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Dead Famous - Ben Elton

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  • Cynicism and ridicule are over the top
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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      08.11.2011 22:14
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      Not one of Ben's best

      Whilst clearing out my mother's garage recently I came across a large collection of books and not one to pass up a free book I had a good old rummage. To my surprise I found quite a few titles I hadn't read and these included Ben Elton's Dead Famous. I have read a few of Ben Elton's books and have usually quite enjoyed them and although I wasn't sure if I had read this one I decided to give it a go anyway. I had a quick read of the blurb on the back and after getting down to the dregs of my stash I decided to give this book a read and see how I got on with it. The story is based around a 'Big Brother' style television programme the housemates inside the house the production team and a small police department. The book starts with a murder and the rest of the book unravels the murder that was seen by millions but with no clue as to whodunit! The book is based around quite a small collection of characters which I liked because it meant that there were fewer details to remember as I do tend to get lost if there are too many characters. There are the characters inside the house and these are made up of the usual fame hungry wannabes. There is a nice mix of male and female housemates and I felt that Ben managed to capture their characters well despite being a male writer. One of these housemates is obviously the victim while the others become the obvious suspects as they are all locked inside a house with cameras trained on their every move. Other characters include production staff and camera operatives and their unsavoury habits. Finally there is the team of investigating officers and their endeavours to reveal the murderer. I usually read a few pages and see how I feel before I decide if I want to carry on with the book as I can usually tell by then if it is worth me carrying on. Unfortunately with this book I did find that it was like a horror film in that I didn't want to watch but wanted to know what happened. I felt quite disturbed by the subject matter but could not bring myself to stop reading. I usually read at night which means I don't get very far as I am too tired so I didn't devour the book in a couple of sittings. There were two aspects to the book that I found unsavoury the first was the murder and the ensuing investigation and plot twists. I don't like horror films and don't watch them and this was like that waiting for the next bit to jump up and scare you. The second thing I didn't like was the suggestion that these types of television programmes are rigged. Don't get me wrong I am not naive enough to think that things aren't shown in a certain way to boost ratings but to think that is it done with total disregard to the participants is something that upsets me. I don't watch this type of programme because I don't like the types of contestants they seem to attract and because I don't want to watch some stranger scratching their bits and making tea. I did manage to read the entire book and I can say that it hasn't been instantly forgotten like some books I have read but I remember it more for its unsavoury nature than any enjoyment I gained from it. I found the characters uninteresting and one dimensional and didn't form any real affection for any of them. I am not sure why I kept reading but I did and I really can't find anything nice to say about the book and it wasn't even particularly funny like you might expect. I also found that it was difficult to keep track of the story in places because you jumped from day twenty seven to day fourteen and then back to day twenty eight with each day ebing a different chapter. Not one of Ben's best in my opinion. Currently available (Nov 2011) on www.amazon.co.uk for £4.50 with free postage.

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        17.06.2010 19:15
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        Far more interesting than Big Brother. And there is a murder!!

        Little did I know about Ben Elton's witty visions of the modern society when I bought Dead Famous at a bargain price at WHSmith a few years ago; and little did I care about Big Brother at that time. I had watched the first seasons for pure curiosity, as most everyone, but by then the show had lost all the interest that it could ever have had. A bunch of stereotypical characters with enormous egos, loud and shallow, expecting to make a living out of their 5 minutes of fame on the telly, despite the psychological interest effect that might have had, was not attractive anymore. It had became a pure freak-show with such eccentric characters that could barely be believed as real! So the fictional world does suit them in perfection; on the other hand, without the Big Brother background, these fictional characters would seem very little credible. Dead Famous - or should I say, House Arrest - is far more enjoyable than Big Brother. All the recognisable recurring characters are sarcastically represented and their weaknesses and unrealistic expectations related to their brief moment of "fame" are exploited at all length. There's the dumb blonde, the desperate unemployed actor, the muscled lorry driver, the lap dancer, the anarchist... and there is a murder. The reader joins the police investigators that are forced to watch all the tapes with the episodes of House Arrest since the season started being broadcasted, in the search for clues that might help them in the investigation. Therefore, more than a sarcastic view on modern reality shows, Dead Famous is also a pleasant whodunit mystery novel, a real page turner that will keep the reader amused and eager to know who actually did it.

