Lionel Asbo

By Martin Amis

‘Would I recommend it?’… they were my sweet Hairdresser’s words as she bear witness to my convulsions yesterday; as I sucked in the pleasure of Mr Amis’s latest literary creation.

Oh dilemma…so I decided to be upfront and admit…I think it’s hilarious, deliciously wrong and the characters are superb, however I can see it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact I went further by suggesting, that quite possibly the only person I could firmly (and safely) recommend it to is my husband, whom so kindly introduced me to Mr Amis (unfortunately not in person), 15 years ago when London Fields came into my life and made it to Number 2 in my Best reads of all time.

Lionel Asbo: State of England is loaded, doesn’t hold back and at times you’ll feel like you have been punched by its cruelness. I even found myself thinking, ‘This is enough – stop it’, though I’d continue with eagerness.

So, the story unfolds in the London borough of Diston (thankfully not a real place), where Des Pepperdine resides with his Uncle Li and a couple of curry-eating, beer-swilling pooches. You’ll meet Des at 15 and find him to be a good natured, slightly misguided teen, who’ll definitely make good, even in this harsh environment, made more unstable by Uncle Lionel’s frequent trips to prison, views on females over 39 and deep affection for assault.

There’s something really in the name, for Lionel Asbo the man, is an unstoppable menace and devouring each page is like watching a car-crash in slow motion, for he’s disturbing, though crazily about ¾ of the way through you start to feel, for a second maybe, a pang of pity for him.

With no intention to blow the whole plot, I will provide you with a couple of tasters.

Firstly, Lionel gets a financial break which furnishes the reader with some truly terrific moments:

  • like his trip to Mount’s to dine and the aftermath
  • the tailored outfits he commissions
  • the dinner he lays on for his brothers
  • the hotel that never expels guests however disgraceful their behaviour
  • his rise in celebrity

Actually, the story is thick with fabulously described action and detail.

Secondly, you’ll feel nervous pretty much from start to finish, for Lionel is volatile so you never know when and who he’ll lash out at next. In particular, you’ll warm to Dawn instantly and want the best for Des, so you’ll find yourself constantly on edge when Lionel turns up at Avalon Tower, in case the former two say something that Lionel doesn’t get or feels inappropriate.

Ohh and another treat – the faultlessly depicted Threnody, Lionel’s glamour model girlfriend.

The bottom line – it’s tough, brutal and aggressive…though you’ll laugh often, very often and be so pleased that Mr Martin Amis produced his 13th book.