The author chappie has done his homework - or prep. Without anyone smelling anything ratlike, sentences from this pastiche could be dropped into Fifth Form at St Dominic's, Tom Brown's Schooldays or the other schoolboy yarns with which the British upper-middle classes persuaded themselves that, although public schools were terrible, they were also terribly good.
The good eggs have oodles of "pluck", naturally. "Cock House" refers to the house with greatest sporting and scholastic prowess, not to any of the "beastliness" that would be expected from cooping up a lot of lads with no female company apart from "Old Betty" Boothroyd - the matron and former variety artiste. Other drolly named characters include Hattersley the burly gamekeeper, Irvine the brutish factotum and Campbell the dodgy editor of the school mag. "Ma Mowlem's boatyard" and "Berlusconi's ice cream parlour" are exactly right. Morrison doesn't just go for the obvious gags. The Head Beak Dr Bush is a scholar and an expert in obscure bits of the Old Testament. Young Prescott - a particularly inventive touch, this - is the school aesthete.
A sketchwriter can keep a schoolboy theme going for 500 words. Morrison's task was to keep the pastiche in motion for a 250-page book that worked as a story as well as a political joke. As with Daisy Pulls It Off (Denise Deegan's homage to Angela Brazil), he, too, has pulled it off. Book collectors of the future may, missing the politics, be fooled into thinking this is the real Edwardian thing.
This is not Billy Bunter and it is not played totally for laughs. The mood becomes darker as the story progresses - just like the tale of the real Tony. It's a squib, but it goes off with a loud bang.