Monday, December 25, 2006

Ahead of his time again

I remarked here that Frank McAuliffe's amazing international hit man Augustus Mandrell had made a daring wisecrack in Of All the Bloody Cheek. There, the subject was American attitudes toward sex. In the second Mandrell book, Rather a Vicious Gentleman, published in 1968, McAuliffe delivers at least two jabs as fresh as a Paris Hilton nightclub wrangle and as up to date as the newest Bluetooth/zoom lens/Internet and TV capable/voice-recognition cell phone.

Here, a gossip columnist gives a protesting Mandrell a lesson in the technique of manufacturing celebrity:

"They didn't know your name six weeks ago," he gloated. "Now they do, thanks to `Rochey's Roundup.' When I first started mentioning you I had to identify you as `the mysterious Augustus Mandrell.' ... Gradually, using your name at least once a week, I feel I have established your identity. Thus, in yesterday's column my readers had no difficulty flashing up a mental image when they read: `Insiders of the Green Room set say it was a dispute over who would throw the upcoming Augustus Mandrell birthday party that caused that unholy din in the Poe Park Tavern powder room last P.M. ... A new art form, old man."

And here's Mandrell in a philosophical mood on the eternal demand for his services:

Ah well, like so many old fashioned business firms, Mandrell, Limited but serves an existing market. Mandrell does not, as is the new business approach, create the market and then sustain it.

Sure, McAuliffe smoothly pulls off leaps of time within his stories; perhaps I'll discuss his backward and forward narrative technique in a future comment. For now, though, here's the important thing: By God, are his books fun.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy Frank McAuliffe's wit -- as expressed by Augustus Mandrell.

The time-slips in the sequence of murderous Commissions as presented, show up the characters' relations more sharply than if they were in straight chronological order, and illumine the humorous pitfalls and pratfalls. Great fun.

December 26, 2006  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The wit is delicious. The time slips help create a richer fictional world. I'm not sure the word believable can be applied to Mandrell's adventures, but the chronological leaps enhance the illusion that the commissions are a man sitting back and relating his true stories to the reader.

And McAuliffe must have been conscious of the effect his chronological leaps could have. He presents the stories in Rather a Vicious Gentleman in reverse chronological order, which adds yet another layer to the fun of reading them.

December 26, 2006  

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