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Boychester is the much-loathed editor, the Bugle is a North London newspaper--and this faintly amusing, terribly thin first novel is about what happens when the Bugle shifts from cold type to ""Compucomp,"" from small-scale independence to conglomerate supervision. Fat, climbing Boychester is the prime villain in all this: there are nasty glimpses of him at home with his rich, bovine, foolish wife (""Clever Boychy!"" she repeatedly exclaims), in obese embrace with his committee-woman mistress, in fawning positions with his upper-class in-laws. There are ludicrous, mixed-metaphor speeches from the aged newspaper owners on the need for computerized progress. (""The benign hand bids us enter the Promised Land, where. . . the Satanic rivers of ink and their boulders of metal cannot enter. . . ."") And on the side of the angels (in Franks' simplistic treatment) are two newspaper staffers--one a boozy veteran, the other a soulful novice. Hard-drinking Cathal Dwyer spends more time at pub than desk, delivers insults galore to Boychester and other establishment types, dreams of writing a great play about divided Ireland, and faces police charges of obscene behavior (he exposed himself, only half-intentionally, to two nuns). Meanwhile, young David Camina, in flight from a possessive Jewish family (and tormented by dreams of WW I poet Isaac Rosenberg), becomes Boychester's prime whipping-boy and Dwyer's caretaker/protÉgÉ. So, when the sentimental/melodramatic climax arranges for Dwyer to surfer a fatal collapse on the eve of the newspaper's last cold-type edition, it is David who vengefully sabotages the paper--with a parade of typos and a substitution of ""Boychester"" for ""Dwyer"" in coverage of that indecent-exposure incident. Crisply sardonic narration, a few nice laughs--but what little plot there is here is obliquely delivered, and US readers will be further dis-engaged by the many references (satiric and otherwise) to local London matters.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: William Heinemann--dist. by David & Charles