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High Society - Ben Elton

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Author: Ben Elton

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      24.11.2009 23:01
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      Good piece of fiction

      Ben Elton books are easy to read and very funny and hs satires always target current affairs of TV shows well in this story it is the whole debate over the legalisation of drugs that comes under his gaze.

      The story unfolds through the lives of a series of characters who despite coming from very different backgrounds are all linked through their experiences of drugs. The forst character is rock star Tommy Hanson who is at an AA meeting after a recent meltdown at the Brits, a sort of Robbie William character with an appetite for self destruction. The other main character is an MP called Peter Paget who has a private members bill going through parliament that would legalise drugs. Other characters include a young girl in prison in Thailand for smuggling and a young runaway forced into prostitution to support her habit.

      This is a fast paced story that is well constructed and despite the rather horrifyingsubject matter it does manage to have its lighter moments although lighter is probably the wrong word as the humouris actually quite dark in style. Usually it is biting satire that punctuates his stories however this book has a rather more resigned air to it as it explores the hypocracy that surrounds the drugs business and culture.

      I found this to be a har book to out down as the story really does suck you in, this is helped bythe writing style that flits from character to charater with their story being told in their own words often going back in time to fill in some of the gaps and show the loinks with the other characters even if they never actually meet up.

      Fourstars from me as it is a good read and one that I enjoyed a lot.

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        04.06.2009 23:32
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        High Society: a different tack on helping not punishing the victims of drug abuse

        Ben Elton is a spectacular writer, as i've already said when reviewing Dead Famous. i really envy his way of thinking: it is so individual and inspiring, and High Society does not disappoint AT all. This book in particular at the start, has a lot of different stories running through it that the reader knows are all connected but just can't seem to do it in their head at that time. The main character of the book is Peter Paget who is an unpopular and underestimated MP and has never before had his voice heard. Again, the characters in this book are so well developed, it's like you know these people by the end. And also, Elton's uncanny ability to just deliver a completely different view of things is exceptional. It changed my view of drug abuse and i'm sure it will do for you too! Peter Paget has the idea that legalizing drugs is the only way to maintain the country's poor condition. And, it is easy to see Elton's logic here. However, as always with Elton's books, not all goes to plan and there are a lot of twists and turns after every page. Once again, a true masterpiece.

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          05.01.2008 16:13
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          "The war on drugs has been lost. The simple fact is the whole world has become one criminal network.

          Ben Elton's High Society is a book based on a very interesting 'what if ...'

          I read the back and it had me...

          "High society is a story about Britain today, a criminal nation in which everybody is either breaking the law or knows people who do..."
          "The war on drugs has been lost. The simple fact is the whole world has become one criminal network."

          Two statements with which I agree with, though if you disagree or maybe just can't understand why an ever-growing mass of people are all for the legalisation of drugs, this novel will explain just what it's is all about in an easy-to read (...hard to put down) interesting way.
          The book tackles the subject of drug use throughout today's society using characters views from each end of the spectrum. It presents a realistic view of a world fighting a losing battle against growing drug use and shedding some light on the danger of the drug culture present across society.

          - And seeing as how it was only £3.73 (bargain) it came home with me..

          The story is centred around 5 different characters whose lives are in different ways heavily influenced by drugs.

          Peter Paget the backbench MP....
          A backbench politician - a small voice in the political world, this middle-class 'respectable' man is in total favour of legalisation of all drugs. He can see the ongoing war against drugs cannot be won, and believes that the way forward is to minimize harm.
          He believes the only way forward is to remove the criminal element and take control of drug distribution away from violent and dangerous 'dealers'.
          He is given the chance to present a Private Member's Bill, and while he is prepared to speak out and make people face the issue - despite the controversy and the the suicidal risk to his career - He isn't prepared for the response ,or the press probing into his private life.

          Commander Barry Leman...
          A policeman also in favour of legalisation. While investigating suspect goings-on within the police drug squad he witnesses officers on the front line facing a impossible task and succumbing to corruption.

