Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
This is a weird book. And a somewhat wonderful one, too, as it happens.
Starting with the cover art of a fully dolled up blonde dame dabbing a wounded
prone man. This would suggest content that is a pulpy, borderline trashy 1950s
throwback to make a modern-day feminist cringe.
But no, The
Fat of Fed Beasts is very much of 2015, covering themes such as
economic uncertainty, police corruption, using plot devices such as CCTV and
mobile phones and featuring a major female character happily married to a
The narrative structure takes some
getting used to. The story is told from multiple first-person points of view.
Three narrators are brother and sister Rada and Dimitry and perennial third
wheel Alex. The trio all work for the Orwellian sounding Office of Assessment.
There is yet a fourth “I” narrator, whose identity doesn’t become clear until
the end and this person is a really corrupt police officer of the Joseph
Wambaugh strand of corrupt coppers.
The cop shop and the assessment office
converge during a bank robbery staged in fact by dishonest disgruntled police
officers. Their disgruntlement stems from a reorganization of the police force
structure that has forced some of their number into desk-bound roles so dreary
they call themselves The Losers.
The bank heist and its aftermath are the
main plot drivers to this short Slim in
volume (133 pages), Fed Beasts is opulent in its use
of language and linguistic tricks to make the ultimately depressing tale of
people who could have been and done so much more zip along. Scenes full of
sparky repartee speak bookloads about the characters. One such setpiece towards
the end set in a groady pub, the cousin of which most readers will have visited
once but not twice, consists almost solely of dialogue and drinks and it beautifully sheds light on the characters’
motivations and the backgrounds to their actions.
Then there are laugh-out-loud chunks of
prose on such banal topics as breakfast cereal (if you have breakfast with
Ware, don’t offer him muesli). Often without paragraph breaks, these bits
enhance rather than break up the fast-moving story of the bank hold-up and the
ensuing deaths, confessions and recriminations.
This is very much of a blokey tale, but
the women characters are rounded and complex and flawed in all the right ways.
Rada, in particular, is cliché-free and believable. Many of the male characters
have single names – Lopez, Likker and I got a little lost in the forest of
peppy names. But that is a minor quibble. This is a book that tackles head on
individuals struggle to retain some decency and pride in a world in which
occupational titles and occupations themselves so easily become devoid of
meaning or substance. Well-structured satire with very funny elements, the book
never loses sight of the tragedy inherent in hierarchies more interested in the
hierarchy itself than the people working within it.
About halfway through the book, Ware
sheds light on the mysterious title. The fed beasts are from the Book of Isiah,
one of those bloodthirsty sections about offerings and livestock slaughter and
so on. But Ware’s disdain for the corporate world’s overfed beasts is apparent
but rendered with enough empathy and humour that it does not overbear this