Magnus Mills seems to me to be a one-off. He somehow manages to convey uneventful tales in a gently comedic, at times slightly unsettling, manner. ‘The maintenance of headway’ is a classic example of his talent.
Ignoring the conventions of novel writing, rather than setting his stories in a specified location, he uses vague language that’s suggestive rather than definite. The novel is set in an unnamed metropolis with a ‘bejewelled thoroughfare’. The description is highly suggestive of London.
Likewise, his characters are never described in anything but the barest of details. The story is written from the point of view of a bus driver, whose interactions with fellow bus drivers and bus inspectors provide the meat of the novel.
Everything about the book is so subtle it’s almost as if there is no plot, and yet there is a story to tell. Although the book isn’t set in a stated year or era, it involves red double-decker buses with automatic doors, and mentions the trialling of a new articulated bus, which gives the reader some sort of reference.
From start to finish, the characters are entertainingly obsessed with the minutiae of operating a bus service. The many acute observations they make provide a fascinating insight into what might be going on behind the scenes of Britain’s transport network. I found ‘The maintenance of headway’ to be a highly engaging novel and have scored it 19/20, using my 4 Ps system.
You can find out more about my scoring method on ‘The 4 Ps’ page, or by clicking here),