Monday, 26 September 2011
Yesterday I finished reading the second, and middle, book of the Mervyn Stone trilogy, DVD Extras Include: Murder by Nev Fountain. I’d already finished reading the first book, Geek Tragedy, several weeks ago, and I read the third one Cursed Among Sequels last year in a giving-encouraging-notes capacity.
A quick bit of background. Nev started writing the first book four or five years ago, possibly longer, and sent it to me when he’d written about the first third. I thought it was very terrific and told him to complete the novel as I was desperate to find out what happened next. I think it gives you some idea of how much weight my opinion carries that a mere four or five years later, Nev followed my advice and completed the novel, and then kept on going and completed two more.
The books are ‘whodunits’ with the detective role being filled by Mervyn Stone, a former TV script editor on a science fiction show called Vixens From The Void. Since Vixens was put on an indefinite hiatus in the 1990’s - alright, alright, it was axed - his career hasn’t been going particularly well, so to make ends meet he appears at Vixens From The Void conventions, records commentaries for Vixen From The Void DVDs, and – in the third novel – acts as a consultant on the Vixens From The Void revival. Bu then people start being murdered, and it’s down to Mervyn Stone, with his script editor’s eye for detail and things that don’t make sense, to find the culprit.
As you may guess from that, the books contain a great deal of humour based around science fiction TV and its fans. But while from a lesser writer you might expect a lot of sneering at anoraks, Nev writes Vixens From The Void fandom with insight and sympathy, and brings to live the full, wild, eccentric diversity of fandom in all its shapes and forms. It’s very affectionate, almost celebratory. If you want to get inside the head of a science fiction fan, I would strongly suggest you reconsider, but failing that, these books are a good place to start.
And as odd as the fans are, they’re nowhere near as strange as the various actors, actresses, writers, directors and producers of Vixens Of The Void that we meet over the course of these novels, with their tangled web of feuds, nervous breakdowns, and sexual liaisons.
As you might expect, from a writer for Private Eye and DeadRingers they are also full of satire about the state of TV, though with a lot more bite than Nev’s other work. But all this would be for nothing if it weren’t for the fact that each book is also an incredibly well-plotted and ingenious whodunit; in the second book, for instance, someone is murdered during the recording of a DVD commentary, by means which seem almost miraculous.
But most of all these books are beautifully written and very, very funny. The argument between Graham Goldingay and The Gorg in the third book, Cursed Among Sequels, is one of the funniest things I have ever read, I had to put the book down to regain my composure.
I recommend you buy them now so that Nev will be forced to write some more.