Bringing Back Bonfiglioli

Kyril Bonfiglioli always seems to fall out of favor, come back, fall out of favor in a repetitive cycle. At the Guardian Books Blog, Alex Larman does his best to cement the author and his witty Charlie Mortdecai novels back in the public eye:

The trilogy’s central character, the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai,

has a little in common with Bon; he is a middle-aged art dealer,

somewhat stouter than the norm, and rhapsodises over lavish

descriptions of food, wine and general voluptuousness. However, while

Bon’s life was constantly dogged by penury and the taxman, Mortdecai

has more pressing concerns, such as why various people want to kill or

maim him. His only help is his kept thug, Jock Strapp, who he describes

as “a sort of anti-Jeeves”.

Bonfiglioli’s wit and erudition are a match for anything found in

Wodehouse, but in an altogether grimmer mode. Mortdecai often finds

himself under interrogation, frequently with violence, by sinister

employees of various foreign powers, for offences that he appears to

have no knowledge of. Neither, it might be noted, does the reader; the

overall feeling is one of a kind of pleasant but often unsettling

confusion, where nothing is as it seems, except for the certainty that

a well-dressed, well-spoken and occasionally accidentally murderous

Englishman will be irresistible to beautiful, insanely wealthy

nymphomaniacs. The tone might be called Kafkaesque,

but it’s hard to imagine Kafka writing a sentence such as “Suddenly I

felt shatteringly tired – I always do after torture”.

Where Wodehouse’s

characters might become “tight” or “squiffy”, Mortdecai copes with

these un-Wodehousian pressures by becoming incapable with drink,

specifically single malt whisky.The only hint of moral condemnation

comes when a disapproving minor character says that “The fact that you

are quite evidently as drunk as a fiddler’s bitch in no way excuses a

man of your age looking and behaving like a fugitive from a home for

alcoholic music-hall artistes”. Mortdecai, stung to the quick, only

adds “a nasty one, that”.

It’s always good to have another reminder to check out Bonfiglioli’s work, so do.