One house. Ten contestants. One grisly murder. How can someone get away with killing a housemate on live camera? What could induce the surviving contestants to return to the house and await further developments? And who really cares as long as it’s good telly?
This is Big Brother meets Agatha Christie: Despite the murder being witnessed by 17,000 fans live on the internet, the killer remains unknown and every housemate has a more or less plausible motive for murder. Cue reality television’s long overdue dose of Ben Elton’s biting wit.
Big Brother contestants, ladette TV presenters and hard-nosed TV execs are absurdly easy targets for a man who can make smear tests hilarious - yet this is a miserable attempt. The press release claims it as a “timely new satire”. For “timely”, read “rushed out” – characters change names, sentences trail off and whole paragraphs fail to make sense. For “satire”, don’t read anything. This is no more satirical than Big Brother itself. And worst of all it’s not even funny.
Of course, one could argue that Dead Famous is an ironic post-modern take on a current and worrying trend for sensationalist morality-free television, and what seem like cheap tricks – not revealing who the victim is until halfway through, not giving us a clue as to the identity of the murderer until the Poirot-esque finale - are actually meant to be dark yet witty analogies of the actual processes of nomination and eviction.
But why bother? It’s
just not very good.
Review date: November 2001
To buy this click here Dead Famous
Some of Ben Elton's books are genuinely funny, like Popcorn , a take-off of Natural Born Killers
For a genuinely funny book, try Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
For the Agatha Christie approach, why not try Murder on the Orient Express?
For the original Big Brother, read Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
Me Me Me
Ralph, “long ‘a’, silent ‘l’”, is the only non-actor in a Redgrave-style dynasty spanning three generations. Following the bankruptcy of his experimental theatre group, Direct Debit, he relocates to LA to ghostwrite his grandfather’s memoirs. Unsurprisingly, he finds himself in a phoney world where everyone is an insincere, back-slapping, Lear-quoting, egomaniac.
Huggins’ first novel won the 1996 Bad Sex Awards. This, his third, starts out more promisingly as well done satire, only occasionally falling flat. But it quickly loses direction, toying briefly with trashy detective fiction (When Grandpa disappears just after his 76th birthday! Ralph suspects his father!! Of murdering him!!!) before teetering dangerously on the edge of superficial psychobabble, with Ralph “wrestling” once too often with “new and painful self-knowledge”.
It appears to recover,
but just when your hopes are raised for with winning the day after all,
it collapses irrevocably into schmaltzy sentimentality. Deeply disappointing.
But that’s showbiz!
date: November 2001
If you don't think it'll be that bad and you want to buy it, click here Me Me Me
To read the one that won the Bad Sex Awards, click here The Big Kiss: An Arcade Mystery
For more info on the Bad Sex Awards click here
Stephen Fry says Huggins is "must-read" so perhaps you should try Luxury Amnesia
“The magic has been done: making people who haven’t got the means want to buy something they didn’t need ten minutes earlier. Every time is like the first.” £9.99, Frederic Beigbeder’s shocking début reveals the astonishing truth: Advertising is big business! Advertisers do not have our best interests at heart!! And even worse: Some advertising copywriters actually take cocaine!!!
Octave, our anti-hero, claims to be writing this exposé because he wants to get fired. However, after 150 pages of profundities such as “to consume can also mean to burn”, action is required. Luckily, this is delivered in Octave’s accidental promotion to artistic director and a spot of murder, interspersed with every ad slogan ever.
was an advertising exec and was fired for this, which explains how he
evokes a wanker so well. Quite funny, bang up to date and dead trendy:
this is biting satire for Loaded readers.
Review date: August 2002
To buy £9.99 for £6.99 click here
Waitresses with Tourette’s, receptionists with Inappropriate Sexual Response and cops with “non-specific stupidity”. Welcome to the not-so-distant future, where in the Good ol’ United States of Europe, article 13199 adds to legislation about the bendiness of bananas and decrees that no-one may be fired on grounds of incompetence.
This is something of a hindrance to our hero. An undercover detective, he is convinced that a series of high-profile “accidents” are actually perfect murders, but can he find the perpetrator without getting knocked off himself? And will a police chief with anger management issues let him?
Political correctness gone mad is an old joke, and the results of being unable to fire people for being bad at their job will be cringingly familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with the local councils. But Rob Grant, the co-creator of Red Dwarf, pulls this off magnificently. Incompetence is not only genuinely funny, it’s a gripping thriller to boot.
Review Date: January 2004
To buy this fab book, click here
I hear Rob Grant's Colony is also pretty good.
Martha, Sarah and Flower have serious problems. Martha’s 38, single and 7 months pregnant, Flower is failing as a stand-up comic and Sarah just can’t find a thing to wear. But things get out of hand as Martha and Flower discover that Sarah’s boyfriend has been beating her up and resolve to sort him out once and for all.
like Jo Brand. I think she’s funny. So I was really hoping her first
novel would be a hilarious romp through familiar feminist territory, possibly
covering new themes and certainly taking in cakes. Sadly, Sorting Out
Billy is from the tedious “and then… and then…”
school of writing, complete with one-dimensional characters, stilted dialogue
and absurd situations – and, as usual, little or no editing. There
was one joke that would have made me laugh, but it was on page 200 and
I’d lost the will to live by then.
Date: June 2004
To buy this anyway, click here
To read a spot-on piece in The Guardian, condensed in the style of the original, click here
You could try A Load of Old Balls, Jo Brand's previous book, which is mildy entertaining
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