McCabe (Snakeskin, 2003, etc.) takes us on a comic romp through a latter-day Brigadoon: a pleasant little English village—seemingly bypassed by the modern age—that is ruined by the advent of advertising.
Taunsley is a Miss Marple-ish kind of place in which you never expect anything important to happen and are invariably surprised. Presided over for many years by a benevolent but intensely old-fashioned Lord Mayor, the village has never permitted public display of advertising in any form; the result has been to keep Taunsley in a kind of time warp, charming to the few outsiders who stumble on it but intensely suffocating to the local businessmen. So when the mayor dies and the restriction is lifted, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly a boomtown for admen, Taunsley now attracts Londoners like Tim Power, a marketing/advertising hotshot who leaves the big city in hopes of striking it rich. But that will take some doing. The good burghers, being unused to advertising, all end up asking Tim for the same slogan (“Simply the Best”) in their campaigns. Then Tim is approached by the head of a local pork-pie factory for help in countering the nasty rumors that have begun to spread about the ingredients used in his pies. No one really wants to know what goes into pork pies, of course, but the rumors have begun to affect sales. Is this just corporate dirty fighting? Or is there a Sweeney Todd angle to the story? A has-been journalist, an incompetent hoodlum, an exhibitionistic security guard, and an anal-retentive “Time and Motion expert” eventually solve the mystery, much to their own surprise. But life in Taunsley will never return to normal—since it was pretty weird to begin with.
Hilarious, razor-sharp, and surprisingly good-natured: Herding Cats promises to be one of the funniest books of the decade.