The Search


“A short, brilliant novel, The Search offers more in 150 pages than most books twice that length.” —The Guardian

Walker meets Rachel at a glamorous party by the bay. When she turns up at his apartment two days later, there is a hint of erotic promise in the air. But it isn’t Walker she wants—at least not yet. Her husband, Malory, has gone missing, and she wants Walker to find him.

     So begins Walker’s quest, as well as this beautiful novel that takes our ...

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“A short, brilliant novel, The Search offers more in 150 pages than most books twice that length.” —The Guardian

Walker meets Rachel at a glamorous party by the bay. When she turns up at his apartment two days later, there is a hint of erotic promise in the air. But it isn’t Walker she wants—at least not yet. Her husband, Malory, has gone missing, and she wants Walker to find him.

     So begins Walker’s quest, as well as this beautiful novel that takes our hard-boiled knight across the vast landscape of an imaginary middle America that begins subtly to morph into something stranger. Walker’s search intensifies, and soon it seems that somebody else is searching for him. In The Search, his second novel, Geoff Dyer concocts a sophisticated and enthralling narrative puzzle.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Clancy Martin
…when it's strong, the book is a pure foreshadowing of the Dyer to come, as the always walking, always searching hero stumbles into increasingly uncomfortable and barely explicable situations with ever more obdurate and tricky people.
Publishers Weekly
Dyer’s second novel, first published abroad in 1993 but unavailable in the U.S. until now, is a take on the detective/noir genre in the vein of Auster, Calvino, and Borges. When Walker, a brooding, heavy-drinking loner and experienced “tracker” with something of a criminal reputation, meets the seductive Rachel, he agrees—against his better judgment—to heed to her request to look for her “secretive” missing ex-husband Malory. With few clues to go on (Malory avoids being photographed), Walker sets off on a journey through absurd fictional cities that make his quest harder and logically muddy—in one city he loses his motivation to leave; in another, people seem to be in constant danger—but also add a layer of intrigue. He drives—often in stolen vehicles—through deserts and dangerous storms, catching rides on trains and biking. He meets several eccentrics along the way, including an avant-garde director, who aide him in his search. Walker’s task is made even more complex when the enigmatic Carver—who claims he’s also looking for Malory, but whose motives are never entirely clear—begins pursuing him, after Carver fails to convince Walker to join forces with him. Dyer creates a series of puzzles, which are sure to send some back for a second read, as Walker tries to anticipate Malory’s moves. Those familiar with Dyer’s later works (Out of Sheer Rage) may be at first surprised that he is capable of writing in this plotted and cerebral mode, though his considerable talents, including the ability to write in other veins, are on display here. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Search: 

"A take on the detective/noir genre in the vein of Auster, Calvino, and Borges. . . . Dyer creates a series of puzzles, which are sure to send some back for a second read. . . .  [Dyer's] considerable talents, including the ability to write in other veins, are on display here." —Publishers Weekly

“So it’s farewell my lovely and we’re off, on a package tour through gumshoe thriller, film noir, road movie . . . and chivalric romance . . . An ambitious, stylish novel.” —The Independent on Sunday

“If any British writer can try on the mantle of Calvino, Dyer can. He has a poet’s gift with metaphor as well as an ability to grasp ideas, hold them, pass them on.” —New Statesman

“As elegant as a mathematical theorem correctly expressed.” —The Sunday Times

“Dyer injects an almost magical randomness into what ought to be the most conventional of tales, and gives us Surrealism where we might have expected Dirty Realism . . . Its after-image is hard to erase.” —The Spectator

Kirkus Reviews
Prolific British-born essayist and novelist Dyer's second novel, a Kafkaesque road trip first published in 1993 in the U.K., appears for the first time in the U.S. along with his first novel, The Colour of Memory (reviewed in this issue). The setting is a country resembling but not exactly replicating the United States in what might be the near future. Recently released from prison, Walker meets a beautiful woman named Rachel who hires him as a tracker, an illegal profession in a world where people frequently choose to disappear. Rachel wants him to find her husband, Malory, who did something unexplained that sent him on the run. Walker is to warn Malory that bad people are after him while getting Malory to sign and fingerprint some papers ensuring Rachel's financial security when he's eventually arrested. So Walker, already more than half in love, sets off with a good-luck locket from Rachel and not much else. Since Malory has avoided being photographed, Rachel has only one blurry image of him. In a downward progression, an address gone cold leads to a phone number gone dead leads to a simple postmark. Walker gives up on clues to follow his intuition. He travels from city to city, some with familiar names that don't connect to their actual geography, others with Bunyan-esque names like Despond and Independence. Sometimes Walker finds evidence that Malory has come and gone. He sees Malory in a crowd but loses him. He is stalked himself. The traveling becomes more important than finding Malory, until it culminates in a collection of snapshots that both clarify and cloud what the journey has been about for both Malory and Walker—snapshots, an occasional motif in Dyer's first novel, become the central theme in his second. A pretentiously self-conscious, lulling yet strangely pleasurable cross of Gulliver's Travels and Pilgrim's Progress with a little of the television cult show The Prisoner thrown in for good measure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555976781
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 434,877
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is the author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi and three previous novels, as well as nine nonfiction books. He won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2012 for Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