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          06.06.2010 21:03
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          Quite enjoyable!

          Dead Famous is a parody of Big Brother written by Ben Elton. On paper I shouldn't have enjoyed this book. I cannot understand the Big Brother phenomena that grips the nation and consider the whole thing a waste of time. I'm still unsure what attracted me to it when I saw it on the library shelf. But pick it up and read it I did so here's what I thought. The Plot Ten contestants are competing in a reality tv show called House Arrest. This is based on the Big Brother format in which they are watched 24 hours a day by 30 cameras located all over the house. The contestants, as always, have been chosen from different walks of life, with very different views and personalities, which directors hope will cause friction and provide good entertainment value. Who will crack first? Who will kiss first - and will it go further? On day 27, with ratings not doing particularly well, one of the contestants is murdered. How then, with 30 cameras recording their every move, did the murderer manage to do this? As Inspector Coleridge and his team investigate, watching hours of tapes, the world becomes gripped in 'House Arrest' fever, with the company Peeping Tom Productions raking in billions of dollars a day. However things soon take a more serious turn as the murderer threatens to strike again and it soon becomes a race against time to solve the case. My Opinion As I said above, this is a book I shouldn't have enjoyed, but in fact I really enjoyed this. I thought the story was fast-paced, witty and highly entertaining. It was quite funny in parts too, not laugh out loud funny - more of a brief chuckle funny and in my opinion could have been funnier. What I thought was quite clever about the book was that we were told from the onset that a murder had been committed yet we're not only kept guessing about the identity of the murderer but more unusually also the identity of the victim, which isn't revealed until 2/3 of the way through the book! By this time the investigation is well underway and several times through the book I thought I'd cracked who'd done it (and who the victim was) only for new evidence to be revealed in the next few pages to quash my theory! In this sense the story was thoroughly gripping and I found I couldn't put the book down. My favourite character was Inspector Colderidge, a 50-something inspector, who seems to still live in the 1950's. This whole investigation is a huge eye-opener for him as he has to quickly learn about lesbianism, body piercings and the lengths people will go to, to get their 10 minutes of fame. I found it quite easy to relate to him and I felt quite endeared to him as if he was an old aunt or grandparent! This was the first book I'd read by Ben Elton and when I returned this to the library yesterday I promptly checked out another one of his books in the hope that I would enjoy it as much as I did this one.

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          23.12.2009 23:10

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          sums up the noughties

          considering when it was written this book sums up the noughties and our obsession with reality tv just by reading the bibliography i suppose you could say haha. i guess the book can be summed up as a popular dummed down sherlockesque mystery thriller, with the detective putting together the clues to find out who did the murder in the big brother house. the chronology of the story is all jumbled up going from the past to present and i initally failed to pick up how it was the present with the detectives watching the videos of the tv show that was obviously the past (sorry if that is now more confusing lol~). in a way the first half of the book allows you to catch up to where the detectives are at and the second half is the solving mystery itself. as with all Ben Elton books the protagonist is inquisitive and very philosophical i suppose you could say always leaveing no rocked unturned. its an easy enjoyable read, not his best book but the themes used throughout the book are very good. i didn't think it was that predictable but then again it wasn't supposed to be a brain teaser. another one of his good books is Blind Faith. now thats a good book :D

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          23.12.2009 14:00
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          I probably wouldn't bother!

