Review: Greek Tragedy / Author: Nev Fountain / Publisher: Big Finish / Release date: Out Now
Part of writing a successful book is knowing your audience. Nev Fountain knows his audience. This first Mervyn Stone Mystery, the first of 3, released in 2010 is a delightful read and will warm the heart of anyone who has ever attended a convention and obsessed over a cult TV show.
Script editor Mervyn Stone created the television series Vixens from the Void, a ‘Dynasty in Space’ soap opera back in the 1980s. The intergalactic, glitter-themed, shoulder-padded bitchfest featuring wobbly spaceships will sound familiar to science fiction fans. After 20 years avoiding his guilty past Mervyn reluctantly finds himself at a convention, in an anonymous hotel, solving a murder using his talents for spotting plot holes.
The premise is first class and the characters come alive from the page; a sure sign of good writing. You'll find the fading star basking in the glory of days gone by, the uberfan turned God-like event organiser worshipped by devotees, the reluctant crew turning up for a pay-day and the odd normal person which includes the slightly eccentric Mr Stone. These characters make up an intriguing dysfunctional family which provides an extremely funny read. Other highlights include shameless fans dressed as their favourite characters, autograph obsessives with poor personal hygiene, a cacophony of tatty merchandise and anecdotes by guests being regurgitated for the thousandth time. We've all been there...haven't we?
Those of you nodding will understand the soul of the book, Vixen's from the Void, which is thoroughly engaging with all the right amount of a cult classic. Fans of Blake's 7 and Doctor Who will recognise affectionately the very worst of their shows. Bringing the camp behaviour and indiscretions of the stars into full view makes the plot devices reminiscent of a good Carry On movie or a theatrical farce. Sadly this is also one of the drawbacks. With such a strong setting sometimes it feels that our protagonist is simply being dragged through the story. However I'm not sure Mervyn could solve a murder under his own steam so some of the rather clunky turns actually serve the story quite well.
The book is structured over the convention weekend and broken down into the various panels taking place with times, attendees and locations. Again this theatrical approach reminds me of Michael Frayn's Noises Off. It's no surprise that Nev Fountain, who has written Big Finish audio dramas and for Private Eye magazine amongst many other things, has an incredibly sharp sense with words. Witty writing needs to be concise; you need to find yourself laughing before you have time to think about it.
This is a very different type of who-dunnit from Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes or even Jessica Fletcher but definitely one that has a foot firmly planted in the golden age of detective fiction. You needn't be a fan of science fiction or have attended a convention to enjoy the book, the humour will work regardless of your worldly experiences.