BOOK REVIEW / Pick 'n' mix TV in Salt Lake City: 'Lucker and Tiffany Peel Out' - Eroica Mildmay: Serpent's Tail, 7.99 pounds

EROICA MILDMAY'S first book is a road novel about a young couple's visit to America, told with the garrulous verve of a hyperactive media brat on speed. Lucker is a photographer with a commission to document a grungy-sounding British band's tour of the United States. Along for the ride is the narrator, Tiffany, his girlfriend of just 10 weeks.

The American landscape features as little more than a backdrop to Tiffany's altered emotional states as the pair traverse the country. Chance encounters and accidental adventures form a kind of expressionist counterpoint to her frequently diffident relationship with Lucker. In a swimming pool she meets Dwanye, an overweight truck driver, who tells her about being held at gunpoint by a group of children who simply wanted some chocolate. Halfway between Salt Lake City and Denver, she chases snakes with a nine-year-old boy.

Most of this bowls along cheerfully enough. Tiffany is a wry narrator, and when her metaphors hit the mark, she's funny too. The waitresses in a garishly posh hotel, Tiffany remarks, look like 'missionaries in drag. Puffy ankles with tired brains from too much good work'. One 'drives jerkily forward like a radio car, on the go until the batteries drop out'.

Mildmay neatly conveys the awkward intimacy that travelling brings to two people who barely know one another and whose intermittent failure to connect gives the novel its shape. Theirs is a very hip relationship in which expressions of emotion are kept to a minimum and hurt disguised by wit. Tiffany sways between lust and loathing for Lucker, deciding, after she foils his attempt to carry a bag of cocaine for the band, that he has a 'runny careless mind', then that 'I don't need him, I only want him', only to change her mind when they land up at a seaside idyll in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet beneath its slick surface, there's a gap where the novel's substance should be. Mildmay eschews dreary internalising, but puts nothing in its place. Lucker appears as little more than a sketchy presence, a beautiful slob whose most distinctive attributes are his predilection for booze and a bizarre sexual fantasy that involves Tiffany wearing a Groucho Marx disguise.

Nor are most of the insights on America original enough to make up for this. There's the obligatory supermarket scene in which we are invited to sneer at just how gross and greedy Americans are, and a description of channel-hopping, pick 'n' mix TV. Mildmay strives for a tone that is so light and bright and detached, that when she tries to be serious, such as when Tiffany witnesses a rape, we are unable to feel anything. Still, although reading it is a bit like eating souffle when you're starving, Lucker and Tiffany Peel Out is rarely less than entertaining, and that's some achievement.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones