It’s been something like four years since I’ve done a Chris’s Picks.
“Why? Why four years, you lazy bastard?” You ask.
Well, for one thing, I’ve been writing pretty furiously, and haven’t been reading as much for fun as I’d like, but more importantly, I haven’t found that many books that I thought were funny. Sure, I’ve run across some suspense writers whom I think are worthy of looking at, but that’s not why you come here. You want to know about stuff that will make you get kicked out of bed in the middle of the night for laughing, or make people on the bus think you’re out of your mind.
The tragic thing is that most books just aren’t funny. Even funny ones. How many times have you read “hilarious” in a blurb on the cover, only to read the book and say, “Hey, this isn’t hilarious. I’m not even shooting Diet Coke out my nose. Screw this lying bastard!”
Well, here’s some stuff that I think is funny, and although dozens of you will write and call me a lying bastard, so be it. I make a good living at it…
I hadn’t run across a book that actually made me laugh out loud in a long time, then someone turned me on to the web site of Mil Millington, and from there, I grabbed his books. Mil is a Brit who has written for some time for The Guardian. His humor is distinctly English, but he can turn a phrase so deftly and funny that I’ve literally done spit takes while reading his stuff.
Mil made his name, I’m told, by writing his column: Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. The column, it turns out, is about things that Mil and his girlfriend Margaret argue about, and you can get a 30,000 word (or so) free sample of it here:
Unsurprisingly enough, Mil’s first novel is called, (yes, you guessed it) Things my Girlfriend and I have Argued About. While Millington hangs a more or less useless plot on the concept of “Things,” it’s still funny and he maintains the comic timing and turn of phrase that will keep you entertained.
In his second novel, A Certain Chemistry, Millington tells the story of a reporter, Tom Cartwright, who falls for and has an affair with a famous actress for whom he is ghostwriting a biography. It’s sort of the Beta-male fulfillment of a wet dream story where you just happen to run into Liz Hurley or Angelina Jolie or name the unattainable actress of your choice, and she actually takes a fancy to you. Tom, of course, completely cocks-up his life in the process of pursuing the actress and some very funny scenes result.
Mil really comes into his own as a novelist in his third book, Love and Other Near Death Experiences. In this one, Rob Garland, a late-night London DJ has a very near miss with death when he is sent to return some T-towels by his sweet and earnest girlfriend, and his resulting survivor syndrome sends him down the road to all kinds of bizarre adventures with other survivors, stalkers, and various whackos, and of course, cocks up his life. This one has a very Nick Hornby feel to it, which in my mind, is a very good thing, and it tends to be much funnier than the last few Hornby books as well.
If you don’t mind your humor peppered with bollocks, tossers, and the odd wanker, than Mil Millington is your man. Check him out.
For those of you looking for a new suspense/horror fix, check out John Connolly. I’ve only read Black Angel, but I like the guy’s books a lot. His hero is Charlie Parker, an ex-cop who may be much more than he seems, and he seems to run into supreme evil pretty often. Fortunately he’s helped out by a couple of very cool “minions” who can dole out punishment with efficient if ironic violence when needed. Sort of mix one of Lovecraft’s investigators with Dave Robecheaux from James Lee Burke’s books, throw in a handful of Andrew Vachs’ darkness and Joe Lansdale’s down-home ass-kicking, and you get some idea of what a delightful Frankenstein’s monster Connolly creates. Which is not to say that his stuff is derivative, I’m just thinking that if you enjoy any of those other guys, you’ll like John’s stuff as well.
For another comic fix, try the books of Tom Perrota. You’ve heard of his book Election, which was made into a very funny movie, but his other books work well too. Perotta probably deserves his own Chris’s Picks, but for now, I just want to steer you in the right direction. Call it Suburban angst for our generation, a funnier John Cheever who’s not dead. Try The Wishbones, about the trials and tribulations of a garage band, or Joe College, about the day-to-day adolescent angst of an Ivy League student who feels completely out of place among “the chosen.”
That should keep you going for a while. Next time—my favorite poet, plus a serial killer with a Robin Hood complex.