Archive for ben elton

BLAST FROM THE PAST By Ben Elton – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I read Stark, Elton’s first book, when I was at school. It was funny, political, interesting. I watched The Young Ones, Blackadder, and The Thin Blue Line. I’d seen some of Elton’s stand-up on TV. I wasn’t obsessive, but I considered myself a fan.

I probably bought this book around the time it came out in 1998 and just haven’t got round to reading it. Nearly twenty years after the book came out it hasn’t really dated. It’s still as relevant as it was back then.

It’s the story of a young woman, Polly, who, after having an affair with a US soldier based at Greenham Airbase in the 80s (she was a protester), gets a phone call from him at 2.15 in the morning. She’s also being stalked by a man she called the Bug.

Although the book follows the conversations, it’s about the lives of these characters, their interactions with each other, and the impact of the initial affair.

But, it’s not classic Elton. It’s not particularly funny, there are no laugh out loud moments, and only the occasional smiles. The characters are fairly well rounded, but occasionally come across as typical stereotypes. The plot feels like a writing exercise: can I write a whole book based on a few hours of conversation one night. And it’s all fairly predictable.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, and despite some issues I have with Elton’s all over the place writing style, it draws you in and you want to find out what happens next. It is easy reading.

Not Elton’s best by a long shot, out of his first five books (this is the fifth) this is the least successful.

I still have about four Elton books hidden on my shelves somewhere, but on the strength of this one I won’t be searching them out immediately.

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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CLARKSON By Jeremy Clarkson – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jeremy Clarkson is probably most famous for being a car journalist on the BBC’s Top Gear. He is a forthright, opinionated, and slightly grumpy, man who is relatively intelligent, well travelled, and yet still an everyman. That’s what comes across most in the collection of his articles for The Sunday Times. The articles are over ten years ago, but are surprisingly relevant to modern Britain: decreasing house prices, recession, job losses, bankers pay, university cuts, riots…

If you’re looking for insight or funny quips that you’ll get a few of those, but for comedy head for a Ben Elton book, and for insights go straight for a Tony Parson’s novel. In isolation these are good articles, and I could imagine myself picking up the paper just to read them, but as a collection there is no added value here.

Clarkson is a sometimes witty, generally correct, columnist. There is some humour, there is some insight, and it was nice to read a book without any need of concentration or brain-interaction.

I’m a big fan of the “adventure/quest” type Top Gear programmes where the three presenters are stuck in the middle of hostile territory and have a series of tasks to complete, rather than the traditional review programme, and having read the book I appreciate more what Hammond and Captain Slow add to Jeremy’s sarcastic grumpiness. Perhaps his articles should be moderated by someone else too.

Good clean, slightly interesting fun, but a beach book or perfect for an airplane as it won’t take too long to read and it won’t tax the brain any. An easy read. Might pick up another more recent book to compare, but might not…

MY SHIT LIFE SO FAR By Frankie Boyle – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Frankie Boyle is a very funny man. This acerbic wit, and irreverent humour find a perfect venue on Mock The Week on BBC 2. Boyle is a man who writes for Jimmy Carr, and has written for numerous other comedians I’ve never heard of. But for a comedy writer he doesn’t really seem to get how to write a story.

This book traces Boyle’s history, his impoverished childhood, his loner years, and his discovery of drugs and alcohol. We watch as boy grows to man, his university years, all imbued with vast quantities of alcohol. We get a hint of the life of a nomadic comedian. All interspersed with anecdotes. But actually, interspersed isn’t really correct, the story of Boyle’s life is riddled (interrupted!) with anecdotes of varying quality. The best jokes will be familiar to anyone who regularly watches Mock The Week and what really lets the book down is the lack of insight into the man.

We have barely any more knowledge after reading the book than watching Mock The Week. Frankie is a funny man, you can see that on the programme, but from the book you would hardly guess at just how funny he can be. The editor should have fixed the major problems, lack of insight and hideously unfocused, but then perhaps it wouldn’t have worked at all.

But does it work? Not really. Frankie doesn’t allow the reader in, and from what we discover of his personality, that’s just him.

Not refreshing, not insightful, not even very funny. If you want a funny book try Ben Elton and Stephen Fry, both of whom can supply the goods on a regular basis. Frankie Boyle is obviously much better suited to a few one-liners on a TV show than a full-length book.

Sadly disappointing.

STAIRWAY TO HELL By Charlie Williams – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

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.