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Fortune's Bastardby Robert Chalmers
Synopses & Reviews
After his highly popular Who's Who in Hell, Robert Chalmers delivers his second novel, a painfully funny story of disaster and redemption that recalls Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.
One morning Edward Miller, tabloid newspaper editor and reactionary alpha male, spontaneously seduces his temp in an office storeroom. The news doesn't take long to reach his cold, beautiful wife — and it just happens to be their anniversary. By morning, his marriage is over, his career in shambles, and his house is on fire. Clearly, it's time to leave town. After a brief stint in Spain as an English teacher, Miller flees again when his cover is blown, winding up in a Florida town populated by carnies and circus freaks and ruled with an iron fist by the Half Man, a criminal and sadist with no legs. Unexpectedly, despite even a one-eyed albino hit man who seems to overhear every compromising conversation between Miller and the Half Man's wife, the Lizard Woman, Miller gradually realizes this may be where he belongs.
A brilliant ensemble black comedy and a touching statement on the redemptive power of love, Fortune's Bastard confirms Robert Chalmers as one of Britain's freshest and wittiest new voices.
"A much-loathed London tabloid editor and philandering father of one gets his comeuppance in British author Chalmers's (Who's Who in Hell) devilishly indulgent, surrealistic second novel. Arrogant Edward Miller has employees who decorate his back with airmail stickers and a wife who announces her own infidelity and dumps him at their anniversary dinner. Soothing his bruised ego at a West End club, Edward is offered cocaine, and indulges in a night wild enough to get his photograph plastered in the newspapers the following day; news that his house has burned down comes as the last straw. He shaves his head and runs off to teach English in Barcelona, but is forced to flee again when he's spotted — his wife, Elizabeth, wants to finalize a divorce settlement and there's a warrant for his arrest on arson charges — moving on to Plant City, Fla., a town populated with stock carnival freaks and governed by sadistic, legless boss Vincent ('Half-Man') Makin, who holds him hostage at a trailer park. With inside help, Edward plots Vincent's murder just as his past life resurfaces in a surprise showdown. It's the circus freaks who prove to be the most fun (and who teach Edward some much-needed lessons), though this wacky ride is piloted by a strong central character witty and captivating enough to make for plenty of sinfully rich reading. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Wry and pitch-black send-up of media hubris." Kirkus Reviews
"[R]aucous....Amidst a melange of misfits, Miller may have finally found a place to belong. A notch more debauched than the novels of fellow Brit Nick Hornby, this is a wry, writhing tale about the forces that shape our fate." Booklist
"As the narrative has few pauses and no chapter breaks, the reader will careen along on an electrifying and hilarious ride. Highly recommended." Library Journal
The second novel from the author of Who's Who in Hell recalls Geek Love with more heart, a cringingly hilarious account of an orderly life falling to pieces, in order to be made whole for the first time. One morning Edward Miller, tabloid newspaper editor, spontaneously seduces his temp in an office storeroom. In a matter of hours Miller's career is in ruins, his wife has left him and his house is on fire. Clearly, it's time to leave town. After a brief stint in Spain as an English teacher, Miller flees again when his cover is blown, winding up in Gibsonton, Florida; a town populated by ex-circus freaks and presided over by the Half Man, a criminal and sadist with no legs. These misfits unwittingly teach Miller what normal life never could — how to love, and how to stand up for something he truly believes in.
After a series of disastrous events leaves his life in ruins, a tabloid newspaper editor winds up in a small-town in Florida, which is populated by ex-circus freaks, criminals and misfits who teach him how to love, and how to stand up for something he truly believes in.
Edward Miller is a reactionary, alpha male, tabloid newspaper editor. He wears his temper like a badge of honor, would rather step over a homeless beggar than walk around him, and engages in petty warfare with his staff over expense receipts. He's also never been much bothered with monogamy, but when one morning he spontaneously seduces his temp in an office storeroom, he's definitely crossed a line in blatancy. Miller has made few friends and many enemies—not to mention the fact that the storeroom is a notorious trysting place and he and the temp both emerge covered in dust and airmail stickers—so the news doesnt take long to reach his cold, beautiful wife. Conveniently, it just happens to be their anniversary. Imagine the celebratory dinner, capped by her returning her house keys and consummating her desire to sleep with the neighbor.
Not a man to suffer rejection well, Miller heads for a London media hangout, where two employees introduce him to cocaine. By morning, his exploits are public (a photographer captured him snorting the cocaine in public), his career is over (thanks to a damning interview he gave a journalist from a rival paper), he's not only painted the word 'WANKER' on the cuckolding neighbor's car, but misspelled it, and his house is on fire (never leave a goodbye bonfire of wedding photos unattended). . . . Clearly, its time to leave town. Miller has an engagement to speak to the boys at his old prep school, but he can't seem to stop pouring gasoline on the fire that his life has become, showing up hungover after a night partying with an old school friend and a gaggle of Spanish flight attendants, and calling the headmaster by his behind-the-back nickname of "Stiffo" to the students, for a start. After the speech, he speaks with his doctor and learns that his father-in-law plans to kill him.
Leigh, the old school friend, works for an English language school in Barcelona, and Miller wrangles its address out of him, for he clearly can't go home. He gets the job and adapts surprisingly well to a life of an underpaid teacher, despite the fact that some of his students will clearly never learn the language (there are hilarious scenes of their attempts in this section) and even starts up a romance with a tough-talking English girl who's one of his fellow teachers—but he doesn't tell her who he really is when he has the opportunity, and when she figures it out on her own she is livid and that bridge is burnt. To make matters worse, his father-in-law's goons have tracked him down.
Miller flees again, winding up in Florida, in a town populated by ex-circus freaks and presided over by the Half Man, a criminal and sadist with no legs who welcomes Miller to town by shoving a gun barrel in his mouth and breaking his teeth. But ironically, it seems that despite the fleas in his trailer, the one-eyed albino hit man who seems to overhear every compromising conversation between Miller and the Half Mans beautiful wife the Lizard Woman, and the fact that the Half Mans stranglehold on the local police mean that Miller isnt actually free to leave, it seems that Miller somehow belongs among the freaks. These misfits—among them a black dwarf, a gay clown with a penchant for altar boys, a heroin addict who is their unlicensed doctor, a biker hit man named Hollis after Groves erstwhile publicist, and the Lizard Womans wonderful eight-year-old daughter—unwittingly teach Miller what normal life never could—how to love, and how to stand up for something he truly believes in. When Miller's wife tracks him down and has him sign over the spoils of his old life to her, he gets enough money out of her to hire the albino to hit the Half Man. And though all certainly does not go smoothly with the hit—someone as vicious as the Half Man is unlikely to go quietly—Miller and the Lizard Woman are able to close that chapter and start a new life together.
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