on 3 January 2015
An excellent read which should now be updated. There are scores of witty and funny sketches of so many of the people which I am sure most of us would have loved to write. There is much here that is brilliant and truthful so ignore the 'one stars' ratings because almost all of them will have been offended because Letts has had the balls to ridicule one or more of their heroes or heroines.
on 2 December 2008
Letts' book comes from an interesting perspective; acerbic and amusing pen pictures of those who, as the title tells us, have not made such a positive contribution to our national life. All well and good if the target is a pompous and hubristic politician whose words and actions fail to match, or some greedy business person who puts profit above humanity. But to target someone because of how they look or the way they speak is not only cruel but cheap and lacking in imagination.
In places, the book is amusing but too many pieces have a sense of the school bully about them. Picking on someone whose only apparant failing, according to Letts, is that they are on TV or that they choose to dye their hair is childish. Such writing becomes a cheap shot and as such, lacks any credability.
There is a smug attitude to much of Letts' writing. This is a pity because those targets deserving of scrutiny also deserved more of the authors attention at the expense of those who simply annoy him.
I suppose "Fifty five people who made a mess of Britain" would not have sold as many copies.
And "Angry rants against fifty-five people who annoy me, and another one against twenty people who don't quite rate an individual chapter slagging them off" would have sold even fewer. But it would been a much more accurate title.
And it was the height of hypocrisy to include a chapter which slags off Stephen Marks, the head of French Connection UK who made a point of trying to sue for ownership of the mis-spelled F-word, for his contribution to "the coarseness of language" in a book which itself has an offensive word in the title. The name of this book is an example of exactly what Letts pillories in that chapter.
Most of the pieces in this book are witty and entertaining, at least for those who either sympathise with the high tory traditionalist right or can laugh with a view expressed from that direction even if they don't necessarily agree with it. I suspect there will also be few who don't agree with at least some of the charges made against Letts' chosen targets: Dr Beeching, Jeffrey Archer, and Paul Burrell for example.
Some of his other articles are interesting whether you agree with them or not, and this particularly applies to some of the minority of essays where the attack comes from left field rather than being easily predictable. For example, in one of the less vitriolic pieces in the book, he pins the blame for the start of the "Health and Safety" culture on the late Harold Walker MP (who he is careful to emphasise "often meant well. But that is not the same as saying he acheived good things. Not the same thing at all.")
The essay on Greg Dyke ignores or deliberately disavows several obvious lines of attack to make the point that one of the curses of today is tiredness caused by lack of sleep. Letts makes an interesting if perhaps overstated case that Dyke's decision to move the Nine O'Clock news back an hour to the slot vacated by "News at Ten" has contributed to that problem.
Letts also makes a thought provoking argument that the infamous challenge by JP McEnroe Junior "You cannot be serious!" did far more damage to good sportsmanship by contributing to a culture of lack of respect for referees and rules, than was immediately apparent at the time.
But, but, but and again but ...
(apologies to Ian Fleming)
There is a saying that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies: show me someone who hasn't made any and I will show you someone who at best has not done very much. And it does seem that a lot of easy targets are selected in this book, some of whom are shot at, not because they did something wrong, but because they did something which not everyone liked (and to quote Mr Letts, this is "Not the same thing at all.")
For example, in some of the essays Letts has selected peculiar grounds to criticise someone who was unpopular for a rather different set of reasons. One or two of these - such as the Greg Dyke essay - are some of the best in the book, but the others are the worst ones.
As other reviewers have already mentioned his rather odd reason for attacking Mrs Thatcher, let me point to the even stranger reason he pillories Ted Heath. Since Ted was the man who took us into the Common Market, as the EU was then called, presided over the "Barber Boom" with a huge increase in the money supply, and took on the unions and lost, there are plenty of reasons why many people don't like him. Some of those reasons I have a great deal of sympathy for.
But what does Letts attack Ted for? Sacking Enoch Powell for the "Rivers of Blood" speech. I don't think many even of those who think this decision was a mistake will place it at the top of things Ted did that they disagree with.
Similarly Nicholas Ridley "was not a Conservative at all" and Jim Callaghan is attacked not for sabotaging "In place of Strife" or twice nearly bankrupting the country as Chancellor and then PM, but for decimalisation.
As other reviewers have pointed out, Quentin Letts builds up an amazing head of steam against some apparently inoffensive targets. Frank Blackmore gets it in the neck for inventing mini-roundabouts, and Dutch rally river Maurice Gatsonides because other people turned his system for timing his racing performance into the "Gatso" speed camera.
Christian composer Graham Kendrick has written a large number of modern hymns, some of which are excellent and some of which I personally dislike. But given some of the other views expressed in this book (for example, in the the section attacking Richard Dawkins), you would expect Letts to approve of someone who made christian worship more attractive to the modern generation. No, most of Kendrick's worst works - and none of the best - feature in a particularly angry and not very Christian rant from Letts.