          Tommy Hanson 'Pop idol'...
          We first find him at an 'AA' recovery meeting.
          The winner of a 'Pop Idol' type programme he became a star and lost touch with the reality of 'normal' day-to-day life and well - his life is a mess.
          He frequently takes drugs and it has become an normal accepted part of his everyday 'I'm-a-star' existence.

          Sonia the Brummie...
          She runs into a shady bloke while out clubbing and accepts a thousand pounds to act as a 'drug mule'. She longs for some excitement in her life and with the offer of a free holiday abroad in the sunshine plus £1000 makes it seem a worthwhile offer.

          Glasgow Jessie...
          17 years old and has become a heroin/crack-addicted prostitute (the main ' victim' of the story)
          She was sexually abused at home, and ran away to London. She soon found herself in the 'care' of a pimp who gives her heroin and crack untill she is hooked and sends her out to whore for money to feed her addiction.

          These are the main charaters though there are a couple of others like ten year old Billy-boy who finds his big sisters stash of 'E' not forgetting Jason and Natalie who are Heroin addicts but also parents to baby Ricky.
          All these people are linked together by one factor...drugs.
          Throughout the book these people are slowly brought together as their lives and stories mix to form a bigger picture.

          Made me think about that' 6-degrees of separation' theory about how there's only about 6 people between you and everyone else..you know like your friends-friends-friends..etc how when people meet it can start off a chain-reaction affecting many different peoples lives.

          The story gives you a structured collection of different perspectives tackling the debate on drugs, and I think the style in which it's written will appeal to a wide and varied audience. I really enjoyed it's straight-forward honest no-apologies style.
          Ben Elton has taken a much debated and ignored issue and managed to make some sense of it all, making the reader think and possibly re-evaluate their own opinions. Though it's an easy subject for pulling ti bits and poking fun at.

          Once I'd started reading it was very hard to stop and it didn't take me long to reach the end, and I wasn't disappointed though it does fall a bit into the 'happily ever after' category. It's definitely worth a read.

          What more can I say? A good book.
          I've read it much more than once...it's a good story that takes on issues that all to often are ignored and classed as something that happens to other people.

          My first 'Ben Elton experience' and I enjoyed it very much.

          Thanks for reading.

          Manda. :o)

          Can also find me and reviews on Ciao under same name.

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            08.06.2007 12:56
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            Good book looking at drug issues.

            Ben Elton has often used relatively easy soft targets for his biting black humour both in his live act and his comedy writing, past books have focused on the attention seeking reality TV of Big Brother or the excess of Hollywood and in High Society he takes on the challenge of the legalisation of drugs in the UK.

            The story itself is told through a series of characters all of who become linked at various times through the common interest of drugs and the impact they have had on their lives. The story opens with rock superstar Tommy Hanson explaining his recent antics at the Brit Awards to his fellow group members at an AA meeting, Hanson himself who shot to fame via a Pop Idol style show is a sort of composite of Liam Gallagher with his Manc rhetoric and Robbie Williams based upon his lifestyle and boy band credentials, in fact using characters that have a more than passing resemblance to those in real life is a feature of this book, in fact Elton covers this by mentioning the similarities himself. In Peter Paget the crusading MP whose Private Members Bill brings the issue of legalisation into the public domain you have a number of similarities to the disgraced former MP Jonathon Aitkin and Emily the posh IT girlfriend of Tommy could be anyone of the Tara Palmer long posh name bird or Kate Moss crowd. There are other characters featured, Jessie the teenage runaway who is hooked on heroin working for a pimp, Sonia who is in a Bangkok prison on drug smuggling charges and police Commander Lehman an out spoken supporter of Paget and intent on investigating police corruption.

            In typical Elton style this is a fast paced story and is certainly worth reading, the action flickers from character to character and while initially there is a retrospective style of story telling it soon leaps ahead of itself and then back again, one of the methods used to great effect by the author is to have sections where one of the characters particularly Jessie is telling her story to another character as an event happening in the past and then the story is progressed by actually filling in the blanks with actual sections of her actually living through the events, it is a clever style that helps keep the reader on their toes and introduces a nice touch of variety as you sort of know that a character reaches a certain point in the story but cannot be entirely sure how they got there without the bits of the puzzle being filled in.