The Search

A Novel

By Geoff Dyer


Copyright © 2014 Geoff Dyer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55597-678-1


The search began when walker met Rachel.

He had been hung-over most of the day and intended taking it easy that night. Then, just as he was beginning to feel better, his brother dropped by, kitted out in an off-white tuxedo, telling Walker to get changed and get a move on, he was coming to Charles and Margot Browning's party.

'I haven't got a tux.'

'There's one in the car. Come on, we're late. Let's go.'

They were annual events, these parties, renowned throughout the Bay for the extravagant array of drink and food, the wealth of those invited to consume it. Walker had never been before and apart from his brother—who, it emerged in the car, had come by the invite indirectly—he knew no one. He stood drinking, squeezed into a wine-stained tuxedo, wondering why he had come. Photographers were prowling around, snapping anyone who possessed the distinctive complexion of wealth. No one had any interest in photographing Walker but several times he was caught in the blurred background of a smiling society couple.

He had been there an hour, getting loaded, watching people talk, when a woman nudged into him and spilt half his drink. His age, a little older maybe. Brown hair piled up, earrings, no lipstick. A dress that reached to the floor.

'Oh, I'm sorry.'

Walker dabbed at his jacket.

'That's OK.'

She was laughing. 'It looks a little on the tight side.'

'That's how they're being worn this year.'

'A dinner jacket and surgical truss in one. Very stylish.'

'I like to think so.'

She said her name, reached out a bare arm. Her bracelets chimed together as he shook her hand.

'It's a terrible party, isn't it?'

In the first moments of meeting someone we're attracted to we grope towards an agreement on something, however small—even if it is only agreeing to have a drink—and this declaration of Rachel's was enough to establish a treaty between them. They bitched about the party, the people there. Watched one of the photographers coax a grin and kiss from a pair of rival celebrities.

'It's funny,' she said. 'Nothing means anything any more unless you're photographed doing it. We need photos to prove to everyone else we exist, to remind ourselves. How's that for an unoriginal thought? What were we talking about? I forget.'

'Photos,' said Walker. 'Pictures.'

'Yes. You know when you're on holiday and you take pictures? You always wait until you're back home before getting them developed, even if you have time. Otherwise they're just postcards. But if you wait till you're back home they're different. Then it's like that story of dreaming of a garden where you pick a flower—and you wake up with petals in your bed.'

She was high or drunk, Walker guessed. 'I never take a camera,' he said dully.

'So the dream goes on, even after you've woken up. Either that or you don't wake up at all.' She took a sip of red wine, holding the glass in both hands—a gesture Walker had always been a sucker for.

'Something like that,' he said. Seeing his glass was empty, Rachel motioned to him to take hers. As she did so a photographer crouched down and snapped them. Walker took a gulp of Rachel's wine. A guy in a red-faced blazer came over and kissed her, chatted and drifted away, leaving them alone again. Moments later a woman came up and kissed Rachel on the cheek, introduced her to a man with a millionaire haircut who in turn presented another man to her. Suddenly there was a lot of kissing going on. Eventually Walker got included in the swelling round of introductions. Shook hands, repeated his name for those who didn't quite catch it. He finished Rachel's wine, mumbled 'Excuse me' to no one in particular and headed for the bar.

Rachel was surrounded by a laughing group of people when he got back. He handed her a full glass and she smiled thanks. The way she laughed, looked at him. Walker wondered if he would go to bed with her, not now, not tonight, sometime. The possibility hovered beyond the edge of what they said which was nothing, just words and smiles swapped. He shuffled on the periphery of the group and moved off, bumping into someone as he did so.

'Sorry!' It was the kind of party where people were constantly stepping into each other and apologizing. On this occasion, though, the guy Walker had collided with stood there and stared him down as if they were in a waterfront bar where an encounter like this could lead to a broken-bottle fight. A camera flashed whitely behind the guy's head, silhouetting him briefly. Now he was looking over Walker's shoulder; Walker glanced around, instinctively following his gaze, thought he glimpsed Rachel looking away, startled.

