The Dazzle, by Robert Hudson

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The Independent Culture

Big-game fishing has been the subject of novels before, not least those by Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway, but this is surely the first to be located in 1930s Scarborough, where the sport of tuna-fishing was pioneered and became a fashionable craze.

Robert Hudson has mixed real characters with fictional ones to produce a fast-paced, enjoyable romp that is hard to categorise: his tale, based on a contest between the American writer of Westerns Zane Grey and the equally real English gent Lorenzo Mitchell-Henry, is too witty for farce, not biting enough for satire and humorous rather than laugh-out-loud funny.

The convoluted plot, involving suave aristocrats, mysterious Chinese drug lords, secret agents and relentless bed-hopping of an often distinctly kinky nature, is far too implausible to be taken seriously as anything but a homage to the lurid thrillers of the interwar era. Yet it allows Hudson to have fun with the excesses of the Fast Set, and to play with different voices in letters written by protagonists such as Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway's third wife and later an acclaimed war correspondent.

The book ends with "A Note on the Type": "Goudy Old Style, and not because the font has a jazzy italic 'z' and diamond-shaped full-stops… Or even because of the sharply-canted hyphen…" There is more of this, from which one might conclude that Hudson is a bit up himself. But perhaps it's all part of the undeniable amusement.

Published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, £16.99