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Guy Portman

GOLGOTHA . . . between the covers

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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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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . October 2019

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I make not even the slightest trace of an apology for not jumping on the regrettable Halloween bandwagon. Someone on my Twitter timeline was emoting about “this time of darkness and evil deeds, when spirits of the dead walk the earth.” The only beings that walk the earth where I live are over-excited children dressed in plastic tat from ASDA (other suppliers of mass produced seasonal rubbish are available) disturbing my peace and begging for tooth-destroying sweets (also available from exploitative mass retailers in handy packs) while their aggressive parents lurk not far behind, ready to leap in with an oath or three should I reject the advances of their offspring. Rant over. Instead of pumpkins I offer publications – four of the best to get stuck into as the nights lengthen.

A MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT by David Baldacci

Atlee Pine is a female FBI agent with what some like to describe as a kick-ass attitude. Like all the best fictional law enforces she has a troubled past, and hers involves the abduction and presumed murder of her twin sister when they were little. She is convinced that a serial killer called Daniel Tor – now serving thirty life sentences in a Colorado jail – either did the deed or knows who did. When Pine takes enforced holiday leave after nearly battering a child rapist to death, she is drawn back into the search for the truth about what happened to sister Mercy all those years ago. Ignoring Nietzsche’s famous homily about the Abyss, Pine becomes snared in a web of secrets, lies – and indescribable evil. A Minute To Midnight is published by Macmillan and will be out on 14th November.

THE GRID by Nick Cook

Thrills of a different kind now, from celebrated defence analyst and journalist Nick Cook. His latest novel explores the complex and controversial world of surveillance and counter intelligence work. US Presidents have an unenviable record of becoming assassination targets, so much so that it might as well be in the job description. The current occupant of The Oval Office, President Thompson has been subject to vivid recurring dreams about his own demise, so much so that he confides in Josh Cain, his personal doctor. Cain’s background is in military psychiatry, but even his experiences of dealing with the trauma caused by battle doesn’t prepare him for what he is about to discover. When a sniper’s bullet ends a startling confession from a former US Marine, Cain is served dramatic notice that he is about to participate in his President’s nightmare. Also out on 14th November, The Grid is published by Transworld.

Authors

DIE ALONE by Simon Kernick

A novel with the words Simon Kernick on the front cover is pretty much guaranteed a second look from most readers who enjoy their crime with a political flavour. We may have our doubts about the respective merits of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (other party leaders are available) but I don’t think it is seriously suggested that either is a serial killer. Not so with Alastair Sheridan, the central character in Kernick’s latest novel. Suave, handsome and charming, Sheridan is everyone’s tip to become First Lord of The Treasury and occupant of London SW1 2AA. Everyone? Well, almost. A select group, a modern day illuminati, know that Sheridan is a killer, and they employ disgraced detective Ray Mason to kill him before he gains power and silences those who know the truth about his actions. Mason soon realises that things are not entirely what they seem, but how can he – to mix two body metaphors – keep both his hands clean and his head on his shoulders? Published by Century, Die Alone is out on 28th November.

GOLGOTHA by Guy Portman

It is a sad reflection of the state of British cultural life in this second decade of the 21st century that satirists like Guy Portman should have to go down the self-publishing route to bring his books to readers. Yes, his books shock. Yes, they direct a flamethrower into the bunkers inhabited by the politically correct and woke glad-handers in the publishing world. Yes, Portman fails to respect the notion that some cultural practices must remain immune from criticism.

His anti-hero is the delightfully despicable Dyson Devereux. We first met him as an iconoclastic manager of a municipal cemetery in Necropolis. His homicidal streak appeared to run into the buffers at the end of Sepultura, and Golgotha starts with him in an Italian jail awaiting his trial for murder. Guy Portman has an extraordinary talent to amuse – and raise eyebrows. Leave him alone if your sense of humour is only tickled by offence-averse sitcoms. If you were raised on a diet of M*A*S*H*, Catch 22 and American Psycho, then take a chance – if you injure yourself laughing, then blame me. You can buy Golgotha here.

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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!

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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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