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Dead Famous [Paperback]

Ben Elton
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2002

One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones.

Yet again the public gorges its voyeuristic appetite as another group of unknown and unremarkable people submit themselves to the brutal exposure of the televised real-life soap opera, House Arrest.

Everybody knows the rules: total strangers are forced to live together while the rest of the country watches them do it. Who will crack first? Who will have sex with whom? Who will the public love and who will they hate? All the usual questions. And then, suddenly, there are some new ones.

Who is the murderer? How did he or she manage to kill under the constant gaze of the thirty television cameras? Why did they do it? And who will be next?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552999458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552999458
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Elton is one of Britain's most provocative and entertaining writers. From celebrity to climate change, from the First World War to the end of the world, his books give his unique perspective on some of the most controversial topics of our time.

He has written twelve major bestsellers, including Stark, Popcorn, Inconceivable (filmed as Maybe Baby, which he also directed), Dead Famous, High Society (WH Smith People's Choice Award 2003) and The First Casualty.

He has also written some of television's most popular and incisive comedy, including The Young Ones, Blackadder and The Man From Auntie. His stage work includes three West End plays and the hit musicals The Beautiful Game and We Will Rock You.

He is married with three children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ben Elton's Dead Famous brings together his talents in comedy and crime writing to produce a hilarious and devastating novel on the gruesome world of reality TV. Peeping Tom productions invent the perfect TV programme: House Arrest. Its slogan is: "One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. One survivor." This is all a clever parody of the massive TV hit Big Brother, with its vain, ambitious contestants with their:
tattoos and their nipple rings, their mutual interest in star signs, their endless hugging and touching, and above all their complete lack of genuine intellectual curiosity about one single thing on this planet that was not directly connected with themselves.
However, Elton adds a clever twist to this very funny send-up. On Day 27 of the programme, one of the housemates is killed live on TV. Everyone in the country has a theory about the killer, "indeed the only person who seemed to have absolutely no idea whatsoever of the killer's identity was Inspector Stanley Spencer Coleridge, the police officer in charge of the investigation". Coleridge is an old fogey from the 1950s, who has to learn quickly about lesbians, piercings, blow jobs and the seductions of TV fame before he can crack the case. Elton's wicked parody of the housemates is brilliant, the murder fiendish in its ingenuity, and the ending wonderfully over the top. Dead Famous is great fun, and even has some social comment thrown in for good measure. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Big up to Ben Elton and respect, big time. Top, top book" (Mail on Sunday)

"Wry, fast and fiendishly clever" (The Times)

"A book with pace and wit, real tension, a dark background theme and a big on-screen climax" (Independent)

"The perfect modern-day whodunit. A cracking read full of hilarious insights into the Big Brother phenomenon" (Mirror)

"One of the best whodunits I have ever read...a funny, gripping, hugely entertaining thriller, but also a persuasive, dyspeptic account of the way we live now, with our insane, inane cult of the celebrity" (Sunday Telegraph)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detective fiction revisited 8 July 2002
By A Customer
There are many cliches in fiction, but perhaps none as familiar as the murder mystery where a group of strangers is gathered together, one is murdered, and after an eventful investigation, the detective gathers them all together to explain who did it. So much of a cliche, in fact, that few mainstream writers dare produce such a hackneyed plot any more. But Elton proves that there is life in old dog yet, as he realised the obvious ... the seeds of the cliche are being played out daily on our screen in the form of Big Brother. Merge these two together, and throw in a healthy dose of Elton's cyncism for the world of popular media, and we have a heady mixture.
The plotting and timing of the tale is flawless - with multiple flashbacks and points of view never interfering with a damn good yarn in which the reader yearns not only to find out whodunnit, but also who it was done to. The characters are caricatures, but none the worse for that. They perfectly match the sort of view we are given of the Big Brother housemates, and that is one of Elton's more serious points in a page turner which is clever, thought-provoking and above all entertaining.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. I bought this book, just to find out how the hell someone could get murdered in the "House Arrest" house, without anyone knowing about it.

When you peel away the wrappings, this book is a classic whodunnit. Ten people are in a house, and one of them is dead. One of the survivors must be the killer. But who is it, what's the motive, and why oh why wasn't it Woggle who was killed?

But whatever you do, don't simply peel away the wrappings. This is book is more than that. Ben Elton has stripped down the "Big Brother" phenomenon, and given it his treatement. The result is a satrical look at the whole state of affairs, through the eyes of those who love, hate, or take part in it.