            The humour in this book can be quite dark, in fact out of all of the books I have read by Elton I would say that this one has the least number of laughs within it, it has a grim story line and certainly does nothing to promote or glorify the taking of drugs instead focusing on the impact they have on peoples lives ad the way that even those with good intentions are influenced and corrupted by their effects.

            This was an easy book to pick up and a hard one to put down, small punchy chapters and the constant switching between characters helps maintain momentum and keeps pages turning. Some readers may find it difficult as the language switches to the regional accent of the story teller, not a problem for the middle England of Paget and Lehman but the Glasgow phrases of Jessie and Manc slang of Tommy took a while but if you can cope with an Irvine Welsh novel then this one presents no real challenge.

            At times Elton presents a quite convincing case for the legalisation of all drugs, the politicians hook line of “so what if there are more drug addicts, would you care if legalisation meant they did not need to rob your house or mug your granny to fund their habit as it was all legal” can be quite convincing and one of the things I like about this book is that it does make you think about some of the issues surrounding the trade in drugs and just how many people might have a vested interest in ensuring that it does remain illegal.

            I found all of the characters in the book to be based within the realms of reality and unlike other books by Elton I was able to not only identify with some of them but actually found myself hoping for a happy ending for some of them. Often there are none of his characters that have any redeeming features but in this case there were a number of different victims and overall it was a lot harsher storyline that is told. The book does focus on the short comings of the human race and the fact that the majority of people are focused on their own self interest, as you would expect politicians are not shown in the most positive light but then they do that everyday in the commons and the press anyway.

            I certainly found this a difficult book to put down and I found the writing to be intelligent, scathing and provoked a certain amount of soul searching on my own part, a reaction I did not expect when I first picked it up. I would certainly recommend it however I still think that Dead Famous is my favourite of his books but this one is a class act. I would only avoid giving it five stars mainly because I do not think it is a book that I would particularly want to read again.

            Published by Black Swan the rrp is £6.99 however it is available on Amazon for £5.29 new or from a penny in the new and used section. I got my copy from readitswapit.co.uk where it will shortly be available again from me. The ISBN is 0-552-99995-4 and it runs to 380 pages.

            Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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              24.01.2007 14:32
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              It's the side of the story that they didn't want to promote, it's the other option,

              Shock horror He did it again! This is my favourite Ben Elton Book (and I've read a few). I just love his bare faced honesty. He doesn't seem to care at all about controversy and if people may be offended by what he writes. He thinks these things so he writes these things and I wish other authors could grow a spine and do the same. This is the first one of his books I read and I have been hooked ever since.

              Anyway onto the book itself. The story is about drugs, users, politics, the government itself with all its stupidity and the law. The main subject is drugs but Elton has incorporated these other issues to get the reader thinking around the subject. Each issue is a separate story line. This may sound confusing but it really isn't at all. Each story is easily followed and each character and stage of events is memorable enough to make the book pretty easy to read. It's not one of those books that you need a dictionary to understand. It was written to be accessible to most readers. Your average 12 year old could cope with this but I wouldn't really recommend it due to its content. Although the use of drugs is not promoted at all, the main aim of the book is to get us thinking about how we are going to control drugs. It's blatantly obvious that at the rate we are going now, we will never win "the war against drugs". In fact I'm sure that it will never end. Elton is giving us another option to think about.

              Without giving too much away I will tell you a little about the main characters and their roles.

              Tommy Hanson, Pop star. Now this guy reminds me of Robbie Williams. He has that "I just don't give a damn" attitude with the "nice guy underneath it all" thing going on. He is the first character you meet and this is probably why he is so identifiable. You are reading his story through an AA meeting. Basically he is confessing all, telling his story. The drugs the alcoholism, the lifestyle, the highs and lows of being a famous pop star.

              Peter Padget. Politician. This is my favourite character. He is some sort of Labour Back Bencher. He is your typical family man and respected MP. However he has a very controversial opinion on the solution to the "war against drugs". He wants it all legalised so that it can be controlled. This may sound totally ridiculous and you may say that it would never happen but you're wrong. Elton uses this character to make some very strong points about how daft politics really is. The things that happen to this guy in the end are extremely thought provoking and I'm not telling you anymore...you will have to get a copy and read it!

