Sunday, 20 February 2011

Spanish Fly - Will Ferguson

It's the 1939 and America is in the midst of the great depression whilst Europe is heading towards war. Jack McGreary is just surviving in the American dust bowl when he comes across Virgil and Rose. Together they take him under their wing and teach him all the great cons as they travel from town to town. Turns out Jack might be more gifted than his teachers.

I was looking forward to reading this book. The blurb on the back made it sound hilarious. Turns out you should never judge a book by it's cover or it's blurb. That's not to say it wasn't a good book it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. It was a slow burner. A good third of the book was about Jack in his home town of Paradise Flats and various events that lead him to leave with Virgil and Miss Rose. Since I was expecting something with a faster pace it was a little disappointing. I would definitely have enjoyed it more if there had been a hint of it at the back. Eventually it did speed up and became more of what I thought it was going to be (funny but not hilarious). When it reached that point I found it difficult to put down. The main characters were actually quite likable considering what they were doing. A little part of me didn't want it to end.

I still prefer Ferguson's travel writing books to his fiction. They are more laugh out loud funny and as I read those first I always expect the same to be true of his fiction. I do think Spanish Fly is better than Happiness and I highly recommend it. If you come across a review, as I did, saying that this book is more of a boys book ignore it. I hate the categorising of books although I have done it myself occasionally. Maybe the reviewer felt that the subject of con artists would mainly appeal to men. Whilst this might be true I do think that women can get as much out of this book as men. I don't think that the author wrote it thinking only of a male audience.

I did think something the author wrote was very interesting. One of the characters was discussing an investment scam. He mentioned that investors generally would feel they then had the right to dictate terms. The narrator used authors as an example. They write a book and then those selling that book felt they were owed something by the author, that they were more important than them. I wonder if the actual author really feels this way about those selling his books. Is he talking about publishers, reps or booksellers?

I haven't worked in the other forms so can't possibly say but as a bookseller it would be disappointing if he did mean us. For the majority of booksellers we talk to customers about books we love. It's safe to say that none of us are doing it for the money. We don't think that the author's owe us anything for it. All we ask is that you are nice to us when you come in for events as we're not just staff we like your books too and it's us who recommend them to customers.

Okay that last point sounded like a threat. I don't mean it to be. Not really. Most authors I have met are lovely. They seem to enjoy meeting booksellers who love their books. There have been a very small minority who have been dismissive and even down right rude. It's deflating when that happens and does put you off.

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