Jarv’s All New Holiday Reading Part 3
Time to buckle up for the final part of my bumper book review piece. This time out, there are 4 novels, and it constitutes the dregs of what I’ve read on this trip to Spain. Not that these are especially bad books, on the contrary, some of them are totally passable, but I haven’t actually got anything of real interest to say about them.
This batch is a strange old mix, but believe it or not, I didn’t plan it this way. So, let’s start the ride with…
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer
Rumpole is, in many ways, a British institution. John Mortimer has been writing Rumpole stories for longer than it’s worth thinking about, so when you pick up a Rumpole anthology (or novel) in this case, you know exactly what you are going to get:
A light wit, a smattering of obscure Shakespeare quotations, esoteric characters (including his wife “She who must be obeyed”) and our heroic “Lion of the Old Bailey” manfully defending some poor wrongly arrested fool.
This, in many ways, is almost a Rumpole prequel. However, don’t let that put you off. This is the story of his first case, and as such serves as a fine example of the template that all Rumpole stories follow. He’s fresh out of qualification, and has taken Chambers when a particularly grisly shooting has been dropped on his head of Chambers. For one reason or another, a massively inexperienced Rumpole is forced to take over the case and steers the young lad to freedom against almost insurmountable odds.
I really have very little to say here because this is very hard to hate on. Mortimer writes well, and Rumpole himself is a marvellously drawn character, but it’s all a bit lacklustre really. You know, for example, that there’s no way in the name of Lucifer’s black and veiny cock that the kid isn’t going to be acquitted, the fun is reading Rumpole’s verbal pyrotechnics on the way.
Nevertheless, it’s a reasonable time-passer and a very, very short novel so it doesn’t exactly linger around, even if I can’t remember it at all now. Aside from that the kid got of, obviously.
This is a nailed on middle-of-the-road novel and as such can have a totally balanced 2 bookworms out of 4.
The Wilt Inheritance by Tom Sharpe
I’ve written about Wilt before, and he really is one of the all time great British Comic creations. However, unfortunately, I think he’s had his day, and I think Tom Sharpe needs to stop penning them now as this is the second of the 21st Century Wilt books that can best be described as lacklustre.
Where once Sharpe was a lewd, crude and razor sharp satirist, nowadays he’s more of a gentle farce writer. In many ways, Wilt is the character best suited for this, as it’s almost impossible to imagine him being tied up in a rubber nightie having Novocaine injected into his cock, or feeding a bull terrier LSD to terrorise a neighbour, who is suffering from having had oven cleaner smeared in a condom (both of these are legit Sharpe references). No, Wilt is a gentler soul, one that is very much out of place with the world today, and wonders from fiasco to fiasco without a clue how he got there.
This time out he’s been employed by the dreadful Lady Clarissa to tutor her moron (and possibly psychotic) son Edward. Wilt takes the job to afford his four monstrous teenage daughters (the Quads Penelope, Josephine, Samantha and Emmeline) school fees and shenanigans quickly follow.
This is an OK book. It’s funny on occasion, but much less outrageous than an old-school Sharpe novel. Most of the comedy comes from the Lord of the manor’s obsession with fat chicks and the behaviour of the truly awful girls, but it’s just a bit too soft for my tastes. I want Sharpe at his offensive best, I want to read about the SA police department being forced to endure aversion therapy to kill any desire for coloured women, or about a marxist lecturer filming a cutting critique of capitalism that shows him graphically buggering a charity doll. I don’t particularly want to read about Wilt whining about budget restraints etc.
This isn’t a bad book either, it’s short again, which helps, and the Quads do provide some chuckles, but again, I think it’s just scraping a pass. If you want to read Wilt, then read the original. Or better still, read Riotus Assembly. It can have 2 out of 4 again, because I’m feeling generous towards it.
Not a bad book, all things considered, not like…
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh.
Awful shite this. It’s a first novel, that for some reason thought that a cross between Lovejoy, gay porn and 8MM would be a good idea. Inexplicably, it manages to be every bit as awful as that combination sounds.
Riike (fucking stupid name) is an Auctioneer in a small Scottish Auction house. He discovers a vast collection of hideous and violent porn in a house clearance, including torture and murder photos, and gradually gets drawn into the world of extreme snuff porn to try to find out the secret behind the pictures he’s seen.
In the meantime he has an awful lot of grubby and graphically described gay sex oh and nothing else really happens.
This is not a good book. It is, in fact, a shit book. Riike isn’t an interesting character, and description after description of graphic acts of mutual masturbation, oral sex, sodomy and so forth aren’t really my cup of tea. The reason I picked it up was that it promised to be modern noir, and I feel a bit lied to. None of the characters are actually interesting, and as Riike himself is a bit of a black hole of narcissism I found it very hard to give a shit about his story or the identity of the murdering scuzzbucket.
I did finish the book, and it is quite well written so it can have 1 Bookworm, but I really don’t recommend this. Maybe I’ve missed the point, but it reeks of that 90’s trend where crime fiction had to be gender deconstructed by the likes of Patrica Cornwell, and I didn’t like that at the time, so I’m not over the moon about it appearing now.
However, as derivative as it is, it’s nowhere near as derivative as…
Brain Storm by Richard Dooling
It’s also nowhere near as good. In fact, this was probably the potboiler that I enjoyed most.
Sold to me as a satire on the American Legal System (just what the world needs, because I don’t think anyone’s ever written one of those before) what it actually is, is a highly amusing John Grisham novel. Don’t let that put you off, because this book is worth reading, because unlike a Grisham Novel it has actual discernible characters. Of particular note are the brilliant circuit court judge, the white supremacist client, and the punk defence lawyer.
These three characters provided many, many laugh out loud moments, and I caught the wife giving me a very strange look when I put the book down during the “fishing expedition conversation” between Myrna (defence lawyer) and the DA. Spoiler coming…
Seriously, I was shaking with laughter at her exclamation that as the DA was trying to fuck them she should sue for sexual harassment, but would refrain from it as she considered it laughable that he was trying to fuck them with such a tiny dick. I’ve loosely paraphrased here, but the conversation goes on for a few pages in this vein, and the punchline comes with the DA’s whiny complaint to the Judge that gets very, very short shrift indeed.
I would give it more, but unfortunately Dooling has bitten off more than he can chew and there’s far, far too much exposition about Hate Crime and neural pathways that’s massively out of place. This actually needed to be more of a legal procedural to let the likes of Judge Strang and Myrna fully rip away as the novel lights up whenever they’re on the page.
A very enjoyable slice of hokum, mildly encumbered by a drippy central character, but taken all in all is a perfectly acceptable piece of trash. I give it 2.5 out of 4, because as airport fiction goes, this one will pass the flight very, very pleasantly.
Right, that’s my round up done for this time. I shall clearly have to pay more care and attention to what I read out there, because the balance has been all in all too far on the shit side.
Until next time,