          amazon Dead Famous - Ben Elton Description: Author: Ben Elton / Genre: Humour / A stunning satire on the modern obsession with celebrity from the bestselling author of Popcorn and Inconceivable. This book by Ben Elton is a number one best seller, so I had quite high hopes for it. It is basically a mock of the Big Brother reality television series but in this instance, one of the contestants has been murdered. The murder has been carried out in the house, where all that happens is seemingly recorded, yet there is still no clue as to who the actual assassin was. I will not explain any more about the plot because I dislike reading a book once I have already read in a review what happens! I will say that I was a little disappointed with the book though. The book seems to try a bit too hard for laughs and shocks. Bad language and unbelievably outrageous scenes are aplenty, but for me, instead of making the book gripping, I was left thinking "Oh come on!". I really enjoyed the previous novels from Ben Elton but there was something about this book that left me unconvinced. It seems somewhat of a desperate attempt to cash in on the Big Brother fever which swept the nation (not including myself I might add, I hated it) and lacks any real credibility. The ending does not come as too much of a surprise and by the time I reached it, I was bored with all of the characters. Yes, they are written in such a a way as to purposely be over the top, but in my opinion, it was too much and they could all have done with being a little more subtle. If you have this book or are given it then by all means read it and see what you think, but I wouldn't recommend that you rush out and buy it, there are so many better options on the shelves. Not the best from Ben Elton, must try harder!

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            25.10.2009 02:52
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            A parody of Big brother that ultimately falls flat with little humour

            The story is a parody of Big Brother. Twelve contestants enter a house and are cut off from society. Each week someone is voted out based on the number of votes they receive from their fellow contestants and the general public. In Dead Famous, all goes according to plan until a disguised contestant murders another one. Panic ensues as the contestants and public speculate who the killer is. Chief Inspector Coleridge and his colleagues, Sergeant Hooper and Constable Patricia, are sent in to solve the case before every suspect is voted out. The humour was lacking. I chuckled from time to time, but mostly I just read to finish the book. Elton's Chart Throb, a parody of The X Factor, grabbed my attention and held on for an entire week until the story was over. Dead Famous took me a year to finish because I lost interest. Every time Elton hints at a suspect he ruins the story more because now you know it's definitely not that suspect, or the killer would be too obvious. When someone highly suspect comes along, the inspector just knows that he/she didn't do the crime. How? He even gives up on a suspect because the circumstantial evidence would have the case thrown out of court. I know it is just a book, but a murder suspect jumping bail should warrant more attention and resources. Then every lead is a dead end, but miraculously it all comes together in the final two or three chapters. Like with Elton's book Chart Throb, the ending was lackluster, because I guessed the murderer before the inspector did. The build up to the murderer's identity was a nice quick pace, but when the inspector reveals how he nabbed the killer, the standard dropped. He looks like an amateur when he reveals how the clues had stumped him, and admits that he made a dreadful mistake when assessing the suspects. If you want a good laugh, I would look elsewhere. The idea of this novel is brilliant because the murderer in an air tight house should be clear, yet the killer alludes the police force. However, it soon becomes clear that the inspector is too busy dreaming of plays instead of focusing on solving the case. His co-workers are forgettable, and seem to do all the work only for him to get the credit at the end.

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            12.06.2009 23:02
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            If you like Ben Elton, you'll like this...

            My third experience with Ben Elton's novels...and the choice of satirical spin this time, Big Brother. Again, it's a fairly fast paced book, easy to read in a day or too, and gives you a little something to think about, and a bit of a laugh at the same time. The idea of there being cameras and microphones everywhere, recording everything, and yet no evidence in a murder, struck me as intriguing...and I do like a bit of conspiracy! I find it amusing and shocking, that as a nation overall, and indeed probably a world, we can watch these programmes as if they are fact, laugh at the deception of housemates as if we are in on a little secret as to what will happen to them next, that we have total control...and yet, we never stop to think about how controlled we might be by the production team...could they really be calling our bluff whilst convincing us that we are calling the housemates?! Again, the plot is predictable, but that almost adds to Elton's charm for me...he's writing about things I am familiar with the subject matter of, the public's divided opinions of, and he's playing off of and developing thoughts that have crossed my mind, and taking them to a new extreme... Fans of Big Brother will enjoy the spin, those that can't stand Big Brother will probably enjoy the amusement of ripping it to shreds!

