Max Booth the 3rd is not an author I had encountered before. But the cover was more than a little appealing, as was the fact that it was published by Bizarro Pulp Press, the title of which kinda tells you what type of books to expect. That said I did have one big cause for hesitation when opening this book and that was that it’s about writers. The basic premise is that there’s this small press that publishes the pulpiest, most bizarre fiction imaginable, the kind of stuff that nobody else will touch. There’s a reviewer whose work was turned down by the said publisher, who now dedicates his life to writing negative reviews, and generally rubbishing anything the publisher puts out. One of the writers, a drugged up failure, sees the reviewer and kidnaps him, along with a random member of the public who so happens to be a serial killer. Cue life, the world, the universe spiralling out of control from there.
Now as an aspiring author myself I have an interest in the world of writers, publishing presses, etc. But I always worry that the general reader does not. My suspicion is that writing about this world is all a bit navel gazing. Of course the author isn’t the first to centre a novel around these themes, the great Stephen King for one has based a number of novels, such as Misery, around the work of a writer. But to me these are the novels of his I’ve always enjoyed the least and I much prefer his work which doesn’t have a writer as it’s core protagonist.
So with that proviso out of the way, back to Max Booth’s How to Kidnap Strangers. How did it fare? Well actually, this is such a raucously funny tale, so madcap in its premise and execution, that it didn’t matter that it was based around the world of a small press. To be honest it could have been set anywhere. That said there was a painful honesty in the description of the writers’ struggling for recognition, for anything approximating success, to simply put food on the table, that convinced me there was a wisdom to the author writing about the writer’s life, that perhaps it would educate those who assume (and there are many who do assume) that the minute someone has a book published they’re a millionaire.
I must emphasise however that this might be me reading more into the author’s motives than necessary; this is nor a “heavy”, preachy book. Quite the reverse, rather it’s brilliantly told and laugh out loud hilarious. I can heartily recommend this novel and will certainly look out for more from this author.
I give this 4 out of 5 stars