This book is not just for "Big Brother" fans, detractors will be able to sympathise with Chief Inspector Coleridge, but it would help if you are at least familiar with it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralling and scathing murder mystery 24 Nov 2002
I have read a number of Ben Elton's novels and have always enjoyed them. Often, though, they are a little on the rambling side and could do with a bit of a trim. Not this one, though. It is a brilliantly plotted whodunnit and a wonderfully caustic dig at the reality tv boom, in which there is not an ounce of spare fat. I was still thinking about the ins and outs of the story days after I finished reading it, and heartily congratulate Mr Elton - I didn't think he had it in him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The last decade has seen an explosion in the faux celebrity culture, people famous and feted for being vacuous non-entities who have managed to get their faces on TV on some risible 'reality TV' show. The whole phenomenon is ripe for some decent satirisation, and here Ben Elton has taken up the gauntlet and given the whole genre the treatment it deserves.

We're all (painfully) familiar with the format of Big Brother. The set up is the same here - a house full of pointless narcissists obsessed with becoming celebrities locked in a house loaded with cameras, constantly being broadcast to the nation. Then suddenly, one of them is brutally murdered. Live on TV. But the murderer manages to remain incognito.

The book is very cleverly constructed - the time lines move around, one minute with the police investigating the crime, the next going back over earlier episodes of the series. We don't even get to find out who the victim is until half way through. The police investigation is nicely presented, as are the details of life in the house leading up to the murder. The identity of the murderer and the motives, though apparent from reasonably early on, are nicely revealed and there are no plot holes to speak of.

The real joys of the book are the characterisations and the behind the scenes look at the reality TV industry. Ben Elton manages to write all of the characters extremely well, from the vacuous inmates to the cynical and bewildered investigating officer Inspector Coleridge. Non e of them feel clichéd, and all feel like real people. And as for the descriptions of how the industry really works, it is a fascinating read!

On top of all this, the whole book is laced with Elton's bitingly satirical wit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Ben yet 23 Dec 2002
Of the half dozen or so Ben Elton books that I have read, this is the best by quite some distance. I've always felt that reality television is creepy, and so I sympathise with the point of view that Elton conveys in the story.
The world he creates is not so far away from today's, and just a couple of steps short that of "Series 7 - The Contenders" (a film that I can't recommend highly enough). It's a story along a similar theme as Popcorn, dealing with the continuous pushing back of the boundaries of what it's acceptable for the media to broadcast. Elton's juxtaposition of stuffy, old-fashioned policeman Coleridge with the mindless, self-obsessed 20-somethings of the TV show highlights how much has changed in no more than a few decades.
It's a real page-turner. Having read the blurb before buying the book, you're obviously already going to be aware that there's a murder in a reality gameshow, but three quarters of the story lies between Elton re-stating that on page one of the story, and revealing who the victim is. I therefore spent as much time wondering about the identity of the victim as that of the murderer.
The two most important scenes of the story are handled well. The whole lead-up to the night of the murder still leaves me with a slightly uneasy feeling when I think of it - I can picture the scene in my mind so clearly. Likewise, the final act captures the drama worthy of the revealed truth. Maybe I was just being a bit thick, but I didn't work out who the murderer was until I saw it written there on the page.
Another thing I love about this book is the way he parodies the insincere, meaningless drivel of today's "yoof TV". Everyone is described as "brave" or "strong" or something equally inappropriate with such frequency that the terms become completely devalued.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Average
It took a long time to get into the story and was quite slow-paced. The ending wasn't very thrilling. I'd recommend it for a light holiday read..
Published 19 days ago by yjsyjsyjs
5.0 out of 5 stars Top story! Wicked! Totally Amped to the max.......and really jolly...
Another finely crafted tale, filled with characters you recognise from many preconceptions, which you are happily lead by to the chilling climax.
Published 3 months ago by Chris Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars In my opinion, the best Ben Elton book of all
An absolutely great satire on big brother. I love the exposure of the cynical crowd manipulation which is basically what big brother is all about and the innocent (but sometimes... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Paula L
3.0 out of 5 stars a very good read!
I actually scored 3.5 stars to this novel. It's an intriguing, dark and funny satire to the well known "BB" show. Definitely a good read!
Published 7 months ago by Gabritems
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Satirical
Dead Famous by Ben Elton is a satirical novel making fun of hit TV program Big Brother. Inside the Peeping Tom house everything is going normal until their is a murder. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jonathan
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Great book has you guessing till the end ....... funny in places best read I've had in a while will definitely try more of his work
Published 10 months ago by Maree humphrey
5.0 out of 5 stars A very clever story!
I'm would thoroughly recommend this book to adults, it's a modern twist on a murder mystery, which makes us consider popular entertainment today. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Josie
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a must-read for reality tv fans and haters alike!
This book is based on House Arrest, a fictional Big Brother-type reality television programme, where ten people are forced to live together, with the prospect of the last person to... Read more
Published 13 months ago by ramblingsofanelfpire
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Absolutely loved, loved, loved this book! Not what I was expecting when I purchased it, but it kept me gripped right to the end!
Published 21 months ago by Melonhead87
3.0 out of 5 stars Page-Turner
A great insight into reality TV at its worst with good character building despite 15+ central characters and only 400 pages long. I devoured this book in less than two days. Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2012 by Joanneb7480
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