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            04.06.2009 23:05

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            Ben Elton creates this amazing Big Brother atmosphere where a contestant is murdered. Amazing.

            Ben Elton is a sensational author and he really does not disappoint at all in this book. This was the first Ben Elton book i'd read but since then have only been able to search for his other ones. The book is basically a murder mystery based on a plot from the Big Brother house but is actually genius because the reader does not find out who even has been killed until 2/3's of the way through and the murderer, of course, even further into it than that. The book keeps you in suspense and laughing the whole way through. The characters are well developed; so much so that you really imagine these contestants on the actual show. It was amazing how much Elton had got these characters SO right and, of course, there are very well thought out red herrings. I seriously reccommend this read for anyone who is faintly interested in Big Brother and anyone who is a fan of Ben Elton. So far, this is my favourite book of his.

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            12.12.2008 22:26
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            Great book and well written!

            I usually love Ben Elton books and this one was no exception! The book is basically a modern day 'who-dunnit?'. It is set in the Big Brother House where one of the housemates gets murdered and the plot revolves around 2 policemen figuring out how it happened especially as the cameras were on the housemates at all times, in true Big Brother style the show keeps going throughout the investigation! It is well written and incredibly funny. The book keeps you guessing the whole way through, and I won't give away the ending but it wasn't what I was expecting at all! It also takes a rather depressing look at people's desire to be famous, the producers desperation to keep ratings up and the whole Big Brother experience. I can't think of any negatives, unless of course this isn't your style of writing or you just find the whole thing too true and too depressing!

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              24.07.2008 20:54
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              Great read

              If you are a fan of Big Brother or you hate it then either way this book will probably appeal to you as it is a very funny satire of the whole reality TV genre and Big Brother in particular. The third series of reality show House Arrest has been running for about three weeks and it has so far been the typical fayre of manipulation of the contestants by the production company called Peeping Tom and the fact that each of the contestants is a desperate wannabee however the ratings of the game show are about to hit the highest levels when during a task one of the contestants is murdered in front of a live TV audience, or at least those watching the live feed on the internet. Inspector Coleridge is called in to investigate, a man who hates all things modern and this investigation is his own form of personal hell as he is forced to watch all of the old episodes of the show to try and get clues over who did it. This is certainly a biting satire and a very funny read, Ben lton is a very good comedy writer and having a go at reality TV may be an easy target but he develops a really good who dunnitwith lots of potential suspects.

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                02.05.2008 15:09
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                Entertaining book.

                Ben Elton often bases his books and the characters in them on current themes of popular culture and those celebrities and famous people who feature in them. This book is a satire on the culture of reality TV and in particular Big Brother. In this book you know that someone has been murdered in the Big Brother house but for half the book you actually do not know who it is as each of he house mates are featured, this is because the action begins with the investigating officers who are watching film from the early episodes before the murder actualy takes place. After the identity is revealed then it becomes a straigh who dunnit. At the same tme you are bought up to date as the show must go on and the remaining contestants who are also the suspects are still competing for the public affections, trying to work out just how much they will earn with little worry over the fact that one of them could be a killer. Inspector Coleridge is the man charged with investigaing the murder which brings him into the unwelcome gaze of the publicity machine surrounding the show and also added pressure to solve the mystery as although the murder is captured on camera the identity of the killer is not. Most of the characters are pretty basic with a female version of Simon Cowell heading the show and most of the house residents are recognisable as a pastiche of actual Big Brother contestants. This book is an amusing biting satire on the whole reality TV thing and it was an enjoyable read. It is fast paced and Elton is a skilled writer who really does comedy well. I have read a couple of books before and they are quite hard to put down and this one is no different as it is amusing and you really do want to know who is behind the killing while also hoping they will kill the rest of the house mates as well.

