8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"The maximum fine is ten pounds. I fine you ten pounds.",
This review is from: Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics (Hardcover)
This book is over 600 pages long and is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It is instead a book to dip into, and to quote to your friends, until they tell you to stop. It is a perfect read whilst on the toilet or going to bed. It is also very, very funny.
The cast divides into several basic types. There are wasted, philandering aristocrats; mid-20th century London gangsters; perpetually underachieving parliamentary candidates; people who were unusually kind to animals, and show-offs and con-men. And necromancers. The humour comes from the fact that most of these people were failures, deluded failures who, oblivious to their shortcomings and filled with self-belief, aimed high and fell far.
There is Frank Evans, "kitchen fitter and Britain's only qualified bullfighter" (one of the book's few success stories), the harmless Charles Waterton, "Catholic country squire and friend of the hedgehog", Joan Flower, "witch" and there are lots of frauds, imposters, pirates and spies. The passage of time means that most of these people are amusing, although with some of them it is hard to laugh because they were such obviously awful people. Some of the people in the book are still alive.
The only real problem with the book is that there isn't a topical index, and indeed the book is simply an ungrouped alphabetical list, which is perfect for finding out new things but you'll have a heck of a time recalling your favourite bits. I ended up sticking my fingers into several pages and using bits of paper. There are topical entries but not enough. I can't actually remember chap whose judgement I quote in the title of this review; he crashed the stage of an open-air production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Adolf Hitler, having apparently got lost on the way to a fancy-dress party.
Oh, hang on, it was Grant Hinchcliff, a Lloyd's underwriter. I take back what I said about the lack of an index. This book is therefore perfect. There are entries for "kings who have died after being bitten by a monkey" and "predatory thin women"