No of pages: 272
Other Editions: Paperback
The hero of this black farce of a book is Gerald Samper, camp as Christmas and a man with his mind on higher things than he has yet managed to reach. He is a ghost-writer to unbearable sports celebrities and rock stars, but his dream is to write the libretto of an opera. As the novel opens he is surveying from a helicopter the muddy ruins of his Tuscan house, which has fallen off the hill it stood on. An unguarded remark to the pilot sets off a chain of events that is bizarre even by Gerry’s standards.
In Suffolk, where Gerry goes to recuperate at the house of his friend Max Christ, the great conductor, he cooks one of his famously unusual dinners. A little mistake over the sourcing of ingredients for his field-mouse vol-au-vents leads to the death of an ancient aristocrat in one of the more memorable food-poisoning scenes ever written. The police are curious; an innocent mistake, all agree, but still ... No longer so welcome, Gerry returns to Tuscany to find that rumour has piled on rumour. The site of his house is now a place of pilgrimage, for everyone knows that just before the hill collapsed, a strange apparition - a deceased English princess with great legs - warned Gerry and his guests to get out. Benedetti, the sinister local estate agent, and his crony the local mayor, smell a chance to make serious money, and Gerry is persuaded to go along with the scam in return for certain favours.
Marta, Gerry’s bizarre former neighbour, a composer from the former Soviet republic of Voynovia, has meanwhile returned to her Tuscan house. Surrounded by goggle-eyed pilgrims, they are inspired to write an opera together on an epic theme: the life of Princess Diana, the not-quite-saint who has inspired such strange devotion. Amid spiralling craziness, the great work comes together. Conducting at the premiere will be the high point of Gerry’s life, though not quite in the way he imagines ...
As funny and stomach-churning as its predecessors, Cooking with Fernet Branca and Amazing Disgrace , James Hamilton-Paterson’s latest novel is not for anyone who takes royalty (or anything else) too seriously.
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