TK/B/B: In which I try and sell you all on Kyril Bonfiglioli

I’m extraordinarily fond of a series of three books by Kyril Bonfiglioli (though the third gets a little grim): the series begins with Don’t Point That Thing At Me, and continues in similar vein with After You With The Pistol and Something Nasty In The Woodshed. The books are quite consciously Wodehouse for Crime — they’re deliberately written as references to the Bertie and Jeeves stories, but the Bertie character is a criminalistic art dealer and Jeeves is Jock, a thug. They are extremely delightful.

This is from the first of the books, a scene in which the protagonist had sent a stolen painting to be smuggled out by a snobbish auto detailer:

A naughty apprentice told me that Mr. Spinoza was in his office and I picked my way thither.

‘Hullo, Mr. Spinoza,’ I cried cheerily, ‘here’s a fine morning to be alive in!’

He peered malevolently at a spot three inches above my left shoulder.

‘Oo hucking hastatd,’ he spat. (No roof to his mouth, you know. Poor chap.) ‘Oo other hucking hiss-hot. How air oo hoe your hace, oo hurd-mutgling hod?’

The rest was a bit rude so I shan’t quote him too verbatim, if you don’t mind. What he was vexed about was my sending the MGB in with the little special matter in the headcloth at such an early hour the day before. ‘At sparrow-fart,’ as he neatly put it. Moreover, he was afraid that people would think he was working on it and he had evolved a dreadful mental image of queues of chaps in cloth caps insisting that he respray their MGs.

When he had drawn to a provisional close, I spoke to him sternly.

‘Mr. Spinoza,’ I said, ‘I did not come here to discuss with you my relationship with my mummy, which is a matter for me and my psychiatrist alone. I came to remonstrate with you about using Dirty Words to Jock, who is, as you know, sensitive.’

Mr. S used a lot more very dirty words and some which I couldn’t make out but which were probably vile. When the air had thinned a little he bitterly offered to walk over to the Rolls with me and discuss headlamps. I was surprised and saddened to see a great vulgar Dusenburg — if that’s how you spell it — in the workshop, and said so, which rather started him off again. I have never had any daughters, but this did not stop Mr. Spinoza sketching out their careers from the nursery to the street corner, so to speak. I leaned on the side of the Silver Ghost, admiring his command of language. ‘A feast of reason and a flow of soul’ is how Alexander Pope (1688-1744) would have summed it up.

While we were thus civilly biffing the ball of conversation to and fro, a sound which I can best describe as a DONK came in from the South side of Mason’s Yard. More or less simultaneously a sort of WANG occurred about three feet north of my belly button and a large pimple appeared in the door-panel of the Silver Ghost. Slapping two and two together in the twinkling of an eye, I lay down, without a thought for my valuable suit. Look, I’m an experienced coward.[...]

It’s all like that. I could quote that scene for several more pages if I wanted.

This book also contains one of the best insults I’ve ever seen*, albeit one that simply won’t work orally, because nobody will get it quickly enough to be offended:

Having introduced Jock — his surname escapes me, I should think it would be his mother’s — I suppose I had better give a few facts about myself.

I think I’ll try that one out in actual conversation anyway.

* For the form and mode of delivery, of course, not the (sexist) content.


3 Responses to “TK/B/B: In which I try and sell you all on Kyril Bonfiglioli”

  1. ben wolfson Says:

    How can you possibly separate the content of the insult from everything else?

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    “He’s a bastard” would have had identical content, but with much less pleasing delivery, no?

  3. ben wolfson Says:

    I don’t know what I was thinking.

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