The poor old Sparrow has been taking a back seat for a while as I’ve concentrated on books I’ve published more recently. In its earliest incarnation it was my first ever novel. It’s had at least four different titles, I’ve rewritten it countless times and I still see bits I could improve or gags I missed. Way back, when I wrote the first version (in longhand on foolscap sheets of paper), I had just one aim, to make it funny. I’d laughed a lot at the earlier books of Tom Sharpe (Riotous Assembly, Indecent Exposure) although less at the Wilt series, and it was the extremes and absurdities of his comic style that suited my sense of humour. So it was a farce, a fairly blackish one but one with no pretensions beyond wanting to make people laugh.
As I came to rewrite its various versions since then, I saw different possibilities for getting more laughs out of current political and commercial stances, police procedures, and the whole spy genre. They all seemed to carry their own absurdities – some threatening, some just entertaining. I feel very strongly about many things in life, especially when our elected representatives treat us with such scorn and disdain and claim to speak on our behalf when they have no connection with the daily reality of normal people. I’d find it very difficult, for example, to write anything funny about Tony Blair’s decision to declare war on Iraq and his insulting ‘justification’ for ignoring the strongly felt opinions of millions of us ever since. And, to maintain a balance, I deplore and despise the intellectual and ideological emptiness of the present administration and the callous pigheadedness of George Osborne in dragging us ever deeper into the mire against the advice even of his own advisors.
Phew, glad to have got that off my chest. But back to the gentler, more soothing topic of Sparrow and its mayhem, violent wrestlers, sociopathic policeman, sexual peccadilloes, deaths and broken bones. Over the years, it’s had a habit of reminding me of its existence and demanding my attention and this happened in two ways a couple of weeks ago. First, there was a new Amazon review. Mostly, readers have been generous and said very nice things about it but, for the first time, this reviewer was bored by it. S/he was still generous enough to give it 3 stars but clearly for her/him, it didn’t live up to the hype. And that’s fine. There are friends who’ve read it and not been particularly amused by it. We don’t all have the same sense of humour. So don’t think I’m complaining about this review – the negative ones are as valuable as the positives. It’s just that they seem to have more power and linger longer in the mind. But then it was counterbalanced by the big surprise of an email from the review site Big Al’s Books and Pals, which gave it a great review in April last year, saying it had been nominated as one of the seven on the short list for the Humor and Satire category of their Readers’ Choice Awards. And, with its first prize for Humor in the Forward National Literature Awards in 2011, that makes it officially my most successful novel. The rest have obviously been rubbish.
Anyway, as you’ll have suspected, this is all a build-up to a request. Voting is now open (until April 1st) and it would be wonderful if the Sparrow made that final leap and won the category. And for that, it needs votes. (At this point I’m kneeling.) I’d therefore be grateful, if you haven’t already done so, if you’d go over to the voting booth, sign on, select the Humor and Satire category and vote for the Sparrow. For some reason, that doesn’t work if you’re using Internet Explorer so Chrome or whatever is better. On behalf of the Sparrow, thanks in advance. I shall definitely keep you informed..