THE DEFENSE DIARIES OF W. MORGAN PETTY by Brian Bethell

THE DEFENSE DIARIES OF W. MORGAN PETTY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After hearing (in a 1983 interview with a US general) that ""a nuclear war could be confined to a small area,"" W. Morgan Petty--a retired glove salesman residing at 3 Cherry Drive, Canterbury--decides to declare his house-and-garden a ""Nuclear Free Zone."" He so notifies Moscow. (""I have requested that Mr. Andropov pass this diagram on to whoever is responsible for destroying this part of Kent, asking them to be very careful to avoid us."") He also writes to Mrs. Thatcher, letting her know that he and part-time gardener Roger will henceforth be taking responsibility for the defense of 3 Cherry Drive: they hope to buy a Challenger tank with proceeds from a Bring and Buy sale; Roger comes up with a plan to convert Morgan Petty's microwave oven into a missile deflector. And so it goes in this dry, droll-to-silly spoof--consisting of Morgan Petty's diary entries and his dotty correspondence with government bureaucrats, military advisers, and miscellaneous others. (Morgan Petty asks Sir Michael Tippett to compose a 3 Cherry Drive battle song; he writes for spiritual guidance to the hawkish Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Bruno Helm; etc.) Some of this is fetchingly daffy in the Mouse that Roared tradition. Some of the deadpan responses to Petty's bizarre inquiries provide layers of sneaky satire. There's a bit of conventional British comedy, too, in Morgan Petty's recurring references to Roger's private life--which involves two petulant suitors (one a shrill feminist, the other a homosexual pal from the camera club). But most American readers will probably find this a rather thin, somewhat strained one-joke fancy--especially since quite a few of the laughs depend on allusions to UK celebrities (many virtually unknown here), UK television, O-levels, Tombolas, and other untranslatables.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1985
Publisher: Pantheon