Books: A cold fish out of water

Roger Clarke on the posh conman who fooled himself

Roll the Dice by Darius Guppy, Blake Publishing, pounds 15.99

Deluded; arrogant; toff. Such adjectives have become surgically implanted in the name Guppy by the tender ministrations of the tabloid press, ever since the story of Darius's spoof robbery hit the headlines in 1990. Previous generations had known the name as the genus of a ferociously sexual tropical fish, and for the exploits of the amazingly fat Victorian medium of the Guppy tribe, who defied gravity to levitate around the rooms of Dickensian London.

The grotesque medium is not mentioned by Guppy in his long list of illustrious ancestors, which includes medieval clerics, tycoons from the industrial revolution and bushy-bearded Islamic scholars. Gupa, we learn, means "bright in battle", from a Saxon word. It is certainly a swashbuckling monicker, which the young Darius took to heart from his earliest days: for example, at the age of 11, he ruthlessly harangued people to buy Union Jack stickers on the Kings Road, with all the air of a military operation.

He dreamed of martial glory, of winning, of getting rich. "Boldness and cheek were essential ingredients for success," he decided. Guppy felt trapped by the modern age and saw money was the only way of getting outside of it.

Like many people of his background, he knew that many of the super-rich were only super-rich through bending the rules. But bending the rules also meant not getting caught - an important lesson from his schooldays.

Never a good judge of people, he put his trust in a petty criminal Peter Risdon, who choreographed the robbery of pounds 1.8 million worth of gems from his New York hotel. Later Risdon developed a grudge against his toff employer and, picked up by the police on a separate matter, decided to shop Guppy in exchange for leniency.

There can be little doubt the police loathed Guppy from the start, and that he encouraged them to loathe him. From the outset he started getting routine harassment from them, and papers and photographs confiscated from his house during searches were sold to newspapers from police sources.

Unfortunately for Guppy, most people aren't much interested in his tales against the police (if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas - as he discovered with Risdon). The means justify the ends: a popular moral ethic which, like much popular moral ethics, has little to do with law.

His friends are as puzzled by this book as his enemies, and Guppy has the fatal talent of being more dangerous to his friends than his enemies - a curious feature in a man so preoccupied with loyalty. Roll the Dice is replete with mawkish sentimentality, self-obsession and deceit. Guppy has some talent as a writer (his early poems were praised by Christopher Logue) yet he has allowed his mercenary instincts to monster his artistic ones.

By co-writing the book with a tabloid journalist, he has produced a horrific hybrid. His faults are glaringly magnified by the dumb journalese, his more iconic and unusual qualities entirely dwarfed by the book's money- garnering glee. Having fought with the press for so long, Guppy has become one of their creatures; and he doesn't even realise it.

Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital