James Palumbo
ISBN 9780704371583 (0704371588)
Quartet Books, 2009

Category: Fiction
Subcategory: General
Reviewed by: Phil Groom

On Monday I read the opening pages of this book. I read them whilst visiting Foyles, St Pancras Station, after seeing my wife off on a train.

It’s a peculiar book and, judging by the foreword, the author has delusions of grandeur, delusions no doubt fed by the advertising on London Underground — possibly elsewhere too, but the tube is where I saw it and why I picked it up. Of this, then, we can be sure: advertising attracts attention; it triggered this review; but in my case, at least, it did not generate a sale.

It failed at this crucial point precisely because Foyles gave me the opportunity to get my hands on a copy, flick through it, and decide that this was not something I wanted to spend my hard-earned cash on.

The opening scenes — more like movie outtakes than chapters — introduce us to Tomas, a sociopathic young man who, in the first scene, gratuitously shoots up a nightclub with a submachine gun; then, in the next, intentionally hires a pretentious, outsize sunbed, buys champagne and performs a naked ‘dance’ besides a swimming pool. A tad bizarre, to say the least.

I do not know where Tomas goes or what he does after that. Whilst his antics are strangely compelling, I found that I did not wish to delve any further into the workings of either the author’s or Tomas’ mind: there are more than enough people blogging humanity’s dysfunctions and dysphorias to satisfy any cravings I might have to explore such areas; and their writing is in many cases on a par with Palumbo’s if not better.

So from me, it’s farewell to Tomas. I hope that neither you nor I ever have the misfortune to meet him — a point that his author will no doubt take as high praise; to him I say, “You’re welcome.”

The book is not badly written: I am not saying do not buy it; but where Rory Bremner describes it as “either mad or genius or both” I would say that the madness prevails — I did not detect any hidden genius lurking behind the pages I read.

What I did rediscover, however, is the importance of bricks and mortar bookshops like Foyles that give us the chance to peruse a book before making our buying decisions.

If, heaven forbid, we ever reach the point where competition from online sellers such as Amazon or Eden does put the rest of us out of business, the world of bookselling — I dare say the world itself — will be a much poorer place as we are placed at the mercy of the spin doctors to inform those buying decisions… and yes, irony of ironies, those are Amazon and Eden affiliate links included in this review: if, after all I’ve said, you do still wish to buy this book, and wish to do so online, please use them. Thank you.

Phil Groom, July 2009

Phil Groom is this site’s Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He’s a regular contributor to Christian Marketplace magazine and is the manager of London School of Theology Books & Resources. Any opinions expressed here are personal and should not be taken as representing the views of London School of Theology or of any other group or organisation.

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