Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two books

Bombproof by Michael Robotham
The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code by Robert Rankin

Both involve a main character who's a guitarist and who is wrongly accused of various crimes. That's about as far as the comparison goes.

Bombproof was commissioned for a book promotion/award thing (I forget exactly what and I've given the book away so I can't check). It contains many references to events that have happened this year. It was obviously written in a hurry and it shows. It's a thriller of sorts and could have been a good one with proper time and editing. I liked the main character (but can't remember his name!) who was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's spent some time in jail for a jewel theft he didn't commit. On his release he goes looking for his sister but finds she's been lured/kidnapped into the sordid world of drugs and prostitution by some very unsavoury characters. The crooks want him to break into a safe in the Old Bailey to get rid of evidence against them. In return they'll let him have his sister back. Of course, not having committed the jewel heist in the first place, he has no idea of how to crack a safe. The story follows his attempts to 1)find his sister, 2)do what the crims tell him, in order to achieve #1 and 3)elude the police. Mayhem and chaos follow his every move and he soon becomes the most wanted man in England - a serial killer/terrorist. He's neither of these things, of course.
This could have been a great yarn but it suffers badly from poor editing and a rushed deadline. Shame.

The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code
, on the other hand, is a great read. Robert Rankin writes in the same genre as Jasper Fforde - bizarre, I think it's called. At one point in the book, Rankin pays homage to Spike Milligan - it's that sort of humour. Bizarre but very, very funny.
The main character, Jonny Hooker, is frequently diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, largely on the grounds that he talks to himself. Or, to be more precise, talks to his imaginary friend, a monkey called Mr Giggles. Jonny is a guitarist in a local band who receives a letter telling him that he's won a prize. To claim the prize he has to solve the da-da-de-da-da code. This is what he sets out to do. In hilarious fashion.
The plot involves all sorts of weird and wonderful twists. Initially Jonny works out that he needs to find Robert Johnson's 30th recording. Johnson was a delta bluesman from the 1930s who, so legend would have it, sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads. He only ever recorded 29 songs. But, everyone who has come across this 30th song loses his head, literally. Headless corpses start to appear and Jonny, of course, is the prime suspect.
Meanwhile, a top level, top secret meeting is about to be held at the Big House in Gunnersbury Park, where most of the story takes place. The purpose of this meeting is to solve the Middle East crisis. Needless to say, security is everywhere. Police, Special operations, Extra-Special Operations. The meeting is of The Parliament of Five who, apparently, make all the big decisions. (Didn't you know that?) The Five are: the Queen, Ahab the A-rab, Elvis, Mr Bagshawe and Bob the Comical Pup.
Meanwhile, the Air Loom Gang are controlling everyone they can get to with their Air Loom machine. This "magnetises" people and sends voices into their heads to tell them what to do. The gang plans, of course, to get into the heads of the Five.
Jonny takes to wearing a hat lined with tinfoil to keep the Air Loom out of his head.
Jonny's quest to solve the code soon becomes a quest to expose the Air Loom Gang and, thereby, save the world from nuclear holocaust.
He disguises himself as a park ranger, on the basis that if you put a person who doesn't wear a uniform into one, then he becomes unrecognisable. It seems to work! There's an hilarious scene where Jonny is at a crime scene, talking to a policeman. The conversation goes on for a while until the copper tells Jonny that it's alright, he won't tell the rest who he is. Jonny is perplexed that the cop has recognised him as he doesn't know the cop. Until, that is, that the cop lets slip that he is, in fact, the bass player in Jonny's band.

This is a very funny book. Jonny, the paranoid schizophrenic, is the only sane person in the whole story. Well worth the read.

And just to get you in the mood, here is the late, great Robert Johnson (but not his 30th song!)

1 comment:

Mary said...

I'm going to look for that book! Which reminds me, do you still sell books online?