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Imagine – and you’re a reader, it shouldn’t be too difficult – imagine a cross between Will Self and James Ellroy. No, don’t imagine a plot crossover, because then you’d be struggling personfully (look here, I’m Mr PC Personified, no passé man-isms from me) with something called ‘Dorian Confidential,’ or ‘Tough, Tough Toys For Tough And Violently Corrupt LAPD Cops Circa 1951.’ Instead, imagine a cross-pollination of prose between these two diverse literary talents. If you’ve not read Self or Ellroy, then you’ve clearly blundered onto this site as part of your tedious research into US lipstick bands.
So, word-count-padding introductory paragraph dispensed with, let’s move onto the meat of the review: what’s this book about and is it any good? Firstly, some context. Paul McDonald’s debut novel was called ‘Surviving Sting,’ and a highly amusing read it was too. Sardonic, quick-witted and philosophical, it grabbed by you by the throat, making you alternately choke and giggle. It too had a whiff of Self’s voluble verbosity; an odour of Ellroy’s demented staccato.
‘Kiss Me Softly, Amy Turtle’ is McDonald’s second novel, it’s at least as good as ‘Surviving Sting’ and it stars the same location (Walsall) and protagonist (Dave McVane). Here, we find Reporter McVane, now an unpleasant boozehound. Morals, conscience and style don’t get a look in. Just another typical hack then. Drying out in a hospital with an alarmingly high mortality rate, and reflecting on how he got into such a state, the odious yet alarmingly likeable McVane is soon seriously worried about his consultant Mr. Dunderdale, who may or may not be a fake doctor with a penchant for S&M and murder. The S&M angle is explored in some delicious detail too, because McVane’s little sideline is making top of the range leather goods for discerning punters.
Mostly laugh aloud funny, but also dark and occasionally moving, ‘Kiss Me Softly, Amy Turtle’ suffers slightly from being around fifty pages too long. Only slightly, for in truth what we have here is another depressingly easy looking demonstration of McDonald’s sardonic and hyperreal prose.
Yes indeed, this is a very good book.
Reproduced with permission
The elusive Dan McNeil is a contributing reviewer for Ink magazine. His short sharp fiction has appeared in Redsine, Fantastic Metropolis, Antipodean SF and Whispers Of Wickedness, and has been translated to German. He's currently writing his first novel and compiling a collection of short fiction. You'll occasionally find him here or you can read two of his stories on the Showcase section of this site here
|KISS ME SOFTLY, AMY TURTLE
by Paul McDonald
(Tindal Street Press 2004)
Reviewed by Dan McNeil
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