STAIRWAY TO HELL By Charlie Williams – Reviewed

I approach all new authors (new to me anyway) with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, wondering whether this new bloke is likely to be added to my list of authors to collect, or to go in the pile for the charity shop.

Charlie Williams is neither, but not through any fault of his own.

Let me explain…

Stairway To Hell is told by our erm… hero (which he truly is, although unconventional) Rik Suntan, a mustachioed singer and winner of the Pub Idol contest two years in a row. Rik delights his fans with his renditions of Cliff Richard classics at the Blue Cairo in the small town of Warchester, whilst waiting to hit the big time.

But one terrible night Rik gets hit with a bottle thrown at him while he’s performing on stage, he gets the sack and his girlfriend dumps him. To top if off he’s attacked by a midget.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Rik finds out that his body is in fact, home to the stolen soul of David Bowie, and he joins a group of other interred souls to try to get back into their proper bodies, by any means necessary. Even if that does involve murder, robbery, and black magic.

Stairway To Hell is in some ways perfectly modern, but in some ways completely retro. It has the feel of returning to a British seaside town you used to visit when you were young, it’s familiar, it’s fun, and it feels comfortable. It harkens back to a yesteryear that never really existed except in your own rose-tinted memories.

The book draws you in completely, Rik’s narrative is warm and funny, you can’t help laughing with him as well as at him. A difficult trick for Williams to pull off.

This is what the BBC call “Light Entertainment”, a kind of Dad’s Army or Last of the Summer Wine, but with young people, and music, and madness, and black magic! It’s also got a bit of mystery going on to help things along.

This is not top of the heap comedy, it’s not going to compete with Stephen Fry or Ben Elton but who possibly can. But it is certainly funny, it’ll make you smile a lot, and even a few chuckles and a lol!

This would make a perfect British Comedy film, and perhaps someone should send a copy to Richard Curtis, the maker of many a perfect British Comedy.

Williams should sit beside Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby, he’s not really as insightful as either of them, but he’s funnier than both. In Rik Suntan he has created a legend in his own lunchtime, a character so realistic, so pathetic, so empathetic, and in the end so heroic, that you can’t help but laugh at him and see a bit of yourself in him at the same time, as sad as it is to admit that.

Stairway To Hell is the perfect book for the man in your life who has everything, and everyone has one of those. Unique, funny, and in its own small way, brilliant.

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