Book Reviews

 

Dr Travis’s extraordinarily vivid and at times painfully lucid account provides a rare, fascinating insight into the experience and treatment of paranoid schizophrenia. Along the way there is humour, horror, the most astonishing palindrome and ultimately enlightenment about this most misunderstood of conditions. I enjoyed it very much - Christopher Thatcher

Barking absolutely! A revelation to those who read it - a real eclectic mix. It will be a beacon of light for those in darkness and for those that simply want a bloody good read - Rob Paxman Ex B Sqdn 22 SAS

Portrait of me by Brent Nokes

For thousands of years man tried to make something out of nothing: it was called alchemy and never worked. Not until now that is. The proof arrived in the post in the form of Looking for Prince Charles's Dog this week, and I have already got to the joke of a last line. Well OK you could say the disappearance of the future King of England’s dog was a little bit more than nothing: it did make the front page of The Times. But it would take a great feat of imagination to take that event of April 1994 all the way to this: a ten year expedition down the stream of consciousness (where the stream seems to be flowing beer for most of the journey). Perhaps a million people will never read this book, but it will mean the world to those who do. One can only feel for those not privileged to join Dr Travis on the trip, and it is a trip on two occasions. I commend this epic to you - Andrew English


Looking For Prince Charles’s Dog is a vivid insight into what it means to live with paranoid schizophrenia.

This epic, autobiographical work by Dr Clive Travis pulls no punches. The stories about the author’s time spent in various mental institutions are not for the faint of heart, nor is this a book that can be read in one easy sitting. Having said that, for all the times it is harrowing, the book is also a smart, educational, frustrating, moving and often hilarious read. Yes, I said hilarious. Put aside notions of schizophrenia as dissociative identity disorder, or a disease that yields unending torment; one of the points the author strives to get across is how much, at times, he enjoyed the effects of the condition. Additionally, the way in which Travis writes about his love affair with “Amanda” is poignant and easily relatable. While this book does take a good deal of time investment, I think you’ll find, as I did, that it is definitely worth the effort - Luke Tuchscherer

To write a book entitled Looking for Prince Charles's Dog is a major undertaking. Dr Travis upholds the honour of Prince Charles and his dog and justifies the title with a unique and extraordinary tale in which he makes a philosophical voyage through severe mental illness in search of the future King of England's lost pet. The story is often bizarre as he travels around these isles like a psychotic Rick Stein in search of the remarkable, touching, note-worthy and fishy to then announce he has found the dog as though the animal has its own Royal Crest which the writer uses to honour these events and places. One might have suggested The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much as an alternative title but the never say die (with one, or two almost fatal exceptions) attitude of the author mean it would be churlish not to suggest that of course the disappearance of His Royal Highness's dog was of major significance to the peace process in Ireland! More seriously the story is often violently shocking in its portrayal of the torment experienced by sufferers of schizophrenia not only from the illness itself but also from the "despicably unpleasant and murderous" side effects of the drugs prescribed for it. Indeed, as the story demonstrates, these side effects become part and parcel of the illness and the author only manages not to commit suicide because of them by invoking an efficacious military Special Forces mind-set to complement his laughably deluded attempt to place the dog on the table in the peace process negotiations. At the same time the delusions are so intricate that, where the supposedly imagined involvement of the Security Service and the IRA were concerned I was, on occasions, so sucked in to it all that I was left wondering. Looking for Prince Charles's Dog is the autobiographical account of what it is like to experience paranoid schizophrenia and is a great achievement - Edward Blackstock

Picking up a copy of this book is like being accosted by the Ancient Mariner. "He holds him with his glittering eye/ The Wedding-Guest stood still,/ And listens like a three years' child:/ The Mariner hath his will./ The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:/ He cannot choose but hear;/ And thus spake on that ancient man,/ The bright-eyed Mariner..." (although Travis is not that old). It is a personal account of experiencing years of paranoid schizophrenia, both untreated and treated. The story unfolds inexorably and compellingly, although the reader has no idea where it is going. The real world and the delusional world drift vertiginously in and out of focus. It gives the lie (in Travis's account) to the notion that the world of a person with schizophrenia is "meaningless"; on the contrary, his account in the earlier part of the book is of a world too full of (delusional) meaning. Everything, every word in a headline, every glint of a metallic sign, every musical reference in an advertisement, carries a message. And without any artifice, with a bald but rigid first-person narrative, Travis takes us there.

