Good to be God, By Tibor Fischer

Pretending to be God is a good idea, until you come up against the Church of the Heavily Armed Christ
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The Independent Culture

In his slashing and faintly Oedipal review of Martin Amis's Yellow Dog, Tibor Fischer described a pact which he may not live to regret. If he, Fischer, ever produced a stinker comparable to his one-time hero's, Louis de Bernières was to shoot him.

This was in the year of Fischer's aimless Voyage to the End of the Room, following 1998's irritating The Collector Collector. After the magnificent anarchy of The Thought Gang, Fischer's star was on the wane. All of which leads one to suspect that, like his headcase protagonists, he likes to live dangerously.

Still, de Bernières needn't dirty his hands yet. Good to be God retains at least enough of the author's leering, broken-toothed brio to keep the reader from baying for blood.

Tyndale Corbett is a failed south-London lighting salesman who blags his way to Miami posing as a handcuff manufacturer and never looks back. In building his new life, he reckons he may as well try to pass himself off as the Almighty; after all, the straight-and-narrow hasn't done him any favours, and having decided to lie, one might as well lie big.

To this end he gathers a coterie of aspiring hoods and spiritual entrepreneurs and promptly gets bogged down in the minutiae of dealing with idiots. The congregation at the Church of the Heavily Armed Christ wants him to bless a mother-son marriage. Gamay and Muscat, DJs he employs as muscle, are locked in a deadly game of who's- hardest. His chief criminal advisor keeps chaining him to a bar for a round-the-clock bender. In other words, he's stuck at square one. Some god, eh?

We are, of course, in Fischer's trademark shaggy-dog territory; think Pynchon with a Garry Bushell column where his Nabokovian panache ought to be. Those corrosive aphorisms are in full spate: "Being right doesn't do you much good"; "laziness always wins"; "Civilisation is... spiritual aftershave." Tyndale keeps them coming, one line of cracker-barrel cynicism for every two of narrative.

The birds 'n' booze obsession is also present and correct, and Fischer still seems to find it unaccountably funny to mutilate the parts of speech. Alas, his torrent of cheerless coinages – "fightsome", "relaxery", "beatingful" and so on – seem less exuberant than merely half-baked.

For all the laddiness, there are moments when the author's clowning pays off. At one point Tyndale muses on the hit-and-miss effectiveness of bad manners: "You have to find people who will respond to bullying and shouting," he says, "but whatever you're selling, you have to find those who are willing to buy. Not everyone wants coke, a Porsche or bullying." Fischer is now a bit of a specialist taste himself. Still, takers will be out there.