Clive Johnson reviews one of our works of humorous fantasy. Find it and others like it on our humor & parody page
Slipkin is a bit of a loner, a loner with an unusual job and an equally unusual compulsion. On another dash to fulfil his need to deliver cakes to as yet unknown destinations, Slipkin misjudges a bend on the A66 – not far from Brough in the north Pennine region of England – and his old, beaten up, white Citroen promptly leaves the road.
What happens next is even more bizarre, as author Paul Morgan takes the reader on a wonderfully wry and often laugh-out-loud journey into a world he somehow makes completely believable, despite it being wholly unbelievable. Or is it?
In many ways – particularly with irony and understatement employed as precision storytelling tools – Morgan presents an archetypal British story imbued with the spirit of Monty Python, The Goons and Tom Sharpe. The reader is introduced to key figures from European political history, along with madcap appearances by American entertainment giants.
The story – somehow, despite its slapstick passage through progressively more fantastical events – clearly follows some underlying thread of meaning and significance. Seemingly against the odds, an intelligible story unfolds, one that sucks you in, keeps you reading, and finally converts you to a believer in the unbelievable.
In very many senses this is a tale of mystery, one that morphs through time, place and sensibility. It’s an irreverent look at life, death, stiff upper lips, Napoleon’s own waterworks problems, the foibles of dictators and the release of pent-up sexual frustration in a long dead British Empress. It’s also the story of a nobody’s epiphany, a touching blooming of a wallflower, the beginning of curiosity in the heart of a previously unassuming collector of uninvited wild animal houseguests to the homes of long suffering clergy.
Put simply: it’s a joy, a pleasure and a fillip to the heart to read. This is a book written with consummate ease, or so the confident and expert use of the English language would have you believe. Morgan’s fluid prose belies his sharp observation, his wit and self-deprecation.
In many ways, I suspect such a fanciful story could only ever be pulled off by someone with Morgan’s evident ease and confidence, and clearly dry outlook on life. As with many humorous people, such as Stan Laurel: it takes intelligence and seriousness to be so stupidly funny. And that seems to sum up Paul Morgan’s excellent romping tale quite well; a clever and thoroughly accomplished piece of writing that therefore lays bare nothing but the pure joy of its reading.