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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid


When I see anything written by Ben Elton, I automatically pick it up. Twelve best sellers and many TV hit series and several smash hit West End plays, as well as being a foremost stand-up comic is the CV of a truly funny man.
Meltdown (ISBN 978-0-593-06193-0, Bantam Press UK, 2009) has as its main thread an amiable city trader Jimmy Corby who made more money than he could spend during the boom financial years, but then, after the economic crash finds himself in the ‘real’ world. Jimmy thinks back remembering the man who had installed their front door, “He envied him so much. To have a trade. To actually do something. A real palpable, physical skill that you could offer for hire. How good would that be? Particularly now that the market for aggressive, cocky wankers shouting themselves hoarse into a telephone had so comprehensively dried up.” Being a ‘real’ world dweller, Ben Elton had me on side immediately.
The story unfolds as Jimmy Corby and his friends, dating back to their undergraduate days, find that the heady financial excess world is changing, and they will have to change too, or find themselves going under in the society where they once lorded over everyone.
One of his old friends is the CEO of the Royal Lancashire Bank (RLB), which has a more than passing similarity to the Royal Bank of Scotland, lending money as if there was no tomorrow, and Jimmy Corby had bought a complete street in London, using the RLB finance. That was, of course, when Jimmy had a job and could service the debt. This was a new order, and was one that Jimmy was having extreme difficulty in accepting.
One by one, Elton introduces all of Jimmy’s friends, all of whom are finding that life is changing. One who seems to be doing the best is the New Labour politician, at times gloating in the fact that Tony Blair was leading the country to new socialism. However, Elton also shows the shallowness of all politicians, including the purchase of royal titles, as the CEO of RLB has done.
As Jimmy’s life unravels, so do those of his friends, one of whom dies under mysterious circumstances after losing all his wife’s fortune investing in a financial scheme which was run by the book’s Bernard Madoff character. This is where Ben Elton was so clever, making this piece of fiction into more than believable ‘faction’.
As the financial noose tightens, the CEO finds himself pursued for insider trading, Jimmy Corby has to cycle everywhere after he loses the car, the politician finds himself embroiled in the expenses debacle and what to do next?
A damn fine read at B. 650 at Bookazine, and shows that Ben Elton is much more than just a comedian. He is a very clever observer of society. This book will teach you more about our culture than a stack of sociology textbooks. In many ways, it is a sobering book which makes you look at your own circumstances and makes you wonder just what you would do if the financial axe ever fell.