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
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
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.