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                  15.09.2006 22:21
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                  Ben Eltons look at reality TV

                  Dead Famous is the No 1 best seller from Ben Elton who has a number of books to his name as well as numerous tv credits including The Thin Blue Line, Blackadder and The Young Ones. Published in 2001 amidst Big Brother fever, Dead Famous is a murder mystery with a twist. How can someone be murdered in a house full of cameras and microphones and where nobody can get in and out without being seen?? I have recently finished reading the book for the second time and loved it all over agin for its cynical but in my opinion quite truthful look at the British public's obsession with reality TV and five minute's of fame. I am not a huge fan of reality TV and so found this book hilarious as a send up of all reality TV programmes, particularly Big Brother. The Plot: Dead Famous follows ten contestants in House Arrest - basically a Big Brother set up where "ordinary" people are sent to live together in a house for 10 weeks while the nation watches their every move via live television. However....someone gets murdered and it is up to Inspector Coleridge (puts me a little in mind of Inspector Morse mixed with traits of the Thin Blue Line characters) to solve the murder. You would think this would be easy - just a case of reviewing the tapes - but no, the twists and turns that follow make this a compelling read - Made more compelling by the fact that it takes until nearly halfway through the book to discover who was actually murdered!! The book flits back and forth between Inspector Coleridge's Investigation after the murder and the build up to it through scenes from the house. The Chapters are not marked 1, 2, 3 etc but Day 28, Day 29 etc etc so you can begin to see how close you are getting to the actual murder. The outcome of the book is certainly worth waiting for and I am not about to give it away so if you are intrigued but what you have read so far go out and get a copy!! For those of you not familiar with Ben Elton, the book is full of dry, observational humour but with a certain level of irony typical of Ben Elton's perspective on life. It is an extremely funny read, particularly if you love (or loath) the whole Big Brother phenominum. I really enjoyed this book as it was full of suspense but very tongue in cheek. The characters (both the contestents and those outside of the house) are well developed through the book and really add to the humour of the story as they do tend to be somewhat extreme and are all searching for their own piece of fame and fortune - event the most unlikely ones. I would certainly recommend this as a great read.

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                    15.04.2006 12:18
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                    Funny who dunnit

