Saturday, 2 July 2011

This month's essential reading : LUCIFER BOX and HARRY FLASHMAN

We love books almost as much as we love music here in the Paradigms coven and it was with perverse joy that earlier this year we were introduced to the three decadently witty and wickedly depraved Lucifer Box novels by one Mark Gatiss, who you are probably aware of as a member of The League Of Gentlemen and writer for Doctor Who.

The first book being "The Vesuvius Club", each tome charts the wanton career of said Lucifer Box Esq; portraitist, dandy, wit, rake and his majesty's most dashing secret agent. From the Imperial grandeur of Edwardian London to the underground vice dens of the Mediterranean, Box reduces and seduces his way across graveyards and opium establishments in search of answers to the deaths of leading scientific minds of the day. And all paths lead to the rather risqué "Vesuvius Club".

His legacy continues throughout two further novels, "The Devil In Amber" and "Black Butterfly"; "The Devil In Amber" being our favourite of the three, wherein Box graces the Art Deco sophistication of 1920's Manhattan, the bleak Norfolk coastal convent of St Bede and the snow-capped alpine mountains of Switzerland in pursuit of Olympus Mons, fascist leader of the brutish 'Amber Shirts', hellbent on world domination through occult powers, sacrifice of the illusive 'lamb' and ready to summon Satan himself to fulfill a devilish prophecy. Quite literally all boxes ticked then.

"Black Butterfly" concludes the series, as an elderly Lucifer is sent on his final mission. Now in the 1950's under the new reign of a young Queen Elizabeth II, Box's twilight adventure starts on the seedy streets of London's Soho unraveling the mystery of several suspicious deaths of leading pillars of the Establishment which takes him to the souks of Istanbul and the sun-soaked beaches of Jamaica to finally confront his heinous arch-enemy of yesteryear.

Gatiss' writing is fiendishly clever, inventive and macabre with a way with words that is quite simply unparalleled. Think Oscar Wilde, think Sherlock Holmes, Flashman and H.P. Lovecraft. Gentlemanly deviant reading.

Many reviews of these essential novels have drawn reference to the similarly fiendish Flashman books, so our curiosity got the better of us, and thank god it did. Written by George MacDonald Fraser in 1969, the first in the "Flashman Papers" series, simply entitled "Flashman", begins with the expulsion of Harry Flashman from Rugby School in the 1830's and his gravitation to service in the British army on the frontiers of the Empire. Based upon the caddish bully of 'Tom Brown's School Days', Flashman lies, cheats and romps his way through the boudoirs of Victorian Britain to the erotic frontiers of Afghanistan and India, with luck on his side and buxom ladies on his mind. Hero, coward and always the true nobleman with no honour, the first installment is un-put-down-able and we can't wait to plough into the further exploits of Master Flashman.

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