes for a supremely entertaining biography. Cevin Bryerman, Publishers Weekly
This is a fictional account of Josef Kyselak's life (1799-1831) as it might have been, following the hero on his adventures, amorous and otherwise, from Vienna to the four corners of the Empire: the Vienna Woods, Bohemia, Slovenia, Transylvania.
At the same time, with walk-on parts for Franz Schubert, Emperor Francis I, Count Sedlnitzky and a larger role for Archduke Johann, it paints a picture of Austria during the Biedermeier period, the age of Schubert and Metternich.
Josef Kyselak responded to the Austrian landscape in two ways: he wrote travelogues, and he daubed his name over it. Robin's novel brings the eccentric graffiti artist and proto-environmentalist to life in a series of dramatised scenes. The 19th-century background, full of censorship, industrialisation and secret police, offsets the narrative well and provides some spur for Kyselak's behaviour. Some of the imaginings are less successful: there are too many dalliances with buxom Austrian shepherdesses. Nonetheless, an intriguing debut. S. B. Kelly, Scotland on Sunday, 18.1.4
This fictional account gives an exhilarating portrayal of a youthful hero who rises to the challenge of daring hikes, climbs and sexually free maidens. (Buzz Magazine)