Every now and then you stumble on a surprising book. Something entertaining that also makes you think. I would characterize Mad Gods and Englishmen by Ian Armer in that category. It is a fast-paced novel that almost from the first page is deliciously off-the-wall and yet takes the form of a familiar detective story set on the west coast of the USA. The hero or more likely, ant-hero, is one Tommy Storm; a down on his luck alcoholic private detective whose brains are more than likely situated in his trousers. He’s a loathsome character if the truth be told. The kind of chap I would go miles to avoid. However, there is his doppleganger, the other Tommy Storm who is the light to the other’s darkness. Right from the off, this is a story with a theme and that theme is the nature of reality. In Armer’s reality, opposite twins had suddenly appeared, and so there are two Tommy Storms; like ying and yang. Armer has some fun with this as you might expect and some rather comedic dialogue ensues as Tommy and himself talk.
On the surface, the story is of a Hollywood movie magnate who hires a private detective to find his daughter who is having an affair with the lead man in his latest movie. As the story progresses however, it becomes a unique view of a reality that is more than tinged with Gnosticism. God is involved, of course, as the title suggests but this is a God that few would recognize and a version of the Universe that puts a unique and interesting spin on the entire story. It makes you think.
Armer’s story telling is fluid and witty but a tad coarse. The dark Tommy is not a nice man and he is constantly threatened by other not very nice men. In a sense, the darkness of the character is also comedic at times as he tries to make sense of a series of bizarre events when actually he would rather be drunk or satiating his sexual energy – or both. The way in which events unfold and entangle Tommy is written with pace – almost staccato and keeps you nose to page until the end.
In the end, Mad Gods and Englishman is an ambitious book and Ian Armer pulls it off very well.
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: John Hunt Publishing (January 16, 2013)