Walker moved off, shoving gently through the crowd. Lifted a bottle from a waiter's tray and resumed his solitary drinking. He was out on the terrace, looking down at the glinting waters of the bay, when he felt a touch on his arm. He turned round and saw her.

'I thought I'd never find you,' she said. 'It's so crowded.'

'I'm glad you did.'

'I'm sorry, I got cornered. Is there anything more boring than a party?'

'Hundreds of things—but at a party it's more concentrated. And it happens on a bigger scale.'

She smiled quickly, 'I have to leave. I wanted to say good-bye.'

'That's a shame.'

'Yes. I would like to have talked to you more.'

'Maybe I'll call you.'

'It's better if I call you.'


'Are you in the book?'

'Yes. It's under B: B for Brush-off.'

'I'm not giving you the brush-off—it's a weird expression, isn't it? Honestly.'


'I'll call you.'

With that she was gone, leaving Walker in the mothy darkness, an empty bottle in his hand.

Two days later she turned up at his apartment. A fresh, clear morning. He had just got back from the gym and was sitting on the patio, reading the paper, when the doorbell rang. The mailman, he guessed.

She was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt. Her hair, neatly pinned up at the party, was all over the place today. In her hand she held a pile of letters.

'Your mail,' she smiled.

Walker looked over her shoulder and waved at the retreating figure of the mailman, smiling and pleased now that the good weather was here.

Walker smiled too. Everyone was smiling. 'Come in.'

'Is this a bad time?'

'It's a perfect time.'

Walker fixed a jug of orange and she followed him out to the patio. They sat in creaking wicker chairs, filling pauses with the swirl and chink of ice. He tore open one of the letters she had handed him and glanced at the contents. Sunlight bounced white off the painted concrete. Walker squinted while she put on a pair of sunglasses. At every moment her face seemed on the brink of answering 'No' to the question 'Is she beautiful?' But the answer never quite came and the longer he looked the more uncertain he became. Later, he saw he had got it wrong all the time: her beauty lay precisely in this aura of uncertainty. Beside it the beauty of models and actresses seemed banal. At the time, watching her finger a strand of hair from her face, he was aware only of the way his eyes lingered on her as they waited for each other to speak.

'I think you said the other night that you're not working just now,' she said at last.

'That's right.'

'So what do you do all day?'

'You know, the time passes.'


'It passes.'

'What did you do before this?'

'Various things. Drifted from one thing to another. Whatever came up.'

'You've never had a job?'

'Off and on. Off mainly.'

'And what do you do for money?'

'Are you a social worker?'

'I'm just interested.'

'Odds and ends. My brother's renovating a house just north of the bay. I work for him now and again. Maybe you met him the other night?'

She shook her head, took a sip of orange. The imprint of her lip appeared on the cold glass, fading as he noticed it.

'You're being too modest. I think you've had a more interesting life than you let on.'


'Yes. I think you've been involved in quite a few interesting things. Not all of them quite legal.'

'If you say so.'

'You're trying very hard to be enigmatic, Mr Walker.'

'I know, I'm putting everything into it.'

'Perhaps it would be a help if you borrowed these,' she said, handing him her sunglasses.

'That's much better,' Walker said when he had put them on.

'They suit you.'

'Thank you.'

'How was prison?'

'It was great. Bit cloudy a couple of days but the rest of the time it was terrific,' he said and chucked the remains of his drink at her. 'Now fuck off out of my house.'

She brushed the melting ice from her lap, surprised but unruffled.

'Dramatic,' she said, only the faintest hint of nervousness in her voice. Seeing him smile she went on, 'Do you really want me to leave?'

Walker was watching her carefully from behind the sunglasses. Her knees parted, almost imperceptibly, a quarter of an inch, no more, as she spoke. With his empty glass he gestured for her to continue.

'For a while you worked as a tracker.'

'Not exactly.'

'You found Orlando Brandon.'

'I came across him. By accident.'

'A very fortunate accident. For you, at any rate. People had been looking for him for three years. The buy-out must have been considerable.'

Walker waited, studying her.

'Not so fortunate for him, however,' she said. 'If I remember rightly, he was dead three weeks after you found him.'


She dug around in her bag and found another pair of sunglasses. Blew dust off the lenses.

'How many pairs do you have in there?'

'This is the last,' she said, her eyes disappearing behind the shades. 'I would like you to find someone for me.'

'That's illegal. Besides, like I told you, I was never a tracker.'

'I appreciate that, Mr Walker, but I will, if I may, explain myself a little further.'

Walker shrugged. 'What's all this Mr Walker bit?'

'The situation seems to demand it,' she smiled. 'Can I continue?'

Walker nodded. Shrugs, nods, smiles.

