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11 March, 2007

Aberystwyth

Advertising copy writers are not nice people. They lie and exaggerate, they twist and hide the truth, they play on our fears and hopes for their own ends, and they invent words like ‘pinta’. It is advertising copywriters who gave us such twisted phrases as ‘genuine rum flavour’ and ‘95% fat free’. On the moral ladder they are sitting in the mud with the politicians and the pimps, gazing up at the unreachable first rung.

So it was a bit of a shock to find that the book I’ve just finished reading and which I had enjoyed greatly, was written by just such a one. The book is ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour ’ and the ex-copywriter who wrote this little gem, is Malcolm Pryce.

I’m sure you’ll agree, ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ is not a title to inspire confidence. Derision, perhaps, incredulity even, but not confidence. Yet this book, set in the back alleys and seedy night-clubs of a Welsh seaside town dragged down by organised crime and tea-cosy shops, manages to rise above its dodgy title like the smell of beer rising above a rugby prop forward. And yes, if you think I’m being a bit colourful, you are dead right. The book is so full of this kind of Chandleresque, tongue-in-cheek purple prose that I’ll probably still be writing like this for days to come.

It’s the story of a hard-bitten private detective, alone, broke, and drunk, caught up in a web of intrigue and ice-cream, haunting the 24-hour whelk stalls and sinister sea-front promenades of this dark and dangerous holiday resort, trying to unravel the mysteries of a dead schoolboy’s essay and its significance to the druid crime boss, known to the town as ‘the Welsh teacher’.

It may sound silly. It may sound very silly. But if you imagine a first-class Raymond Chandler spoof with a heavy dash of Monty Python thrown in, set in the most unlikely place on the planet, you have ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ – and a few hours of very odd entertainment.

I can only hope that you will rush out and buy this book. If we can keep Malcolm Pryce fed and clothed through book sales, perhaps he won’t ever turn back to the dark side and start writing ads again.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Hi Graham,

As fate should have it I was in Aberystwyth just over a week ago! I was only there for a few hours and the thought of this town being the centre of such a scandalous adventure is indeed amusing.

During the university semester the population doubles, so I guess anything is possible with when half your population are uni students...

Cheers,
Dan.

Becky said...

This reminded me of:

"Keep the Aspidistra Flying" by George Orwell

"How to Get Ahead in Advertising" starring Richard E. Grant

and

"Crazy People" starring Dudley Moore,

which all tell pretty much the same story, of some ruthless advertising exec. suddenly discovering his conscience. Seems to be a popular cultural fantasy.

graywave said...

Dan, half a population is a singular entity. Your sentence should have been '...when half your population is uni students...'. Strangely, Pryce didn't mention the university. Perhaps implying there's a 'gown and town' mentality just begging to be immortalised in another book in the Aberystwyth series ('Ivory Towers of Aberystwyth' perhaps?)

And as for you, Becky, the advertising exec was the author, not a character in the book. Or is it that all plots seem to you to be about ruthless advertising execs who see the light? Try this one: what was the plot of Macbeth?

Thanks for tuning in, guys,

Graham.

Becky said...

The author? ie George Orwell? I've checked my bookshelf, and it does indeed seem to be about a bloke, Gordon Comstock, who gives up adverstising to pursue his fantasy life as a writer. "Ruthless" and "exec." might be exaggerating his ambition and status a bit, but he's certainly a character in the book.
I like the Macbeth comment though. I suppose advertising is just the latest high-powered, corrupting occupation.

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