Sun. Feb 23rd, 2020

Read 4 Fun

Read the short reviews, read the book, comment

Absurd Over-the-Top British Humor

4 min read

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

Scoundrels was so hilariously unique and funny, I looked at the Amazon page to see what the advance reviews were. I don’t read the reviews of other readers until I write mine. Sometimes it is interesting to see how other reader reviews refute or support the early or promotional reviews. Because I looked at the Amazon page after reading 50% of the novel, I had a good idea of what I would agree with. There were some descriptions so accurate I wanted to note them in my post. Not a fan of posts that only copy other posts, I will confine my copying only to the following comment from the novel’s Amazon page.

“Historically accurate, morally questionable and absolutely true, SCOUNDRELS is one part Flashman to two parts Mordecai Trilogy stirred vigorously and dashed in the face of Ian Fleming. It will leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth, and horribly hungover.”

A potential reader of Scoundrels will then find a long list of praises from various sources but as I looked through them it only took two words to know this novel would impress me. Monty Python. There is a definite connection to Monty Python between this novel and the novel’s creators, contributors, and publishers, but I will leave those connections for the reader to discover.

The title page of the Kindle edition occupies three Kindle pages. The title is Scoundrels, this is followed by Volume I, then 1931-1951, then by Major Victor Cornwall and Major St. John Trevelyan. Further information is that this work was edited by Duncan Crowe and James Peak. These last two may have been the “Scoundrels.”  This novel is presented in a semi-epistolary style. “Scoundrels” can be a slang term for a spy. It can be a name for a Gentlemen’s Club, as is claimed in this novel. It can be the name of a secret society or fraternity such as the one portrayed in a contemporary film “Skulls.” Or it can be all of the above.

Note that the “narrators” are both Majors. The title tells the reader that all the action has occurred several years before. The two Majors have long since retired. A normal follow-up to an intelligence career is that operatives will not be allowed to talk of their exploits for a few decades following retirement. Time has passed and at least one of the two Scoundrels has decided to write an account of their exploits. He feels honor-bound to warn the other of his intentions. The result is that both Majors will write of certain exploits but from a different perspective of who contributed the most to mission success. As each completes a chapter, the author will send it to his rival with an explanatory letter explaining where the first author was wrong. This can be difficult for the reader to follow. The letter writer will occasionally not sign his name. Both writers will address each other as “Major.” In the incident accounts, the narrator of an account will refer to the other as Victor or Cornwall or Trevelyan or a cute contrived name to indicate the lower status of the other. Just a warning to note that there might be a lot of flipping back to find out who is doing what to whom unless you read the entire novel in one session.

It is difficult to read this novel in one session because the humor is intense. Think about your favorite comedies that you look at again and again and find new things each time. That is what happens with this novel. If you don’t read it from front to back all at once, when you return after an interrupted session, you may discover an unfamiliar novel and will spend time retracing your reading steps, discovering new directions each time. I read it in several sessions which meant I spent three times the time I usually spend on a novel because it felt as if I had read three novels.

The Table of Contents alone is captivating and worth occasional revisits. “Fuffy, Dear Fuffy” is very dark, laughing-out-loud funny, and will destroy the Kite industry as a hobby source. “Das Scheisseberg” is a chapter for whom those conversant with the German language might want to skip. “Klunghammered” has scenes that a reader might want to “unsee.” Too late. “Dead Man in a Coffin” give the reader a new appreciation for dummies. “The Tackle Chappie” is just painful, at least for males. Females might see it as justifiable revenge for male hubris.

I cannot say enough good things about this novel. It is five Amazon stars plus and a good thing is that there is a Volume II, Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclapp. I won’t read it next because I find humor this intense is best taken in small doses. If there is a negative, it might be in the use of language. These two scoundrels pull no punches with direct language. In a tradition that goes with the years cited in the title, the two Majors use a lot of euphemisms which are, in fact, more salacious than if more modern slang were used. I found the language use revealing from a cultural perspective. I learned many new ways to say naughty things. This is not a trigger warning, just a note.




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