This weekend I was up against a number of excellent nominations in the category of ‘Funniest Crime Novel’ at Bristol Crimefest. I was surprised that ‘The Memory Of Blood’ had been nominated at all because it’s considerably darker than the usual Bryant & Mays, but it’s always nice to be nominated. The winner was not Colin Cotterill’s delightful ‘Killed At The Whim Of A Hat’, as I’d first thought it might be, but Irish author Declan Burke’s ‘Absolute Zero Cool’, which I’ve just finished.
Burke’s tale of a porter who plans to burn down the hospital where he works is a clever meta-fiction in which the leading character’s interference in the story keeps undermining the author’s intentions. It’s a neat parable about the creative spirit, and highly worthy of the award. It would have been wrong if any other book had won this year.
If you enjoy ‘Absolute Zero Cool’, may I recommend a classic novel about a character coming to life. In Frank Baker’s enchanting ‘Miss Hargreaves’ two friends on holiday in Ireland are required to invent the titular 83 year-old woman. Later, forced to explain how they met her, they slowly add details to her life, embellishing her backstory with news that she always travels with a cockatoo, a harp and her own bath. The lark gets out of hand when they receive a telegram from Miss Hargreaves herself, informing them that she is coming to stay for an indefinite period – but how can they explain who she is when they can’t even understand why she exists?
A comedy about the creative imagination, loss of control and the pressures of conformity, ‘Miss Hargreaves’ came to the London stage starring Margaret Rutherford.