Reviewer Chris Phillips: Chris is a veteran editor for friends
and family as well as most of his employment positions. He often
finds himself reading a book and correcting problems he discovers,
even after their works have been published by well-known
publishers. Chris enjoys writing to authors, when
possible, and discussing problems he has seen in the reading of their
work. And as he states, “there is always the chance for great
intelligent conversation whenever creative minds get together.”
Author: Courtney J. Webb
Publisher: Kingsford Smith
Ms. Webb has taken the comic novel and made it into a slapstick humor medium. Although normal in some comedy television shows and movies, slapstick is much harder to carry off and make believable without the visual action of the stage or screen. She does this with campy British and Australian humor rife with slang and bright funny people just doing what they normally do. Webb takes the reader away from their daily problems and transports them into the world of Craig Connery.
Craig, our protagonist, is recently released from prison as the story begins. Not knowing for certain what to do, when destiny intervenes, he is the lone witness to a fatal accident. He takes this opportunity and becomes a new person, trading identities with the deceased. In the following chapters he spends every waking moment in some kind of trouble. In the first chapter he thinks, “…Guess I’m friggin unlucky…” and he succeeds time after time to prove that all his luck is bad. All his plans and schemes tend to backfire in very unusual and humorous ways, while showing the true goodness he has within. From making a pass in a coffee shop and being forcibly removed, to crimes foiled by other criminals as incompetent as he is, Craig is the classic “Sad Sack” character, rendered completely believable and entirely hilarious.
Each character is vital and thoroughly entertaining with all their prejudices, biases, slang and crises. Elsie is the mother that isn’t a mother, but always nonplussed in the face of any problem. Michael, Craig’s younger brother, is full of himself, moxie, and only partially understood slang and incomplete sentences. The secondary characters fill humorous positions throughout from Fred the not-so-old old man to “the cardigan girl,” Craig’s dream-come-true, to the only policeman in town. The villains are all patently corrupt and licentious, while they provide sufficient drama to keep the plot moving. The conniving Bishop is always manipulating those around him for his own gain. The obnoxious nun has too many secrets and a downright bad attitude, and is caught up in her own ambitions and long standing regrets. And the priests, who play second fiddle to all of the Bishop’s evil, are developed enough to be believed, even if they are all in bad to intolerable situations. Finally, the aged Cardinal is trying to live with his choices, and himself, as he prepares to meet his God in the afterlife. The characters have many prejudices and assume much about people in general from a very bigoted perspective. The British characters have deep prejudices against the Australians, while the Australians also view the British with contempt. Craig and his whole family hold the Catholic Church and religion in general, at arms’ length. Even the Catholics in the book have so many faults that the religion seems to be falling apart with incompetence, maliciousness, and self-gratification. With all the characters only one priest comes through it looking competent and faithful.
Webb has developed a craft of making each clumsy accident, each faltering plan, and each scene come across as total slap-stick. Achieving comic antics through words alone reveals a talent that is rare and attention grabbing. She has taken something used very little and made it into a novel novel that flows well (pun intended).
The problems of the characters are believable but humorous in many ways, with sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader off balance throughout. The action is non-stop and the jokes, puns, and misspoken phrases keep laughter coming. There is even a chapter with double puns bouncing around, which is hard to do in normal conversation and be believed, but Webb handles it deftly.
There are some issues that American readers will have with the slang and unfortunate use of phonetically rendered speech. When Elsie says, “The heavenly Father is nooo a pouf ye nooo”, it takes some time and breaks the flow of the story to stop and determine what all of this means. Perhaps a glossary, or at list short definitions at the back of the book would help this. Also, there should be a warning that this contains very adult content throughout, much along the lines of bawdy Benny Hill, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges humor. All of it is purely suggestive, and not explicit, but still could offend some readers and probably doesn’t need to be read by minors. Finally this reviewer found the whole book to be difficult due the language barriers and the general comedy of errors. The prejudices and biases of the characters will offend some and put off even more.