'Have you heard of Alexander Malory?'

'No. Should I have done?'

'There have been a number of articles in the paper about him.'

'I don't read the papers.'

'Well, he's disappeared.'

'A lot of people disappear. Or try to.'

'Hence the need for trackers.'

'What's your interest in him?'

'I am his wife.' On cue she removed her sunglasses. As an expression of frankness it was so perfectly executed that Walker suspected it might not be genuine. 'We're separated. That was years ago. He was very generous. Since then, however, certain irregularities in his dealings have come up. The police are interested in him. They don't yet have a warrant for him but they will have one soon. There are other people interested in him also. To speak plainly, they want to kill him. It's possible he is trying to evade them but he moves around a lot anyway. It's equally possible he is just off travelling. Earlier I said he had disappeared—in a way he is in a state of constant disappearance.'


'And I want to find him. For two reasons. If he is simply travelling, I would like to warn him—as I say, our parting was entirely amicable.' Walker poured more orange into her glass. 'The second reason applies wherever or whatever he's doing. My lawyers have found a loophole in our arrangements. I need him to sign and fingerprint a copy of one of our contracts.'


'It's a new legal requirement with certain documents. I don't know why. But once he's done that, whatever happens to him, every thing comes to me. He has to sign this before the police get to him. If he dies or is arrested before this document is signed, I lose everything.'

'Everything you have or everything you have coming to you?'


Walker had been studying her closely. Now, suddenly aware that she was scrutinizing him, he asked hurriedly, 'So why me? There are trackers who—'

'Too unreliable. It's quite possible that trackers have already been employed to find him—by the people who want to kill him.'

'But why me?'

'As I said, you've had a more interesting life than you let on. You could do it. You're not doing anything else. And you're restless.'

'How do you know I'm restless?'

'I meant you're totally content. Is that better?'

'Yes, it doesn't matter,' Walker said, smiling.

'I have no idea what it will involve,' Rachel continued. 'It's possible you will find him in a few days. It is equally possible that he has genuinely disappeared and has camouflaged his tracks—in which case finding him will be more difficult. Either way the important thing is that you find him before anyone else.'

'So you want me to find him and get him to sign and fingerprint a piece of paper. That's all?'


'And what if he doesn't want to sign this new will or contract or whatever?'

'Then perhaps you mention that there are people who wish to see him dead and who would pay a lot to know his whereabouts. It won't come to that. Like I said, Alex has always been generous to me.'

'And—' Walker paused '—why is this of interest to me?'

'First, I will pay you a great deal of money. Tell me, how much did you make from finding Orlando Brandon?'


'Whatever you earned for finding Brandon, I will pay double. More than enough, you might say.'

Walker raised his eyebrows as if to say, 'That's a very generous offer.'

'I think it is not the money that will interest you. It is the case itself. You will have very little to go on. It will be a challenge. For example, Alex hated—hates—being photographed. There is no photograph of him as far as I can discover.'

'Not even a passport?'

'He has that with him.'

'And are trackers already after him?'

'Impossible to tell.'

'How long since you heard from him?'

'Six months.'

Walker was tugging at his right earlobe with thumb and forefinger. She pointed at his ear and said, 'You'll end up with one ear longer than the other.'


'Pulling your ear like that.'

'My father used to do it. It's a gesture I've inherited.'

Their glasses were empty apart from melting ice.


'I'll call you,' he said, and this time she gave him her number.

The strangeness of her story bothered Walker less than the way it challenged his gathering sense of inertia. He had been drifting for months, uncertain what to do, forming vague plans but lacking the resolution to see anything through. He was waiting for a decisive moment—a moment that would impel him to make a decision—but no such moment came. Every morning he had breakfast at the Café Madrid and walked down to the ocean. Every other day he lifted weights. Afternoons he went running along the beach. Evenings he drank. His growing addiction to this regime of fitness—and the drinking it served to offset—was one of a number of small details that made him postpone any commitment to change. He had so little to do that even minor chores like going to the bank became major events in his day. The more he pondered things the more restless he became, floundering in a sea of impulses. He had no responsibilities, no obligations, and so found himself paralysed by choice, waiting to see what came his way. Now something had come his way—a challenge, she had said—and he balked at the prospect, longed instead for his current life to continue indefinitely and without interruption.

Tracking: he turned the word over in his mind, taking the measure of his feelings. After Brandon's death he'd sworn—not sworn, to swear not to do something always seemed like an incitement to do it—he'd resolved not to get involved in anything like that again, especially now, now that it was illegal, dangerous.


Excerpted from The Search by Geoff Dyer. Copyright © 2014 Geoff Dyer. Excerpted by permission of GRAYWOLF PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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