Beautiful constraints: Advanced Immorality
Philip Terry’s collection is an incredibly well crafted piece of wit; from the 50.5 Crime Novels to the abridged Hamlet, it sparkles with… well, wit.The Crime Novels are a real highlight. They oscillate between harrowing simplicity and hilarious absurdity, as in the following:
It starts with the discovery of the body of Penelope Burns-Templeton aka Donna Butcher at the Faber Academy crime writing retreat. Suspicion falls on Maggie Motion, her bitterest rival, until Maggie’s body is found slowly cooking in the Aga the following morning. Detectives place everyone on house arrest, while the course tutor, RJ Ellory, tries to calm students down, encouraging them to treat it as a hands-on creative writing exercise. Students exchange their solutions to the mystery as, one by one, they are picked off by the killer in their midst. On the final evening the guest writer arrives to give a reading in front of the survivors – it is Peneope Burns-Templeton, who reveals the whole series of events as a hoax.
Part of the charm of the 50.5 crime thrillers in the relentless clichés; private detectives, police marksmen surrounding houses near the end, bodies found at the beginning. They might all actually make decent short stories, if not novels – but it’s part of Terry’s talent that he refuses to go further than these preliminaries.
Terry’s Hamlet had me chuckling as much as South Park‘s version in ‘Terence and Philip: Behind the Blow’.
Then there’s the grinding, relentless ‘Days’, the staccato rhythm of ‘A Berlin Notebook’, and the mouthful that is ‘Clop’. This is poetry that is rigorous, tight, and finely tuned. Here’s to Philip Terry.
It’s available from the ever-interesting if p then q press.