And it is not all depressing - sometimes he enjoys the new insights into the world vouchsafed by his MTRUTH, a device (he believes) implanted in him by security services in order to monitor and control his behaviour, and some very funny incidents. And it is all illuminated by his encyclopaedic knowledge of later 20th century music and culture (which I don't share so I missed many of the references).

I won't say I couldn't put it down. Often I was only too relieved to put it down. But I had to pick it up again. This is not just playing with a cliché in book reviews; what Travis conveys so vividly is that hallucinations and delusions and mood swings are not things you can opt into or out of if you are mentally ill. They are there all the time, they are your experience, and you can't stand aside from them. And so it is with this book - when I was not reading it, it haunted me.

The classic literary material on the experience of schizophrenia is buffered and filtered. Apart from the technical literature, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is not just ancient but also clearly "novelised" (and arguably not an account of schizophrenia by a modern definition); Mary Barnes' A Journey Through Madness and even One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which is principally an anti-psychiatry rant) are slanted to favour an ideological perspective. Travis on the other hand has no axe to grind, no angle to argue; he is amazingly non-judgemental about the professionals he encounters, however shadowy their portrayal. He does not blame, although readers might not be so generous in the face of frequent apparent indifference and inflexibility. It's a weighty book, both literally and figuratively; the format is large and the margins narrow and the main narrative is 474 pages. It does not pretend to be literature, and I'm sure it will attract some critical reviews by people who want to read it as such, but that is not the point. In a sense it is the antithesis of literature. It seeks to remain true to Travis's experience, and if that experience is rambling and picaresque, that is what the book is. If it were more literary, I would have taken an axe to big sections: the account of six months in Africa is fascinating but over-long; the chapters on his exploits in Cornwall and Edinburgh are testimony to Travis's resilience and resourcefulness, despite his illness, but don't at the time add much to our understanding of the whole story, although they make more sense once you get to the end. The style is critical to the experience of reading it. It keeps you off-balance: "Is this actually happening? Is it a delusion?" Some years ago, I was heavily involved in training for people undertaking statutory duties under the Mental Health Acts. I and my colleagues struggled to find authentic, no-axe-grinding accounts to use as case-studies. Alongside the dispassionate clinical exemplars of the diagnostic manuals which identified "behaviours" and generalised reported "symptoms", we were looking for real, specific, personal experiences. The story Travis tells is exactly that but also much more. I wish it had been available then, and I'm sure that a wide range of readers will find it eye-opening and illuminating now. (Disclosure: I do know the author, who now contributes to such courses, and I did attend the launch event - James Atherton RIP)

I once met the author in my home town and remembering him telling me about the search for Prince Charles's dog, the memory must have stayed with me as several years later I came across a local music venue holding a gig to promote Dr Clive Travis's book which was I have to say upon purchasing was a remarkably interesting read, taking the reader on a travelogue to Africa and all around England in addition to other countries and a trip through the mind also. It's a journey that takes you through what went on during the author's state of mind, how he thought, the way he was treated by the medical profession which hopefully has got better at understanding when it comes to prescribing for patients. You never quite know just what's round the corner on his journey, but left hoping its good and for the best for our journeyman who shares his experiences with interest, verisimilitude and sometimes humorous anecdotes, occurrences and the characters met along the way. I can recommend the book as being of interest to people in practice and learning of mind conditions in addition to anyone wanting a read that takes you on both a physical and mental journey. There is nothing new about good well written stories to tell but the way this journey is told certainly holds up as a new way of thinking and true life story telling. Was Prince Charles reunited with his missing dog? Join the search and learn the truth... (M)Truth - K. Pickering

This book should be read by anyone with an interest in the human mind/brain and its universe complexities. The writer displays a forensic intelligence and recall during this painful, comic, emotional, frightening and compassionate piece of work. The novel has a marvellous soundtrack ranging from 70s' punk to modern indie. It is a powerful analysis of what is at times a brutal journey through the medical establishment and the often devastating consequences of their resulting decisions. There is also much humour as well as brilliantly bizarre meetings and leaps of imagination as Dr Travis travels around the British and Irish Isles following his intense and often desperate attempts to put his various theories into action. There is always hope however tough the situation gets and love plays its part in this moving novel. It will serve as an inspiration to anyone who is struggling to overcome mental/psychological difficulties that at times can appear overwhelming. Read this book and laugh, cry, be confused, angered, amazed and finally overcome by the incredible sense of wonderment as to what the human mind/soul can achieve with humour, imagination, self-belief and sheer determination - Matthew Jones

A wonderful piece of work. Believe in it, I do. It is special - Pascal Scudamore

Thank you very much for letting me read Looking for Prince Charles's Dog. I enjoyed it very much. It is a fascinating read giving great insight into what it is like to live with the symptoms associated with paranoid schizophrenia as well as the appalling side-effects of some of the treatments for it - Helen Finch, MIND

Such an important piece of work - Billi Street, RETHINK

Really good. Exciting - Richard Knight.

