It’s rather a strange thing that Russell Hoban happens to be from Pennsylvania, and even stranger that he’s seventy five. Not that there’s anything wrong with either, you understand, just that on reading his earlier novel Fremder and especially Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer it has the, I dunno, cadence, tone and dialogue my internal monologue can’t help but read with a young English accent, in the same way that a Christopher Brookmyer novel stridently demands to be intoned in as broad a Scots accent as you can muster.
All of which is very far away indeed from relevancy, so allow me to veer suddenly back on to the track I’d intended to start on in the first place. This is, to briefly sum up, another Faustian pact-type of thing, with a man broken by the break-up of his relationship with his soul-mate, Seraphina. Difficult to have much sympathy with the fella, as not only did his day job rely on telemarketing, a job rapidly reaching lawyer-esque levels of hatredicity, but said break-up was caused by his repeated slipping of the johnston to his female clients. Finding himself fired after being slightly too honest about the usefulness of the self-help systems he’s hawking, he descends into an alcoholic haze of self destruction. It’s here, passed out on the floor of a London tube station that Mr Rinyo-Clacton finds Jonathan Fitch and makes that intriguing titular offer.
For a cool million squids, R-C, as he is never referred to as, will buy Fitch’s death. A year will be allotted for Fitch to enjoy his riches, after which at some unknown juncture he will be iced. I seem to have left out the sodomizing, but that shows up somewhere round about here too. Everyone always forgets about the sodomy, don’t you find? Anyway, part of the big R.C.meister’s thang is getting off on the anticipation of death, displaying much of the oddness you’d expect of someone who would make such a deal, hanging around the fringes of Jonathon’s life. This prompts something of a return to normalcy for Fitch, attempting to patch things up with Seraphina and consulting a no-nonsense psychic (no, really) while realising that he doesn’t want to die after all, contrary to the black moods that prompted such a deal to be made.
Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer is written with a similar, grandified and beautiful style as my previous Hoban ‘experience’ Fremder, although this is far more accessible to your typical barely literate idiot such as myself. It’s a fascinating little book to read, prompting a few morbid though trains on the value of life and control of destiny, and if there’s a flaw to the book it’s only that ‘little’ word of the previous sentence. It would be nice to have more of this, as in a certain sense it seems to end rather suddenly just as soon as it really starts to pick up, and end in a disappointingly Deus Ex Machina fashion as well. Still, life isn’t all nice little packages and sunshine, and in any case Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer is great fun while it lasts.