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Black Humour

GOLGOTHA . . . between the covers

Dyson017

guy-portman2Guy Portman (left) introduced us to Dyson Devereux in Necropolis (2014). I gave it 5* when writing for another review site, and I’ll include a link to that at the end of this post. Dyson was Head of Burials and Cemeteries in a fictional Essex town, and a rather individual young man. He is narcissistic, punctilious, cultured and, outwardly polite and thoughtful, but with an anarchic mind and a terrible propensity for extreme violence. The book both horrified and fascinated me but made me laugh out loud. Dyson Devereux was a Home Counties version of Patrick Bateman and his antics allowed Portman to poke savage fun at all kinds of modern social idiocies.

Dyson returned in Sepultura (2018) and he has moved to another town to do more or less the same day job. His main recreation is still killing people who upset him, either personally, or because of their unpleasant manners or appearance. He has fathered a son and takes but a passing interest in his upbringing. He is, however, appalled that Latin isn’t on the curriculum at young Horatio’s infant school. Having stayed just one step ahead of the English police Dyson comes a cropper when he commits murder while on a municipal exchange visit to Paleham’s twin town in Italy, and ends up in the hands of the Carabinieri.

Golgotha begins with Dyson a treasured guest at San Vittore Prison, Milan, awaiting his trial for murder. It is no place for someone of his refinement:

“ Tottering in this direction is a posterior-wiggling transexual. When he passes by, he winks at me and smiles, revealing a mouth crammed with chipped, rodent-like teeth. Up ahead a prisoner steadies himself against the wall with an emaciated, needle-track-ridden arm.”

Dyson views the prison as something like an amateur drama company acting out Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, but he holds his poise thanks to frequent visits by his Italian girlfriend Alegra, who supplements the meagre prison fare with Amaretti biscuits and cremini al pistacchio chocolates. Neither is his taste for fine wine neglected, as his weekly sessions teaching English to the convicted gangster – who effectively, rules the prison – are enlivened with glasses of Amarone Classico Costasera 2012.

GolgothaWhen he finally has his day in court, Dyson scorns the efforts of his lack-lustre lawyer and relies on his own charm and nobility of bearing to convince the court that he is an innocent man. He escapes the clinging arms of Alegra and returns to England without delay, anxious to be reunited with something from which separation has become a cruel burden. A loving family? A childhood sweetheart? The clear skies and careless rapture of an English summer day? No. A tin box containing several memento mori of his previous victims. Little oddments that he can sniff, fondle and treasure. Little bits of people who have had the temerity to upset him, and have paid the price.

Dyson has a new job in what he calls the Death Industry. “Good morning. Raven & Co. funeral directors. How may I help you?” Back where he is most comfortable, among the cadavers and embalming fluid, Dyson seems to be settled. Until Horatio is excluded from school for not being sufficiently ‘woke’. What happens next is a bloodstained and visceral orgy of revenge and death. Our man is not only going to war against the police, but also against losers who play their music too loud in the next flat and school teachers who parrot politically correct gobbledygook.

The best satire is supported by strong girders of anger, and there is much on display here, most of it righteous. Horatio has been given the heave-ho for having the temerity to mock a fellow five year-old who has decided to change gender. The school’s reply to Dyson’s query throws a lighted match into a pile of dry tinder:

I would hope that in today’s world, gender dysphoria wouldn’t cause confusion to a grown adult. As for children, yes, it can be confusing. But here at Burton Finch we have a proven track record of educating our charges in gender identity related issues.”

Dyson Devereux has a jaundiced view of the delights that decades of multiculturalism, diversity, and pandering to the lowest common denominator have bestowed on English suburbs:

“I pass a Sports Direct, a betting shop and a halal butcher, from which a disorderly line of veiled women protrude, chattering animatedly in several Maghreb-hailing languages. Iceland supermarket is followed by a pound shop, a halal chicken establishment and a Congolese social club.”

Sad to say, Dyson pushes his luck once too often after underestimating the collective momentum of a spurned Italian beauty and a seven feet tall Hungarian embalmer known as The Grim Reaper. If you are a sensitive soul who mistakes words for actual misdeeds then, please, go and read something else. If you share the view that life is essentially a grotesque comedy, acted out by individuals so preposterous that it is only satire that exposes them, then grab a copy of Golgotha. It is wicked, outrageous, and scandalously funny.

Golgotha will be available from 3rd December.

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SEPULTURA . . . Between the covers

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Is there anyone out there who is an admirer of Charles Pooter? For the uninitiated, Mr Pooter was the fictional author of the The Diary of A Nobody. It is set in 1890s London, and was actually written by George Grossmith and illustrated by his brother Weedon. Mr Pooter is totally ‘above himself’, full of his own self-importance, but regarded with ill-concealed mirth by those he believes to be beneath him. Mr Pooter is a character upon whom many later comedy characters – for example Anthony Aloysius Hancock and Basil Fawlty – are based.

