FORTUNE’S BASTARD by Robert Chalmers


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A newspaper editor loathed by most people in the civilized world gets his comeuppance.

Second-novelist Chalmers (Who’s Who in Hell, 2002) isn’t so much interested this time around with the ink-stained wretches of Fleet Street but instead starts at the top—before taking a nosedive into the real world. Edward Miller runs a London tabloid of the sort owned by Rupert Murdoch, a paper regularly taking swipes at immigrants and gays when not providing salacious details about celebrities and politicians. A self-satisfied fat cat, penny-pinching hypocrite, and serial philanderer, Ed starts off a workday—his wedding anniversary, actually—with a quickie in the office storeroom, and things go quickly downhill from there. By the next morning, Ed will be alone in his house (his wife off shagging the next-door neighbor), dressed only in a urine-soaked towel, doing lines of cocaine while an inquisitive reporter from a rival—liberal—paper asks him about his racial attitudes and why he spray-painted “WANNKER” [sic] on his neighbor’s car. With the press, police, and lawyers closing in, Ed shaves his head and, on the advice of an old schoolmate (who oddly doesn’t hate him), jets off to Barcelona to work as an instructor for an ESL school that regularly hires educated drifters, no questions asked. For a time, Chalmers seems to have tapped into a real goldmine with his cast of disaffected expats, all on the run from something they’d rather not talk about and slowly bonding with this odd newcomer, who looks nothing like the incriminating photos still splashed all over the papers. But author Chalmers, perhaps not realizing what a good thing he has going and wishing to punish Ed further, sends him on the run again, straight into a rather painful subplot at a Florida freakshow. Things wrap up quite nicely, even if the final fourth is a bit of a waste.

Wry and pitch-black send-up of media hubris.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8021-4160-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2004