So it’s been an interesting couple of days, look you see. In between incidents involving what I am led to believe is called a fan belt and some minor adjustments to what and how I do things as I make my way through life, I have of course been reading. As I have recently finished reading two novels it would then be time to post if not quite reviews then comments on them.
Yes, these reviews have come around somewhat faster than I had expected. The two novels I selected, only I didn’t really select them, were fairly easy reads and so I positively whizzed through them, so to speak.
A quick look at the novels which I read? Certainly.
And a mostly spoiler-ish free at a glance look, in order to save you from reading all other comments that follow? Decidedly. Horse’s (ahem) Posterior off of Charlie Owen is a frequently enjoyable, sometimes amusing yet somewhat tired and cliché riddled look at how coppers (and criminals) used to get on with things back there then in the 70s. The Devil’s Kingdom off of Scott Mariani is the follow up, or better part two, to The Star Of Africa what I read last year. It is kind of OK, if somewhat going against the premise set up in part one but at least concluding the story.
Right, on to a look at both in some closer detail. Be advised, then, that one of them fancy, la-de-dah *** SPOILER WARNING *** things is now in place for the rest of this post. Also, as ever, links provided are for ease of use, and are not a form of endorsement or affiliation or recommendation from my good or bad self.
Horse’s Posterior, for I do like to keep language control in check here. In the pictures of the cover and off the link you can see the proper title, so there you go.
Provenance of my copy? Spiros. He read it and really enjoyed it, and so ordered a copy off of one of them “internet” things to come straight to me, which was nice. He did the same thing last year with HHhH, and that turned out to be the best book what I read last year.
The plot? It’s set in a place called Handstead New Town, to the north of Manchester. All and sundry, however, call it by the name of the title of the novel. It’s a derelict town, with the residents bereft of anything but a bleak future with next to no jobs going now that industry has abandoned the area. The police could not care less for the area, and just want the lid kept on the significant criminal element by any means available. As such, the local nick has become the dumping ground for police officers who are either not particularly good or are just too damned violent or psychotic to serve anywhere else.
Basically what you get is a series of incidents – some of them funny, some of them serious, some flat out horrifying – revolving around one main story of a particularly violent robbery raid on a pub.
A lot of it is, as I mentioned, very familiar and cliché riddled. The thing with clichés, though, is that they all started off by being something which actually was. Countless reviews and comments out there from people who were officially on either side of the law in the 70s describe the characters and events as remarkably accurate. It is not for me to question that aspect, then.
With that being the case, them really were some pretty bleak times, then. There are many who will say that there are places across the UK where this is all still very much a reality sort of thing. But, I am here to comment on the novel.
My most abiding memory of the novel is that Bear Grylls missed a trick in not being a copper or a criminal in the 70s. Both sides of the fence seemed, going on the book, to have a curious fascination with urinating on or in food stuffs served to each other. Considering Mr Grylls’ renowned love of all things urine consumption, he would absolutely have been in his element.
Would I recommend or suggest reading this novel to anyone? Yes, there is most certainly a wide market for this. Fans of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, not to mention Snatch, would have happy days here. As would those who loved boss shows such as The Sweeny and The Professionals. And anyone who likes to see coppers being given the freedom to stitch up the clearly guilty. And them that like to read the exploits of criminals.
Yeah, no, what, that above there is an early morning selfie, before I had tended to my hair and that. Sorry, I just thought I would break up the text for you a little bit. Also, some of you might quite like me early morning, wearing as I am a most splendid yellow t-shirt.
I believe that Charlie Owen has done a number (possibly three) of other novels which, from what I can work out, exist in the same universe as this one. Let me see if Spiros is as impressed with any of them as he was with this, and maybe I shall join him in reading further. Although, I suspect at least, I won’t be reading them down in some sort of Turkish Bath like what Spiros does.
The Devil’s Kingdom, a novel I was effectively forced to read in order to get the conclusion to a novel I read last year, The Star Of Africa.
Provenance of my copy? Morrsions, but not off of cigarette counter. For some reason they don’t have many, if any, novels at cigarette counter in Morrisons any more, but from time to time they do have some available for sale in the store. Like this one.
Plot? Picks up pretty much where Star Of Africa left off. Psychopathic African warlord Khoza is hold regular Mariani hero Ben Hope hostage, with plans to force him to train his army in the ways of the British SAS. Failure to do so will result in a painful, torturous death for what friends of his survived the shipwreck, and in particular for his son, Jude. Khoza, or maybe it is spelt Khosa now that I think, is still holding on to the huge diamond that caused all the fuss in the first novel. He’s also hatched a rather ingenious way to profit from it and retain ownership.
Quite a lot of this novel is disturbing. It does not hold back in showing just how brutal, and I mean in a barbaric, sickening and horrifying way, African warlords, or indeed just plain African criminals, can be and often are. It does, however, hold back on inflicting a great deal of this on (most) of the main characters of the novel, of course. Our hero must get roughed up, but not much damage gets done. In this sense, then, the realistic portrayal of just what goes on when you hear in passing on the news of a “military incident” in Africa somewhere gets undermined by an unrealistic portrayal of what would happen to those unwelcome to be transgressing on it all.
Overall, these two books could have been combined and edited into one 600 or so page novel rather than two 450 page ones. There are far too many red herrings and irrelevancies in it. Off the top of my head, Ben Hope never actually trains any troops, and nor would there be any point in him doing so when you see Khoza’s sickening (and accurate) way of recruiting troops. Also, there’s a whole load of references to Chinese intervention in Africa, but that plot path simply gets forgotten about.
Whilst many, many unbelievable things happen across the novels, there is a complete suspension of disbelief required to accept the resolution to the whole thing. Contrived, to say the least, is how I found the finale.
In the past I have sworn off any further Scott Mariani novels, and yet I keep ending up reading them when I spot them. Another is promised at the end of this one, Babylon Idol I think, watch me end up reading it.
There’s little or no point in me recommending this novel to anyone other than those what also read The Star Of Africa. I would imagine more than a few share my frustration that the first novel was “part one” with no warning given that it was, but for what it is worth this second part is a pretty reasonable conclusion to it all.
As a bonus you get a short, 20 or so page story featuring Ben Hope at the end of the novel. Well, featuring Ben Hope and yet another conspiracy theory about a rather well documented death which happened in 1997. In Paris. And the short story is called, I think, The Tunnel.
And there we have it. As ever I have no idea if these book review things add any value to the world. I suspect not in the case of the latter one here, for that surely has a set audience locked in, it being a second part and all.
Hopefully, and there is always hope, this has all be of use to someone somewhere!
Be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!