Wednesday, December 4, 2019

"The Lammisters"

An author and arts journalist, Declan Burke has previously published crime novels, including Slaughter’s Hound and the award-winning Absolute Zero Cool. The Lammisters is a comic novel. Although set in Prohibition-era Hollywood, it is influenced by Irish comic novelists such as Laurence Sterne and Flann O’Brien.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to The Lammisters and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Lammisters is fairly typical of the novel overall, in large part because it is ridiculous to a fault. The Bartley we meet is Bartley McGuffin, who is the personal secretary to one Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who has journeyed to California in the hope of encountering chorus dolls and movie stars of questionable morals. As we meet him, Bartley has managed to insult Felicia Fortesque, the confidante of Vanessa Hopgood, Hollywood’s most shimmering star; in consequence, Felicia has whipped out her derringer, and is threatening to fatally dispatch Bartley should he utter so much as one single further syllable:
The mind, to paraphrase the immortal Milton, being of its own place, wherein can be devised a hell of heaven, and a heaven of hell, Bartley’s thoughts now wander from his current predicament in a phenomenon that will be familiar to those readers who have found themselves in immediate danger of going the way of a quasi-aristocratic bounder in a Chekhovian third act, i.e., his life flashed before his eyes.

Alas, your humble narrator is obliged to report that said mental two-reeler proved a considerable disappointment to Bartley McGuffin, consisting as it did of a series of sliced drives, duffed niblicks and two-foot putts sent trickling downhill past the hole on the right-hand side. Ironically, the image that jerked Bartley out of his maudlin reverie was that of a ball he had driven straight and true the best part of two hundred and seventy yards down the fairway but which had come to rest nestling in the shadowy recesses of a temporary drain the groundskeeper had neglected to mark GUR. The blend of rage and despair that had accompanied Bartley’s belated understanding that his was a pointless existence lived as a microscopic speck in what was at best a blindly indifferent and at worst mindlessly hostile universe returned now to enflame Bartley’s instinctive fight-or-flight response, and he raised his gaze from the derringer’s pitiless muzzle to meet the equally merciless stare of Felicia Fortesque. And it was now that Bartley McGuffin dug deep, mining a hitherto unsuspected seam of courage, fortitude and grace under pressure, and there found, just when he needed it most, the wherewithal to give vent to a provocatively defiant sniff.
Page 69 combines a number of elements which feature in The Lammisters: most of the characters are devoted to the noble Scottish art, i.e., golf; all of the characters find themselves adrift in a story which has been abandoned by a hapless aspiring author, and are thus living pointless existences in a blindly indifferent universe; and the language employed is exactly what you might expect when a verbose narrator attempts to cobble together a story abandoned by his author, and especially when that narrator seems to know everything that is worth knowing about Western civilisation’s canon of literature – except, that is, how to write a clear, concise sentence.
Learn more about the book and author at Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

Writers Read: Declan Burke.

My Book, The Movie: The Lammisters.

--Marshal Zeringue