Really enjoyed the book, a truly great effort of will. What a journey! Love the book man! Viva! - Jonathan Jones.

What is it like to experience mental illness? Looking for Prince Charles's Dog answers that question by taking the reader on a most extraordinary journey of discovery. Autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia are few and far between, but Clive's intelligence, intellect and vivid memory have enabled him to recount in full technicolour, the inside story in all its confusion, dilemma and delusion, clearly demonstrating the nature of the beast that is schizophrenia. He shows remarkable insight enabling him to create a work of exceptional quality. Clive has chosen not to recall his experiences in a detached reflective manner, but boldly from the word go, the reader is sucked into madness with the author. You are taken across the line from genius to lunacy and back again, and challenged to open your mind and re-examine personal beliefs. This is the road least-travelled which the reader is privileged to join in all its complexities. An unconventional tale which is compelling, perplexing and astounding and one which should be compulsory reading for all mental health professionals. Other questions answered in this book include: Why do people with mental illness end up homeless? Why don't people with mental illness just take medication to get better? Why would a grown man be seen pecking at a discarded hamburger on a pavement? Why do many sufferers of mental illness kill themselves? - Alison Bass

In Looking for Prince Charles's Dog Dr Travis brings the condition of the schizophrenic into sharp focus, a world far stranger than fiction. Clive supertramps far and wide across the country as he tries to make sense of his life, transforming himself in the process. These adventures are at times harrowing, but frequently hilarious; on occasions they made me laugh out loud, no mean feat for me. This is a story that needs to be told - Mike Wallis.

From the sample that you sent, it does look to be a truly captivating piece of writing - Will Maddox, Development Editor, Blackwell Publishing.


Looking for Prince Charles's Dog and Other Stories or One Summer I Thought I Was A Dog is an autobiographical account which is both entertaining and revealing. It evokes a strange sense of awareness and insight into an illness that sadly, many have been unable to cope with. The writer's courage as he struggles to understand what is happening to him makes this book a worthwhile, compelling read for all of us - Emily Barker (RIP).

This very interesting book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of serious mental illness. In the face of the turmoil of psychosis, there is no easy prescription for achieving collaboration between the patient and the psychiatric services, but this book eloquently makes the point that the first step is engagement in dialogue - Peter Liddle, Professor of Psychiatry, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham

This extraordinary book, describing Clive's journey into schizophrenic psychosis, is indeed unique. If you feel like reading an epic try this - Thelma Acott

Thank you, Dr Travis, for letting me read chapter 41 of your excellently titled book. I have just finished reading the chapter, named after my song The Headlight Song, and found it thoroughly enchanting and true of voice. I laughed out aloud at least six times. It will be a pleasure to read the rest of the book and I've got a feeling I have already written the song which was on the tips of your fingers; when its recorded I'll send you a copy. It's called The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much - Tim Keegan, The Departure Lounge (ex Railroad Earth, Ringo, Homer)

Looking for Prince Charles's Dog is an account of a young man's descent into a dark unreachable hell called schizophrenia, pursued by imaginary forces of a spy network which has managed to tap into his brain. It is a book that every mental health consultant and psychiatrist should read as it will show them the detailed workings and thought-paths of a mind in the grip of this disease. The book describes an incomprehensible and upside-down world where one is torn between amusement and pity; a world where Dr Travis no longer knows why he must act as he does, except that "the power of all the magic and mystery possessed by the future King of Great Britain's dog now seemed to be mine"; a world one could at times sorrowfully call "Hell on Earth". It is also an account of all the drugs that were unsuccessfully or detrimentally administered by doctors and consultants who had little idea of the causes of this dreadful affliction, and even less of how to cure it. It is a book for parents worried about the sudden and inexplicable actions of their children, ultimately diagnosed as schizophrenic, so that they can at least have some idea of that terrible, haunted landscape in which their children are now lost.  The book is a landmark text for students of schizophrenia, a ripping yarn, and a cult buy - Edward Travis RIP

