As a commuter in London I was one of thousands who, on Mondays, caught up with the exploits of anonymous columnist "Cityboy" in the free hand-out "The London Paper". Purporting to lift the lid on the sordid existence of the average city banker, Cityboy's column continued for about two years until his unfortunate motrocycle accident, which led his premature retirement. In June 2008 Cityboy "came out" to the world as Geraint Anderson, an MP's son, and announced his intention to break into the world of novel-writing.
On the whole, "Cityboy"'s columns weren't bad and his work tended to be amusing, in a blokey and obnoxious kind of way. It was more or less what we expected from a financial analyst: "My life is utterly amoral but since I earn shiploads of money (my last bonus was five times - no, make that twenty-five times - your annual salary), I REALLY DON'T CARE." Of course the column appealed to the worst side of human nature - that was the whole point of the exercise - but it was often quite funny in small doses.
Now, however, Mr Anderson has revealed himself to the world as a person with - gasp! - a conscience. He feels VERY BAD about his previous incarnation as a banker, and so his novel (a thinly-disguised autobiography which also draws heavily on his columns) is intended as a kind of morality tale, warning us that we, too, might well have behaved in a similar manner had we too been faced with the kind of atmsophere and temptations brought to bear upon a newcomer to this gaudy world.
Problem Number One: what was amusing in small doses is irritating in a sustained extract. Anderson's principal method of humour is the unlikely comparison (example: "it was about as likely as Ann Widdecombe winning Rear Of The Year") and boy, does he milk these contrived and lengthy comparisons long past the point of unfunniness. Two or three on virtually every single page?! By the end of Chapter Three I was about as amused as Queen Victoria at a wet T-shirt contest.
Problem Number Two: Anderson's claim of being "a good boy now" isn't all that convincing. It's pretty clear that he'd love to carry on his openly-rude devil-may-care "Cityboy" persona, but both his concern for his reputation and events in the international financial sector have necessitated a display of public contrition. Anderson's narrative thus asks us to buy into the inconsiderate blokiness whilst simultaneously asking us to believe that the narrator doesn't REALLY believe in all that any more. It just doesn't work.
Case in point: our narrator "Steve Jones" tells us that, at one point, he and his gambling-minded friends were so desperate to have something to bet on that they even took a flutter on "the bra-size of some poor salad-dodger standing at the bar." Ah, how perfectly Cityboy! How staggeringly rude! And yet, notice the word that doesn't belong there: the word "poor". Doubtless we're supposed to believe that the narrator now is sorry for having caused distress to the woman in question... Yet, if he were that sorry, why use the term "salad-dodger" to describe her in the first place? Here, as elsewhere, you get the sense of Cityboy hastily covering his rudery with a tiny fig-leaf of consideration, and all it does is make the reader feel thoroughly uneasy. Are we supposed to be laughing heartlessly at this or not?
Ultimately, I'm giving it a couple of stars for exposing the macho "boy's culture" of the City. If it does its part to bring the culture of obscene bonuses to an end, good for it. But as a piece of humour I wasn't impressed.