I've been a fan of Hugh Laurie since he first made an appearance on Blackadder (series 2 and onwards) in the early 80's along with "A bit of Fry and Laurie" and the the TV adaption of PG Wodehouse' "Jeeves and Wooster". He is a talented comedian but it took me years to finally watch his long running American series "House" , for ages I just couldn't imagine him playing a more serious role.
I since became entirely hooked and have recently finished watching, I'd rate it one of the finest TV shows — certainly one of the best on Netflix (next to Dexter of course). I don't know how I stumbled upon his book, The Gun Seller though, possibly in attempts to see if he'd done anything since House.
The story follows the wayward character Thomas Lang, a hired gun who is a lot nicer than he seems. When he is approached to assassinate a business man he decides instead to warn the target. No good deed ever goes unpunished however and he quickly finds his life spiralling into increasingly dangerous situations.
The natural charm and casual wit of Laurie clearly shines through and reading the story you can easy imagine him narrating it to you himself — there is so much of the authors personality contained. The protagonist also shares some of the authors charms and is a likeable, engaging fellow. Thomas is also cynical, sarcastic and quite self-centred — although not at the same level as House. He's part spy, part hard-boiled gumshoe and part anti-hero.
The writing is great and deeper that it first appears with lots of little quips:
"Having a vote once every four years is not the same thing as democracy."
There is also a quite brilliant bit about the way you should break someones arm:
“Imagine that you have to break someone's arm.
Right or left, doesn't matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don't...well, that doesn't matter either. Let's just say bad things will happen if you don't.
Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly -- snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint -- or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?
Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.
Unless unless unless.
What if you were to hate the person on the other end of the arm? I mean really, really hate them.”
Anyway, the prose is witty and charming just like the author. Pacing is steady, there is little wasted space and the story moves forward with little attention given to retrospection or exposition. As a result it's an easy, enjoyable, effortless read and one that doesn't take long to get through.
The Gun Seller is wildy entertaining, light-hearted and one of the funniest books I've read in quite some time, highly recommended.
Written on 4th January 2016 by Ant.
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