                    It would be an understatement to say that this is a send up of Big Brother and the rest of the reality TV phenomena. The one big difference between this book and the real thing though is the fact that this is compulsive reading whilst I would hardly describe Big Brother as compulsive viewing. Ever since I saw Ben Elton perform live in Birmingham during my student days I have been a bit of a fan even if some of has recent material has seemed a bit jaded there can be little argument that he is not a talented comedy writer with a string of credits both in the world of TV, theatre and fiction writing. The Plot The clever part of this book is that it is not only a murder mystery in that you want to know who did it and how but also for the first half of the book you want to know actually who has been murdered. At the start of the book you are introduced to the ten contestants in House Arrest and also Inspector Coleridge the man charged with discovering who the killer is. The story is then told as he and his team sit through hours of video tape provided by the TV company which was used to put together the evening highlights programme, the problem is that Coleridge is pretty much only getting to see what was left a being air worthy as the rest of the footage gets deleted and he soon learns that what happens in the house and what the public actually gets to see are two very different things. The Characters In this book Elton has not strayed very far from all of the stereotypes that you would expect to find in such a novel. Inspector Coleridge is a cross between Morse and Frost, a man who views such programme with distaste, an old time policeman struggling to understand the concept of people desperate for fame and prepared to do anything to get it however at the same time it is revealed that he is an active player in his local amateur dramatic society and desperate to land lead role for himself. All of the characters in the house are as odious as those you find in Big Brother each year, the only difference is that this lot have all been honest about their aspiration to make it in show business and cash in on the 15 minutes of fame. There is the white van man, the token lesbian, the arrogant hate figure, innocent Essex girl, the anarchist etc etc I could go on. Heading up the programme is another stereotype with a Simon Callow on steroids female producer called Geraldine Hennessy who is probably the most colorful character in the book and has some of the best lines as she seeks to manipulate the whole programme to maximize her revenue and to take advantage of the fact that there has been a murder in the house. The Opinion As I mentioned earlier this is a clever book as for the first half of it you are trying to work out who actually gets killed whilst all the time the police are trying to work out how, who and why. For the second half of the book you get to join them in that quest however one disappointment is that for the last quarter of the book that did not take me with it as I had already sussed it out as it does become a bit obvious. Elton has been extremely clever at recreating the voyeuristic experience of Big Brother into the pages of a book. It soon becomes apparent that the reality of ten strangers entering the house is not all that it seems with at least one knowing one of their fellow contestants and most of them having some secret to hide from the outside world, all of this becomes apparent within the few couple of chapters so it is not as if I’m giving away any plot twists. In my opinion this is the perfect book to take away on holiday as it is just addictive enough to hold your attention on the plane or on the beech. The front page has a brief couple of lines describing each of the House Arrest contestants and the fact that the format of House Arrest is identical to Big Brother with tasks, nominations, evictions and twenty four hour constant surveillance and monitoring. I did find myself having to constantly go back to the front page to remind myself exactly which of the contestant was who in the first few chapters of the book and having that summary was quite useful otherwise the large number of characters introduced at the start of the book would have made if difficult to follow. As a comment on the reality TV phenomena this book has very little new to say, you would not expect someone like Ben Elton to be a big fan and he does delight in portraying all of the characters in a negative light for the purposes of your entertainment, he also goes to great lengths to highlight that despite all of the surveillance cameras it is still the production company who decide what you the viewer see to the extent where the show is actually scripted and dialogue is edited to support that script. There are quite a few laughs in this book and the flow of the story is fast moving and quite addictive, it was a book that I really enjoyed and found very hard to put down and would have no hesitation in recommending. Published by Black Swan ISBN 0-552-99945-8, the rrp is £6.99 however it is available on Amazon for £5.99 or from a penny in the new and used category which is an absolute bargain. Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                      26.10.2005 19:51
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                      An easy read...but sometimes very annoying.

