The Fat of Fed Beasts

Written by Guy Ware

Review written by Judith Sullivan

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.


The Fat of Fed Beasts
Salt
RRP: £8.99
Released: March 3, 2015
Pbk

 

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 house-husband.

 

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 delightful book.

 

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