I had decided that I would only feature books on here from publishers and avoid self-published work. That seemed to fit in with what my fellow reviewers were doing, although I did recently note that best-selling author Chris Kuzneski self-published his first book because he was fed up with rejections and I know from experience it’s a tough world out there. I decided to bend my rules when author Ian McKay got in contact with me. I was interested in this author from Liverpool’s own story, in particular his self-publishing of his debut novel at the age of 76 (he won’t mind me telling you). I had a look at his site at Ian Mckay.com and was interested enough by what I saw (he has written a number of non-fiction works) to want to read this debut. So here are my thoughts on “Something Fishy”.
Now a word about comic novels. Of all the writing genres this is the most difficult to pull off as our response to humour is so subjective. There seems to be two ways round this, one is the scattergun approach of cramming as many different types of humour into your work, which if successful, can result in a comic tour de force but is more likely to bewilder the reader. (Paul Murray’s “Skippy Dies” is a recent example of this not quite working- but he has pulled it off big time with his “The Mark & The Void”). The alternative is to stick with one type of humour which, if it appeals, will be an absolute joy to the reader and if it doesn’t they will realise this very early on. And, to an extent, this is what Ian McKay has done with his self-published work “Something Fishy.” He gets into his humour groove early on and sticks with it throughout his 350 page novel. Sustaining the comedy at this length is another achievement.
“Something Fishy” is about a five men from a Liverpool Social Club going on a fishing trip for a weekend in Ireland. I’m not a fisherman so I wasn’t convinced it would appeal but the trip itself, although the central point does not take up as much of the book as I was expecting. McKay’s humour is broad. There’s much “banter” between the main characters, the men are fearful of the women who dominate them and there are gags involving toilet humour, false teeth, nuns and vicars. You will know already whether this will appeal to you.
It’s written in a type of humour which was prevalent in the 70’s and parts of the 80’s, which has remained underground throughout the years (in the form of Viz comics and popular club comedians) and has had a big mainstream revival in the last few years with “Mrs Brown’s Boys” and “The Inbetweeners”. Both of these programmes I find funny, almost against my better judgement, and this also applies to “Something Fishy”. There is a definitely a market for this type of humour, but are they book readers?
If they are then there is much to enjoy in McKay’s debut. When he is on plot the tale is involving and the comedy feels natural. He is quite keen on detail and a bit of pruning might have made a tighter read. There is a sex scene between two minor characters which leads nowhere and might have only been put in as titillation? This section did remind me of the Timothy Lea “Confessions….” books we passed around in secondary school. In those days we got our kicks from “mucky passages”, nowadays there’s the risk of it feeling incongruous, which is the case I think with this particular scene. There’s an incident early on in a plane involving too much Guinness and a couple of nuns which did lead to me to think that this book might not be for me and I wouldn’t get through it, but I did and I am glad I stuck with it.
Plot-wise it is strong, humour –wise it is up to you. The author comes across as a great character and is to be applauded at making his debut on the comic novel scene at the age of 76.
“Something Fishy” is available on amazon.co.uk
I’m having a little summer break from the blog but will be back here posting hopefully next Sunday!