Dr Travis provides a lucid autobiographical account of his battle with "schizophrenia". Or Intelligence Service inspired genius? All of the author's life experiences and education to the highest standard are only just enough to help him survive and eventually find the right road back from his harrowing journey in search of peace. It has all gone terribly wrong: cast into an asylum, the misery of incarceration and now real terror of injections* given forcibly determine our hapless traveller to find his own way. He escapes the secure unit fleeing further degradation and soldiers on, grief-stricken and anguished, towards his goal aware it may be ever more distant, aware of the penalty of failure. Touching, compelling, fraught and emotional, Dr Travis crafts his own very individual experiences into thoroughly entertaining reading - ANS
*Not fear of the injection itself - real terror because of its effects

 

In this book Clive describes in remarkable detail a rich, complex and bizarre set of delusions, hallucinatory voices and images. For much of the time covered by the book he is marvelously, wonderfully, hilariously, fantastically or spectacularly deluded in sustained periods of immersion in the psychosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He generally gets carried away and enjoys his delusions of grandeur, but it is a wonder he did not die from misadventure. Clive, is very playful at times and imaginative in his thinking and also shows great mental strength and resourcefulness. Indeed, these last two attributes may inspire many schizophrenics and non-schizophrenics reading this book. The confidence and certainty of his delusions, along with his innate tenacity and robustness, gives him great courage and stamina. As well as schizophrenia Clive also writes about his exciting six months in Africa which might have deserved a short book of their own if they were not in this one. As a fellow paranoid schizophrenic with a PhD, secret work and an autobiography focusing on schizophrenia under my belt, I feel some considerable affinity with Clive, but recognize his memoir of schizophrenia is the superior work, though to be fair it lacks detail about Clive's ongoing psychosis and ultimate recovery after the end of the main story. Overall though, I think it is the best memoir of schizophrenia I have read, and I have read quite a few. Clive's work is also a mine of information, with many footnotes, and is written with considerable care and effort. Schizophrenia is an imagination disorder and above all this book is a brilliant creation of the schizophrenic imagination.

Inspired by this book and the song Guitar Man by Bread, I have also written the following song lyrics/poem:

Who has the best imagination?
Baby it's the schizo man
Who's on a mission for the nation?
Baby it's the schizo man

In his mind there's continual fantasy
And his importance fills him with ecstasy
Round and round the country
And abroad as well
Looking for a tale to tell

Who's trying to evade medication?
Baby it's the schizo man
Who's looking for the dog's location?
Baby it's the schizo man

In his past a PhD and the MOD
And Africa still looms large in his memory
He thought he was a Secret Service Agent
Or some kind of Special Forces man
As his imagination ran

Who is the radio's song for?
Baby it's the schizo man
Who has a girl he longs for?
Baby it's the schizo man


There's all sorts of scrapes and hilarity
And the book proceeds go to charity
It really is a wonder
He's now alive and well
Now he's got his tale to tell

 

Educate yourself about the most amazing mind, this book also helps charities, two good deeds with one book - Ekenna Hutchinson

 

This is Clive’s personal journey through paranoid schizophrenia, and what a story it is! Moving, entertaining, harrowing, you never know where it is going to take you next. The trial-and-error nature of finding the right drug for a patient would be tough enough with the best level of doctor-patient collaboration. Back in Clive’s world, with no communication or trust on either side, what chance was there of success? Society can and must do better. The most surprising discovery for me was that the journey that Clive’s brain took him on was so often enjoyable - KZT

 

Looking for Prince Charles's Dog is an absolute must read. It's full of insight, intelligent thoughts, and the incredible journey of one man's experience with mental illness - Zak Fenning

 

What a page turner! Brilliantly written by an extremely intelligent author. He explains (in a most entertaining manner - it's a real "page turner") what it's like to have one of the most dreaded diagnoses of mental illness. Highly recommended! - Dogend

 

A fascinating read... a real insight into the paranoid schizophrenic mind written by a recovered patient. A must buy for all students learning about, and professionals practicing, in this medical field. Clive, you’re a genius - Roger Parsley

Prince Charles's Dog goes missing. I go "looking for it". I find myself - Clive Travis