Something nasty in the bookshop
UNDERRATED: The case for Kyril Bonfiglioli
Wednesday 11 January 1995
A self-styled count, Bonfiglioli was, at various times, a soldier, a sabre champion, a keen if not always accurate shot, a Balliol man, an employee of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, an editor of sci-fi and an art dealer, in which last capacity he once purchased a Tintoretto for £45, having bargained its owner down from £60. His chief claim on posterity, however, is his fiction.
Bonfiglioli's first book, Don't Point That Thing at Me, was published in 1972, and bore an authorial disclaimer: "This is not an autobiographical novel: it is about some other portly, dissolute, immoral and middle-aged art dealer" - viz the Hon Charlie Mortdecai, who narrates his ever more outlandish adventures with his faithful thug Jock in stingingly snobbish and unmistakably Wodehousian tones, though he spoke of matters which might have made even Jeeves grow pallid.
Don't Point... is about, roughly speaking, what happens to Mortdecai when he swipes a Goya from the Prado, exports it to a crazed millionaire in New Mexico and winds up being pursued by a number of unsavoury types to Morecambe Bay and, or so it appears, certain death. But the novel scooped various prizes, so, with no more than a little fancy footwork, Mortdecai and Jock were resurrected for After You with the Pistol (Mortdecai finds himself in the embarrassing position of having to assassinate the Queen) and Something Nasty in the Woodshed (Mortdecai and Jock tangle with Satanism on Jersey).
Alas, all three volumes soon lapsed from print, as did Bonfiglioli's sole venture into historical fiction, All the Tea in China, and Bonfiglioli was all but forgotten save by a handful of admirers (a group that includes Julian Barnes, Brian Aldiss and Stephen Fry). Things looked up a year or two ago, when Black Spring Press republished all Bonfiglioli's completed work.Now there are rumours of two further treats: Craig Brown is said to have agreed to complete the Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery, and the author's widow is editing a Bonfiglioli Reader. What Bonfiglioli's reputation really needs, though, is the kind of popularity conferred by a film or televison adaptation: he deserves better than cult status.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 3 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General election live: Booths open at 7am across the country on polling day