Dark humour, contemporary drama, novella
Literastein and Rum Hijack are currently unpublished, and will be published again along with the 3rd part in the series.
I've just received and read an advance review copy and had to put my notes into shape straight away. Although it's a sequel I'd say that it can be read as a stand alone, even though the scene is set in the first part.
I loved Part One: Rum Hijack, but this is even better. I'll just explain. The novellas (this one is approx 25k words) are first person accounts from the point of view of a nameless young man (who gives himself the name Inkker Hauser, explanation in part one), who is convinced that he has within him a great literary talent that will astound the world, that will make his readers 'beg like peasant simpletons' for more. The only problem is, he doesn't actually write anything.
'Inkker' has a (mostly quite well contained) drink problem, is a loner and beyond eccentric. He rants against the commonplace, the popular, the idiocy of others, but while doing so still shows a vulnerability and sweetness that makes him oddly endearing. In this second episode his lunacy accelerates, his behaviour becoming more bizarre. Phil Conquest's writing has become sharper since the last episode, too - this is tighter, with terrific observations and satire, as well as some lines that made me spit my Diet Coke out with laughter when I read them.
Literastein takes place mostly on just one night, when 'Inkker' has a date with the lovely Tylissa, in his local pub. I get the impression that he's a rather good looking chap who could possibly be quite a hit with the ladies and find the love for which he so longs if he wasn't borderline insane. We don't know exactly where he lives; a reasonably sized town in southern England, I imagine. The pub scenes are spot on, with the locals, the atmosphere and banter so well written. For all his wanting to impress Tylissa with his suavity and literary swagger, the night takes on a darker turn of events as 'Inkker' throws back double rum after double vodka, snorts amyl nitrate in the loo, and regales Tylissa with his tales of air and nautical disasters. I could feel her edging away from him when he mentioned his scrapbook filled with pictures of ambulances.... oh, okay, I won't spoil it! Considering the amount he had already drunk before meeting her (he couldn't decide between a vodka and red bull and a White Russian, so he had both), it was always a disaster waiting to happen.
Half of the novella is taken up with the date, and if you think that sounds as if it might go on too long, I can assure you it doesn't. The ending is an absolute peach, and made me want to nip over the Atlantic and hold a gun to the writer's head until he's written the next installment! This book is so, so funny and unusual, unlike anything else I've read and certainly nothing like the sea of formulaic genre fiction about which our hero rants. I likened the writing style of 'Rum Hijack' to Jerome K Jerome's 'Three Men in a Boat'; part two is less like that, and I think it might be enjoyed not only by those who like clever satire but also by readers of the English 'lad lit' of people like Nick Hornby, though 'Inkker' makes Hornby/Nicholls/Gayle heroes seem blandly well-adjusted.
It's just great. Read it!
INKKER HAUSER Part 1: Rum Hijack by Phil Conquest reviewed HERE