                      I really disliked this book...but yet I found myself devouring each and every page. There is something so strangely compulsive about it that I just had to keep reading, and at such a rapid pace that I got from cover to cover in just over a day! A friend had recommended and lent the book to me but after discovering the subject matter I was originally very reluctant to even bother with it. I was keen to sample my first Ben Elton novel though and this was the factor that persuaded me to persevere and turn the first page. So, why was I put off by the content? Two very simple words....Reality TV. Or Big Brother to be even more precise. I’m not a fan of watching this voyeuristic form of television ‘entertainment’ so I certainly wasn’t enamoured at the prospect of reading about it either. And the concept behind ‘Dead Famous’ is basically just that: ‘One house, ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, one murder....and no evidence’ Anybody who shares similar views to me regarding the nations current reality TV obsession will no doubt groan at the basic plot outline. ‘House Arrest’ is the name of the popular TV show in question and it is quite obviously based on Big Brother. Broadcast by Peeping Tom Productions, the programme takes 10 housemates and locks them in a specially designed property, completely isolated from the outside world. Monitored and scrutinised for a period of 9 weeks, each desperate individual has just one ultimate goal...to be the last remaining and win the £500,000 prize. I know what you’re thinking! Sounds like a gross rip-off of Big Brother doesn’t it? Anyone who has watched any of the early series of Big Brother will definitely recognise traits and similarities from several previous contestants and clearly see the inspiration behind Elton’s writing. But believe me though, it’s not as bad as it seems. The reader is immediately catapulted into the action. Although the Peeping Tom house is full of cameras that are constantly recording and even broadcasting live on the internet, a murder has been committed on day 27 of the show. But how could the culprit possibly go unrecognised? Surely it’s impossible to get away with murder in the midst of this kind of environment....or is it? After the tragic event an investigation inevitably ensues and Chief Inspector Coleridge and his team are called in to take charge of the situation. And what better way to begin than returning to day one and looking back over the previous months scintillating recordings. At this point the identity of the victim hasn’t even been revealed. In fact, it doesn’t become clear until approximately half way through the book. So aswell as trying to decide who-dunnit, you’re also left wondering who-they-dunnit-to! The reader gets caught up in the flow and urgency of the investigation, jumping frequently from past to present as the narrative alternates between the contestants and the police. Events are therefore presented out of chronological order but in a way in which it is easy to follow with each section titled with day and time. Interest is successfully sustained as various pieces of new information are introduced, including lots of red herrings and hidden closet skeletons to add elements of confusion and doubt to the tale - just like a typical detective story! The clever format means that while Inspector Coleridge is scouring the shows footage, the reader is doing the same alongside him, sharing involvement and desperately trying to pick up any clues that may have been given during the run up to the unfortunate event. This encourages analysis of each and every housemate as you learn about their particular characters, their original motivation for being on the show, their relationships with each other and the natural rivalry that begins to occur. Studying their sometimes degrading interactions and the general house activities (or should I say, inactivities!) detects any possible motives for murder and more importantly, each contestants potential to kill or be killed. This study could make for terrific reading but I found it to be quite transparent and somewhat weak. This is due to the under development of the characters, particularly the housemates. Elton is writing about todays society and the constant need to achieve fame, even if it is ‘manufactured’. The result being a group of mindless, self absorbed, vain people who come across as boring and vacuous. You certainly wouldn’t want to be cooped up with them for a long period of time! There just doesn’t seem to be any emotion or feeling to their characters....which I understand has probably been done on purpose to reflect the self obsessed nature of their personalities. But this doesn’t do anything to help the dialogue of the book. Initially, the contestants in the house are quite comical, if a little over the top. It soon becomes irritatingly repetitive though with the over use of annoying ‘yoof’ lingo which consists of limited vocabulary that is littered with expletives and even seems quite patronising at times. It’s all just a bit too flat with not enough variety to the chosen housemates. Again, it acts as emphasis to the ‘shallow wanabee’ caricature portrayal but in reality I think there would be a much wider selection of people with a couple of distinct or bizarre mentalities thrown into the mix. In ‘Dead Famous’ their backgrounds are different but they all sound the same! Inspector Coleridge is a welcome contrast to the show participants as he is a middle aged policeman with old fashioned views and beliefs. He has little understanding of the appeal of the show and acts as the perfect voice through which Elton bluntly expresses his own harsh views and opinions, particularly regarding the morality behind the show and the selfish greed associated with the TV producers who are only interested in boosting ratings. Perceptive, wry observations are made throughout, chiding the naively manipulated contestants desire for fame...whilst being brutally honest and acknowledging that no one is completely immune to it’s allure. A touch of irony is introduced when the reader learns that despite his attitude, Coleridge has aspirations to be a successful classical actor, therefore does indeed want his own slice of the fame game! The conclusion sees Coleridge utilise his drama skills to create a rather cliched finale. Gathering everyone together (including a live TV audience) he exposes the suspects until the pressure becomes unbearable and the culprit breaks down. A typical Poirot scenario! And was the identity of the murderer predictable? Well there are mixed views on this. I know many people say the storyline is so paper thin that they sussed it out straight away but I can honestly say that I had a couple of possible perpetrators in mind until the dramatic revelation at the end. In that respect Elton has done a good job of making virtually everyone seem capable of murder, keeping the reader guessing throughout. So as you can tell, I was fairly disappointed by certain elements of the book but despite cringing virtually every time one of the contestants spoke, I amazingly continued to plough through the pages. The idea of using Big Brother as a topical structure for a book and combining it with a murder mystery is certainly an interesting formula but I feel that the outcome could have been so much more improved. Would the novel have been so successful if the author was somebody a little less well known? The fact that it can be read so quickly gives the unfortunate impression that it was written in the same manner. Although the novel has its flaws, Elton has still somehow succeeded in writing a fairly humorous book which keeps you on the edge of your seat feeling like you just have to find out how the story will evolve. A bit like Big Brother I suppose...tedious but easily addictive if you let it draw you in. Strange when you consider that the purpose behind Elton’s satirical book is to question how watching a group of fame seekers and the inanities surrounding them can possibly be interesting, and why today’s culture finds it so utterly absorbing. The whole scenario is actually quite ridiculous but yet frightening at the same time. Surely this couldn’t happen in ‘real life’....but what if? Watching reality TV will never be the same again! Published by: Black Swan Pages: 382 Cover price: £6.99 ISBN: 0-552-99945-8

