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
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'