Stacey International, £12.95 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop
Client Service, By Shelby Tucker
Financial scams are nothing new. This exuberant satire dissects the art of fraud, 1960s style
Saturday 11 August 2012
Shelby Tucker, an anglicised American lawyer in his seventies who recently hitch-hiked in Afghanistan and Iran, is a brilliant lunatic, the kind of saintly outsider who sees through the communal delusions of our era. His first non-fiction book, about being kidnapped by Communist insurgents in the Burmese jungle, was hailed by Colin Thubron as "a surreal mixture of Boy's Own derring-do and expert knowledge". Now he has written a novel.
Tucker's first fiction takes on the empty promises of the world financial system in a coruscating satire that manipulates a cast of hundreds in several continents. As a Postscript points out, the book's central organism, a labyrinthine scam called World of Finance, caricatures IOS, the mutual funds business set up by Bernie Cornfeld in the 1960s with slogans like "Do you sincerely want to be rich?" That fraudulent bubble burst in bankruptcies.
But Client Service is equally relevant to the 21st-century near-collapse of the banking system. The names of the crooked financiers, including Clovis Hoof, Pierre Sansloy, Henri Sansjoy and the "legal counsel and master of detail" Sleek McCool tell their own story. Crooked language is at the heart of the relentless expansion of World of Finance. Floating on cunningly crafted slogans, its 15,000-strong fleet of salesmen/dupes expands through over 100 countries to suck in character after character, from "Bone" Saxon, the honest American football player invalided out of sport, to desperately keen Indian Harbinder Govinda, whose briefcase ends up the sea. Harbinder has learned the hard way that "entering the Maritime Market" means trying to sell the Fenner Biddup Offshore Fund to enraged deckhands in Mumbai. No one is too poor to escape the attentions of the "WoFers", a swarm of parasites who sow the corruption of infinite hope and subsequent despair. Evelyn Waugh's influence shows in Tucker's brief, sharp vignettes and in the way he makes the reader deduce inner emotion from external details.
But the genius of this ambitious subject is all his own, as are his glimpses of the beautiful natural universe against which tiny human beings prance, the sky above them "robin's egg blue turning to silver''. This book is a rarity, at once deeply serious and absurdly enjoyable, once you get over the sheer weirdness of the financial world. Read it now, before the next wave of irrational exuberance drowns us all.
Buy Client Service from independentbooksdirect.co.uk for £11.65 (RRP £12.95) including postage or call 0843 0600030
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 3 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Bob Dylan: How the Isle of Wight festival managed to steal the voice of a generation from Woodstock
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote