72 Raisins tells the story of Scott Mullan, a Los Angeles-based comedy writer for The Late Enough Show, whose star is the diminutive Dylan Flynn. Scott is fifty and married to Rebecca. They have two children, both of whom are due to start college and are busy choosing – along with Rebecca – where to go. Scott is hoping for promotion to head writer on the show, but his ambitions and his marriage are thrown into turmoil when his agent asks him to read the typescript of a book called Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom by Ben Doss, with a view to editing it, a suggestion that Scott fears indicates he will never get the job he covets.
‘This book is ingenious. It is a page-turning, suspense-filled detective story that includes a sharp sense of humour AND it has a hero who fulfils his detective role with an intellectual slant, giving us a sceptical view of the world as filled with corruption, literary references, irony, and relatives we’d rather not see.
There is a wonderful dead-pan attitude of the hero that makes the reader eager to hear more. Here is the hero’s reaction when he is woken in the night by his unwanted house guest who is also his brother: “‘Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ I asked, after I’d had enough and put on a robe. I checked the time: three o’clock. A bad time. The hour of the demon. Shovel-faced men with pitiless eyes knock at doors at three o’clock in the morning.”
The hero’s troubled and hysterical interaction with women he’s attracted to is akin to Peter Sellers’ experiences in the Pink Panther movies:
‘There is nothing wrong with your teeth, Howard. In fact, I have noticed how well you look after them. They are very even – so even that I thought they might be dentures. Delphine says she is almost certain they are genuine.’
‘They are genuine.’
Celeste approached and manipulated my upper lip with her thumb. She examined my teeth. I could see them reflected in her eyes. They looked blue today – her eyes, that is. She tugged at my lower lip and pulled it around. It was curiously unsettling to have a beautiful lawyer examining my mouth in that way. I could hear people passing on the street outside her window. I wondered what they would think if they could see through the blinds.
Here’s an example of the irresistible style and humour of the story when the character is struggling to deal with the hot weather and his professional and sleuthing dilemmas:
Deeply unhappy, I wandered to the balcony in search of perspective, to feel the elements against my skin. The cloudless sky pressed against my best intentions; the sun battered at my humble ambitions. The city couldn’t take much more of this. People had fainted in the streets; an elderly man had died of sunstroke; the president had removed his jacket.
The novel’s humour is corny and fresh at the same time. This trait mixed with a reluctant, under-dog detective makes this tale a highly diverting read. To top it off, this detective who sees no hope in this world ends up giving us just that! I highly recommend this book! (Amazon UK review)
Ribbon of Memories: a book review of Do the Wrong Thing, a novel by Malcolm van Delst
On several occasions, I was fortunate to hear Malcolm van Delst, a writer based in Vancouver, Canada, read aloud from a work-in-progress called Do the Wrong Thing. The extracts she read left me puzzled and intrigued: I was unable to grasp exactly what the book was meant to be about, and exactly what she aimed to achieve. Do the Wrong Thing seemed to consist principally of details and fragments – often, details of fragments – set down more or less at random, from the life of a young woman whom I took to be the author herself. Now that I have read book one of Do the Wrong Thing (others are yet to be published), I am still puzzled, but the mists have cleared enough for me to relish the journey even while the destination remains obscure.