There’s Something Strange In The Neighbourhood. Who You Gonna Call? Robert Rankin!!

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

One of my favourite authors is a writer of Far-Fetched Fiction, Mr. Robert Rankin. I was fortunate enough to find one of his books on clearance today, so naturally I picked it up. How could I resist?

The thing I love about his books is the way they combine witty humour with life experience, so you get the feeling that the author knows what he’s talking about. His books are dramatic, really well written, and above all, damn funny. Now, I am a fan of humourous books, but I think his books should appeal to everyone. He creates superb, likable characters with real mannerisms.

He creates an idyllic atmosphere in his native Brentford, a place I have seen on Tube maps and have wanted to visit because of these books. I know that the events and characters in these books aren’t real, but I think that at some stage, we have all wanted to go to locations in books or movies that we would like to see what they’re like in real life, whether it be Hogwarts (Scotland) or New York or Vasquez Rocks (this one is a personal preference on my part, being that it was a location for a good Star Trek episode).

The typical way that his books work is that he uses a constant level of humour all through the book, with the main plot coming in around the sixth or seventh chapter. And the chapters are short, so you can blitz through them if you want to. Although they are so well-written, you should take your time as you go through them, just to soak up the brilliantness of his writing.

His books are (mostly) set in Brentford, with a varying cast of main characters, such as the genius known as Hugo Artemis Reginald Solon Saturnicus Arthur Rune (the names may be slightly out of order but all are present and correct, and considering I memorised those, that wouldn’t be that bad), or Jim Pooley and John Omally (Jim being the essentially lovable oaf, and John being the undomesticated bachelor that I think at heart most men would love to be). Inevitably, there is always an ancient cosmic horror (think Cthulhu, but not), some threat to the world/universe or aliens running riot in this quiet London town that the main characters have to deal with.

And they deal with it in Rankin’s famously humourously written manner, based on funny running gags, delightfully un-PC characters, rib-tickling dialogue and fantasticly absurd situations. All this is treated in a typically down-to-earth way by the regular characters, who are after all ordinary humans (with one or two exceptions, who are thankfully on the side of good).

Good luck to anyone trying to build a complete collection of his books, by the way. There are 30 published books so far (with a new one coming this December), most stores share the same eight or so books, and on average they cost about £6.99 each. Good luck trying to find all of them via bookstores, as I am (I’m up to about ten so far).

Mr. Rankin deserves to be better known as the fantastic writer that he is, and he certainly deserves the royalties that will come from everybody buying his awesome books. He writes his books on exercise books, which just goes to show that having a fancy computer and Microsoft Word doesn’t make somebody a writer. Seriously, pick one up. And if it’s not one I already have, can I have it?

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