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                        28.08.2005 10:59
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                        A novel approach in a subdued, formulaic genre.

                        Nominations, eviction, nomination, murder. This is the shocking chain of events that makes this series of "House Arrest" the most lucrative and popular yet. Much to Detective Inspector Coleridge's disgust the show goes on regardless and to make matters worse every one of the housemates has a motive. But first the Detective must figure out how somebody can murder someone in the full view of millions and yet leave no trace of their crime? "Dead Famous" by Ben Elton is a strange hybrid of a book. Elton incorporates elements of thriller, drama and humour into his parallel world of reality television. Obviously drawing on the many series of Big Brother as his inspiration, Elton creates the ultimate in reality television shows in the form of "House Arrest". With a full complement of housemates from the anarchist to the token lesbian what Elton has created is a scathing attack on the reality TV phenomenon in the form of a traditional whodunit. Those familiar with the characters and concepts of Big Brother and other reality tv shows will most appreciate Elton's attack on the vanity, shallowness and desperation of the housemates. He brutally dismantles these characters from start to finish showing us as readers the price of manufactured fame and the true cost of being "Dead Famous". Perhaps most disturbingly the characters and situations that he obviously created as extremes of the reality TV genre have actually been surpassed in many cases by the real Big Brother and its many competitors. Elton does show some sympathy for the housemates he has created but pulls no such for the TV executives and corporate types in his novel. I had presumed the left wing anarchist who I remember from 1980's stand-up had all but disappeared in a wash of new labour but this novel would suggest otherwise. Ironic considering Elton has amassed a fortune from his relationship with the BBC and TV productions such as "The Young Ones" or "The Thin Blue Line". Nonetheless, putting my cynicism aside Elton writes a convincing thriller with some surprising twists. His lambasting of the greed and corruption of television lends it to hilarious over the top characterisations. The isolation of the "House Arrest" environment also gives the novel a situation comedy style which sits well alongside Elton's brash, vulgar style of writing. This is in no way criticism either as there is much to like about "Dead Famous". In a thriller genre which relies on elaborate prose, complex dialogue and difficult to fathom multiple plot lines it is refreshing to read a thriller with pace and yes, even humour that does not require a degree in criminology to understand. Once again I cannot help but feel a sense of unwitting irony on Elton's part in that his novel is such pure escapism and out and out entertainment which is just the thing he is trying to mock. Perhaps, I underestimate his standard of writing and this is intentional but I remain unsure. All in all this a thoroughly enjoyable novel providing you can suspend your disbelief at Elton's dubious double standards. If you can this is 384 pages of reality TV at its best. Cheapest price: £5.49 in paperback with delivery at Play.com ISBN: 0552999458 Publisher: Transworld

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                        A stunning satire on the modern obsession with celebrity from the bestselling author of Popcorn and Inconceivable.