Clever dialogue and great humour

10-09-2009

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you know that Hugh Laurie is currently extremely successful on the telly. So successful, in fact, that random American kids have started posting old clips of his, carelessly titled Dr. House doing this and that or the like, on the internet. You, my sophisticated readers with a little bit of cultural background, know of course that Laurie had already shone much earlier in brilliantly humorous shows like Blackadder, A bit of Fry and Laurie or Jeeves and Wooster, where he wasn't required to conceal his British background. But did you know that he not only wrote for his own show, but also wrote a book? I didn't – but I was pleasantly surprised to find out. It's called The Gun Seller (1996) and is jolly good fun to read! Officially, it's a thriller, but you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, right? In fact, it's a satire of all spy novels ever written.

Thomas Lang, the amiable protagonist, is an ex-soldier who gets reluctantly drawn into a story which is far too big for him. If you imagine Lang as stereotypical Hollywood action hero, he might appear a bit too cheeky in his helplessness and demeanour; however, at times he bears closer resemblance to Bertie Wooster than to James Bond. Laurie pours together all the best-known elements of thrillers and film noir: a lonesome hero, beautiful women, fast cars, the military, the Secret Service, sinister enemies, terrorists, conspiracies, set-ups, exotic places – there is no cliché he leaves out. Out comes a delightful cocktail of well-written, clever prose. What he leaves out, admittedly, is a convincing plot. It takes quite a while to figure out what's going on, and although it isn't boring, at times it's too random and too far-fetched to be truly captivating. Of course, this might be annoying if you’re fighting your way through a thousand-page epic, but this book is so much fun that you hardly notice.

If you're a sucker for consistency and logic, you won't like this book. If, however, you enjoy witty use of language, clever dialogue and great humour – in short, if you enjoy the abovementioned TV series – I recommend this book. It's an easy read, great for relaxation and a page turner as well: you’re likely to be done before you start wondering about the plot anyway. 

 

Tim Aretz

In this series, three reviewers write about their favourite books, recent or not so recent

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