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A Dancing Bear
"One of my favourite Australian writers of his generation … So engrossing are his style and powers of observation that I read the book without interruption right through to the end, far past the point where it began to seem depressingly likely that the unattainable young beauty would indeed never be attained. Not like life at all, eh chaps?" — Clive James
What if getting the girl meant becoming a terrorist wet boy?
On an unnamed university campus late in the 20th century, a young man named Fenton Bland joins a society of student Maoists in order to get near the girl he loves. But the girl turns out to belong to the chief Maoist – the uncouth, fat, and possibly dangerous Gus. And the Maoists turn out to harbour alarming aspirations in the field of revolutionary terror. And so Fenton, wearing a forcibly grown beard, finds himself propelled into a bizarre covert world of death lists, backyard bomb labs, untraceable handguns, and attempted wet jobs of distinctly varying quality – a world in which he must choose between losing the girl forever or else participating – perhaps very soon – in a successful terrorist atrocity. Along the way he must contend with a motley cast of characters, few of whom enjoy optimal grips on reality. There is Gus, who in his quest to become a terrorist will draw the line at nothing, not even a car bombing (“I’m listening, mate – provided you’re not referring to my Kombi.”) There is the fiery student radical Pamela Scratch, linked to Fenton by an infinitely regrettable sex act perpetrated in a sandpit at the age of five, and currently engaged in a vigorous campaign to liberate the notorious killer Neville Claude Aggot (“Campaigning for the release of a multiple murderer – even Bakunin would look at that and say, ‘Jesus that’s left-wing!’”). There are his housemates Trixie and Tara, alleged vegans and the tag-team champions of domestic sloth. There is an enigmatic next-door neighbour who looks, and occasionally behaves, exactly like Ed Lauter. There is the deconstructionist lecturer Ivan Lego, purveyor of many a cutting-edge theory (“Every speech act is an act of semantic genocide”) and author of a best-selling book that contains no words. And there is Robert Browning, one-time convenor of the Undeniable Classics course, ideological nemesis of Ivan Lego, and would-be saviour of Fenton’s soul.
Before the novel ends, the paths of all these characters will converge. Both Browning and Lego will spend quality time at the top of the Maoists’ death list. Gus and Fenton, packing a tomahawk and a meat cleaver respectively, will attempt – with wildly differing levels of enthusiasm – to gain entry to Lego’s home in the dead of night. Neville Aggot, in the dying stages of a rain-soaked game of Staff versus Inmate football, will attain his freedom. And Fenton, wielding that untraceable piece, will enter the home of Robert Browning in a last desperate effort to keep the peace …
So much for the blurb. The novel is free – click on the links at left to read it. Friendly readers, and publishers wishing to participate in a 6-figure bidding war for the rights, are encouraged to EMAIL ME. Hostile readers, and would-be grammarians wishing to put me right on points of usage on which they are spectacularly wrong, are encouraged, on the other hand, to go silently away. Also, if you’re a kid, or an easily offended adult, the book is not for you. Parts of it are in staggeringly bad taste.
Otherwise, enjoy ...
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