Join Peter Riley for a discussion of his critically-acclaimed book, Strandings: Confessions of a Whale Scavenger. This exhilarating new work of hybrid non-fiction charts a Herman Melville scholar’s feverish obsession with stranded whales on the UK’s shorelines.
‘A marvellous read. Subversive, jaunty, poignant, deadly serious and relentlessly entertaining’ – Charles Foster
‘A tremendously enjoyable book, a gleefully peculiar mixture of grief and gore populated by a shadowy cast of oddballs, the only certainty the dead whales at its heart’ – Jessie Greengrass
About the book:
When Riley was thirteen, a woman with blue hair and a comet tattoo asked him to help load the jaw of a sperm whale into the back of a Volvo 245. The encounter set Riley on a decades-long quest to make sense of what had happened.
Enter the secretive world of whale scavengers. When a whale washes up on one of Britain’s coasts, a fugitive community descends to claim trophies from the carcass. Some are driven by magical beliefs. Some are motivated by profit: there is a black market for everything from ambergris to whaletooth sex toys. But for others, the need goes much deeper.
Riley tours a stranded kingdom’s weird outer reaches, where nothing is as it seems. Meet witches, pedlars, fetishists, conspiracy theorists and fallen aristocrats. And prepare for a final revelation, as the mystery of the comet woman tangles with the enigmatic symbol of Leviathan itself, beached on Britain’s fatal shore.
Purchase your copy: Strandings – Profile Books
About the author:
Peter Riley is a writer and academic based in North East England, and the winner of the inaugural Ideas Prize for non-fiction (2020). He has been investigating the world of the whale scavengers since his teens.
About the event:
Riley will be joined in conversation with Rachel Ashenden, co-editor of the arts magazine The Debutante, which explores the lives and legacies of female and gender non-conforming surrealists. She is Communications Officer at the National Galleries of Scotland. There will be time at the end for audience questions.