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Loonyology: In My Own Words Paperback – 19 May 2014
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Soon afterwards I had some time off of work and downloaded Charlie's autobiography 'Bronson' for 85p for my Kindle. This isn't for the usual reasons that I assume people buy these books (i.e. fans of true 'hard man' stories about the Krays cutting shopkeepers fingers off with nail clippers or whatever) but because I wanted to snigger at the bonkers behaviour of a certified jibbering nut-nut. My tongue was firmly in my cheek throughout and I loved every minute of it.
As soon as I finished 'Bronson' I searched Amazon for more Charlie-related books and happened upon 'Loonyology'. Even better, it was 100% written in his 'own words'. I couldn't bleedin' wait - and definitely wasn't disappointed.
It is difficult to describe 'Loonyology' in a sense to do it justice, but the best I can do is this:
Imagine if a device was invented that, once attached to your head, could read your thoughts and transcribe them directly onto a document in Microsoft Word. With me so far? Then Imagine that this device was placed onto the the bonce of a violent, psychotic nutjob who was then left in a room on his own for a year with nothing but his diary, an Encyclopedia Britannica and a copy of the Yellow Pages. Well, this book is that Microsoft Word Document.
'Loonyology' starts with two forewords by a couple of Charles Bronson's mates, both of which are along the lines of "Charlie ain't killed no-one. He's a top chap, he is. I dunno why they don't let him out. It's bang out of order" which, I thought, would set the tone for the 466 following pages. Which it does. Or doesn't. Kind of.
After the forewords, Bronson spends the next 40 pages seemingly listing every prisoner he has ever met (99.9% of which you have never heard of), which prison he met them in and what a 'top geezer' they are (I skipped through most of this bit).
After this, Bronson starts putting in poetry, all of which reads like it should be written in human excrement on the wall of an abandoned shed in a loonatic's allotment.
Bronson follows this with a list of all of the prisons he has ever been in, who he assaulted whilst there, how many hostages he took and how many hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage he did to the roof having climbed on it. This kind of undid the whole 'top geezer' message in the forewords a bit as Bronson himself is pointing out why he has been locked up for donkeys years.
But I feel the book truly finds it's feet when it starts to be written in the form of a diary.
These entries genuinely made me laugh uncontrollably on the train on numerous occasions. They follow a bizarre format of mixing Bronson's daily routine, memories from his life, newspaper articles and, brilliantly, random facts which are totally unrelated to anything. And all of these jumbled up together. Remember the Microsoft Document idea? Well here it is.
On one page of this book (ONE PAGE!) the author goes from how it would be suicide to challenge him to a fight, straight into his thoughts of the terrorists that crashed a burning car into Glasgow airport, and finishes with the words 'Hey - did I ever tell you about the time I hit a loony over the head with a can of pilchards?'
On another solitary page, Bronson starts by talking about what he likes for breakfast. Then, for no reason, he goes on to tell you that it was a woman that invented windscreen wipers, the latin origins of the word "toast" and finishes by talking about breakfast again.
My favourite, however, was when a fact popped up which broke the mood of the book.
It was during a section on which Bronson is angry at his ex-wife selling a story about their marriage and son to a glossy magazine. Having vowed never to discuss the subject in public, Charlie loses his rag and goes mental about her - detailing her sexual habits, her knowing about him being an armed robber and his son being unaware of his father's identity was until he was into his twenties. Bronson then laments the lost years with his boy, wishing he could have been there for him, angry for his only child growing up to be a heroin addict and vowing to support him thoughout his recovery. He follows this personal anguish directly, and for no reason, with 'Can you name the 10 highest ranks in the British Army? I can.'. I almost laughed myself inside-out after that one.
After a while you come to love this scattergun style, even when Bronson publishes a list of something (he loves a list does Charlie) such as the 2001 sales figures for Sunday newspapers in the UK (the book was written in 2007), every suicide in British prisons in 2002, the entire prison menu and canteen order list or 10 pages of Solicitors addresses and phone numbers "in case you ever need one" (Yellow Pages? Remember?)
This said, I loved it. I genuinely couldn't put it down. The only thing that lets it down is that the final 20% (around 80 pages!) of the book is just messages (assumably culled from his website forum) which demand his release i.e:
"John Shepard from Basildon: Let Charlie out!"
If it wasn't for this, I'd have given 5 stars. As it is, I'll give 4.
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