Overall a very mixed bag. Some people will enjoy Letts' poisoned pen, but there will be few readers for whom at least one or two of the essays will not produce raised eyebrows.
on 13 February 2010
The problem with Quentin Letts doing a book like this, as anyone who's ever seen him on Question Time might testify, is that he's a smug, self-satisfied, over-privileged, bigot and general twit, of modest talents. Why else would he be working for the Daily Mail? So while potshots at, say, Ed Balls (a politician) might be fair enough, some of his other views are based on his own class-riddled prejudices - he attacks some very, very soft targets, and for all the wrong reasons. A good, middle-aged grumble-fest is fine for a bit of a laugh, but ultimately, the nature of the points made, and the nature of the writer, take the fun out of the experience. Clive James and PJ O'Rourke come to mind as commentators who have written far sharper books on similar subject-matter. Quentin Letts is a long, long, way from being either.
on 27 October 2008
I love a good, light-hearted rant - who doesn't? - so I had high hopes for this book, having recently gone through a couple of Charlie Brooker's finest.
And what a let down it proved to be.
Wielding a clever turn of phrase is usually a good thing, but in this case it feels less like an intelligent use of the English language, and more like a smug way of belittling the proles, who could never hope to master or understand such eloquent diction. This has the effect of almost completely preventing the reader from "warming" to the author, and therefore finding it fairly difficult to sympathise.
Secondly the humour, which is distinctly lacking - yes, there are some clever and amusing sections, but for the most part it's just fairly unremarkable, which is a shame.
Thirdly, the whole thing is just far too political - and I mean that not in the sense of making fun of and ranting about those in the political spotlight (and therefore marking themselves as fair game), but because of the barely concealed political leanings of the author. One of the selected fifty is baroness Thatcher - surely one of the prime examples of an individual to whom the title of the book applies. Sadly, the pages devoted to her read more like a defensive Conservative PR document than a red-blooded rant. To put this into perspective, the next individual in the list is Alan Titchmarsh, which seems slightly unfair on poor Alan!
It isn't often that I struggle to finish a book, but on this occasion I really had to try, and sadly, the effort invested in reading from cover-to-cover was in no way justified by the enjoyment derived from it.
I'd give this book one star - there is the occasional laugh, but you have to work very, very hard to get there.
on 27 April 2015
Those readers familiar with Quentin Letts' newspaper work will know very well what to expect here: the clue is in the title! Mr Letts does not hold back in his ruthless critiques of those (including politicians, sportsmen, celebrities, business tycoons, entertainers and yes, royals) who have, in his opinion, wronged Britain in significant ways. You may or may not agree with Letts but you will find his character assassinations witty, acerbic and thought provoking. An entertaining book with some interesting social commentary woven into each piece.
on 24 July 2016
This is one of the sharpest, funniest ebooks on why modern Britain is such a horrendous place to reside that I have ever read. Quentin Letts demolishes 50 of the most 'up-themselves' so-called 'celebrities' in today's youth obsessed, London-centric momentarily of a land called Britain and explains, in scorching, proper grammatical English precisely why and how they spoilt the land I used to be proud to call home. At a time when England (apart from the damned capital) has finally been allowed to throw off the shackles of EUdom this is a timely reminded of what Great Britain was like before these fools really did bugger up our green and pleasant land. Highly recommended.
on 5 October 2009
There is nothing like a witty book that pokes fun at pomposity and points out inconsistencies and vanities with ascerbic logic. Sadly this IS nothing like the book I have just described, rather it is in itself an excercise in pomposity and vanity and whilst there is much acid, it is almost logic-free. This book is basically about people whom the author doesn't like, and rather than expose what it is about some of these people that apparently has 'buggered up Britain', Letts makes comments about physical appearance, generalises wildly and reveals his own prejudices.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, as there are many delicious targets he could have chosen, but it does not seem that the intention here was to be witty and clever as much of it is a rather boring peronal rant.
on 4 February 2014
Despite what other numpties have said I found the book entraining and factual, I must admit I wasn't aware of some of the facts, which must have a ring of truth as Quentin Letts has not been sued for libel. He is a master of the English Language and his description of each "Bugger" is just short enough to stop boredom setting in. I felt sorry for the way Dr Beeching was pilloried for decimating the rail network thinking, wrongly, he didn't study demographics; this book changed my opinion. I bought my copy for 1p and is was worth every penny. Great for a quick read in bed, I enjoyed it
on 4 February 2013
I borrowed this little tome from my county library. Its slightly tatty condition and the copious date stamps inside the cover told of its frequent meanderings in and out of the households of, I suspect, many of the liberal cognoscenti of North East Flintshire. The celebrity cameos are gloriously politically incorrect and hard-hitting to the point of sublime insensitivity. Mr Lett is to be congratulated for holding nothing sacred. I suspect, as in the case of his acerbic 2009 summary of the late, unlamented Jimmy Savile, his views are well ahead of the pack. With a saloon-bar guffaw bursting out of every paragraph this is thought-provoking, top-drawer satirical writing. Please can we have volume 2. And just for devilment, a page or two on Jeremy Clarkson?