SepulturaI must explain the apparent digression before you lose interest. Use your imagination. Conjure up a dreadful genetic experiment which breeds a being who, especially in his diarist’s style of first person narrative, shows very Pooteresque tendencies. But – and it is a ‘but’ the size of a third world country – the mad scientist has added Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter into the mixing bowl, and then seasoned it with an eye-watering pinch of Patrick Bateman. What do you get? You get Dyson Devereux, Head of Cemeteries and Burials with Paleham Council.

Dyson first burst into view in Portman’s novel Necropolis, rather like the nasty homunculus which disturbed John Hurt’s dinner in Alien. Like that creature, Dyson Devereux was implacable, cunning – and utterly malevolent. In Necropolis he went about his day job with an almost autistic attention to detail – while managing to commit several violent murders. He was smart enough to outwit the police, but has, wisely, decided to move from one council district to another.

Now in Paleham, he has sired a child, Horatio. He has fallen out, however, with Horatio’s mother Rakesha who, in turn, has taken up with a fairly revolting specimen (by Dyson’s very high standards) called Jeremiah. Most of the people in Dyson’s life who he dislikes – and like the biblical unclean spirit they are legion – are given disparaging nicknames, and Rakesha’s new love is called Free Lunch. Dyson’s colleagues within the bureaucratic hub of Paleham Borough Council include Inappropriate Short Skirt, Sullen Goth and, most despised of all,Ludicrous Tie (aka Bryan).

Improbably, Paleham is twinned with the Italian town of Rovito, and after their funzionari del consiglio comunale have paid a visit to their English counterparts, it is the turn of the Paleham officers to travel to Italy. Dyson, by the way, speaks fluent Italian. His linguistic talents are considerable. He is very concerned that Horatio’s nursery school doesn’t offer Latin, and so he is determined to teach the little chap himself. Before the Italian trip departs, however, Dyson has finally lost patience with Free Lunch and murdered him. He methodically dismembers the offending individual and disposes of the bits. Unfortunately for him, Free Lunch’s head breaks free from the stones which were meant to keep it at the bottom of the local canal, and after its discovery, Dyson becomes a person of interest to the local constabulary.

guyThe trip to Italy temporarily removes Dyson from the cross-hairs of the local police, and also the relatives of the late lamented Jeremiah, who are out for vengeance. What follows is brilliantly inventive, murderous and breathtakingly funny. Guy Portman doesn’t reveal too much about himself, even on his website, but he must, at some point, have worked in some kind of public services environment. All the devils are here – the pomposity, the endless Powerpoint presentations (complete with printout), the daily genuflection at the the altar of Health and Safety, the woeful political correctness, the corruption of the English language, the cheap suits and – for ever and ever amen – the second-rate minds doing second-rate jobs.

I don’t often issue health warnings, but if you are easily offended and believe that some things should never be satirised, then don’t go near Sepultra. If on the other hand, you think, “what the hell, one dance with the Devil won’t hurt..” or if you love brilliant writing and vengeful black humour that up-ends modern society and kicks it in the head – then Sepultura should be the next book on your bedside table. It is out now, and published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

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BRILLIANT NEWS … Dyson Devereux returns!

Cemetery

It’s not often that an item of book news from Fully Booked Towers comes with a warning, but this one definitely does. Back in 2014, I read and reviewed a startling tale centred around a young man called Dyson Devereux who is Head of Burials and Cemeteries for the local council of a fictional town in Essex. Necropolis is one of the funniest – and most disturbing books – I have ever read. The warning? Please don’t go near Necropolis – or its successor, Sepultura – if you are a sensitive soul whose idea of risqué humour is a re-run of Dad’s Army. Dyson Devereux’s creator is Guy Portman, and he writes – excuse the pun – graveyard humour of the blackest sort. You will find yourself in Catch 22 territory, where no socially-aware virtue goes un-targeted.

NecropolisNecropolis has a surreal plot involving, amongst other characters, an African drug dealer, a fugitive from the genocide of the 1990s Balkan wars – now working as a gravedigger – and a sadly deceased local resident for whom the undertakers have abandoned any pretence of good taste:

A hearse pulled by two horses is approaching. The horses’ coats have been sprinkled with glitter, and their manes dyed pink. They look like colossal My Little Ponies,”

SepulturaAfter a pause of three years, Dyson Devereux returns in Sepultura, to be published on 11th January. I have yet to get my hands on a copy, but it seems that Dyson has both a new job and a new son, but his cold rage and venomous disgust at his work colleagues and the world in general appears not to have abated one little bit. I can only guarantee that there will be death, cruelty, abrasive satire – and brilliant writing.

 

 

 

 

Guy Portman’s web page is here

Check out Necropolis and Sepultura here.

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