              Jessie, now Jessie is just another girl. Her story shows the reader how somebody can easily be dragged into the world of drugs. Although they are both "drugies", she is a very different character to Tommy because she is at the bottom of the pile. These are the people that Padget is trying to protect. The people who are dragged into prostitution, life on the streets, heroin and all that goes with it. Her and Tommy's stories merge later on in the book but again I will not reveal all. Just to say that it is a lovely plot twist and you will not be able to put it down until you know what happens to them...and even then you won't believe it!

              Now Sonja. Sonja is one of those silly little chavs who needs to realise that she is not all grown up and needs a dry slap across the face. She is the drug smuggler. Tempted into it through money, like allot of victims are, the inevitable happens. Yet another person's life wasted needlessly....well in Padget and Elton's opinions anyway.

              There those are the main characters and their places in the story. It is quite obvious that Elton is using these characters to publish his own political opinions and get them out to the masses. So what, like I care, it's a great book. Padget is Elton's voice... His character in the novel perhaps. The other characters are mainly there to prove his point. There isn't really any part of the book that promotes the other side of the argument. It is all very one sided but it is a NOVEL not a DEBATE. I realise that this book is biased and doesn't show the other side of the argument. However I have had my fill of the other side. It's in the media every day, there are TV adverts, bill board posters, it's on the bus, in school, there are help lines "talk to Frank he will get you off drugs" dah dah da. I found it very refreshing that somebody out there grew a spine and gave the controversial side of the argument.
              I don't agree with all of Elton's opinions and I'm sure that neither will allot of folk out there. The thing is that I still enjoyed the book. I couldn't put it down because it was seriously compelling stuff. I would recommend this to any adult who can read. I think it is important that we get both sides of the argument.


              This book has 384 pages of normal (12ish) sized text and is available as paperback or hardback and as a talking cassette or CD. A new paperback copy now will set you back £6.99. But as always amazon.co.uk have folk selling used copies for a mere 1p + delivery charges…Get in!!!

              Thanks muchly for the reads, Luv n' Snugs, Nereesa85 xx

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                01.11.2004 20:11
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                The war on drugs. This issue is one that is never really going to be solved for a very long time and it’s fair to say that there really is only one ‘PC’ stance in the eyes of the British Public at the moment and that is to keep fighting the drug lords and punishing the users to the full extent of the law.

                Enter five stereotypical characters from across the nation who are placed to show how drug use (or misuse) is a central part of life in the UK at the moment.

                First we are introduced to Tommy Hanson. The darling of the UK music scene tells his story from the chair in an AA meeting and goes from his humble beginnings winning a ‘Pop Stars’ like TV show through to his high profile Concerts and appearances at the Brits telling tales of drugs, sex and of course rock and roll. We follow the recent course of his life learning about the ups and downs of celebrity and how his alcoholism and drug use landed him in the meetings he attends.

                Next we have Peter Paget, an ambitious Labour back bencher, happily married with two kids in an upmarket area of the country. Paget has a radical stance on the war against drugs where he wants to legalise the whole lot but has no luck getting any backing in this until he is given the opportunity to introduce a private members bill to parliament. He takes this as the chance to put his point across however the day it is announced two children die from accidentally swallowing ecstasy tablets and he has to defend himself to the hilt. He does get the support of someone very high up in the Police force and events happen that turns his private members bill into front page news and he gradually gets the support of the nation.

                Jessie is a young runaway girl from Glasgow and we first meet her fresh of the bus in London. We follow her story as she is dragged into the world of prostitution after being given the chance to ‘just try’ some heroin. She starts off as a pimps whore however after trying to escape her hell we see her ending up in much worse circumstances, battling with some seriously dodgy people as well as her full time drug addiction.

                A Brummie girl called Sonia is introduced to us from the Hilton Hotel in Bangkok as she enjoys a free holiday organised in return for the use of her gut to transport a large quantity of heroin to her home country. She is at first very proud of the entrepreneur in her until pf course she ends up in a Thai jail on drug smuggling charges. We follow her experience with in the jail and her contact with the British Ambassador and just how powerless they are to help a person in this predicament.

                After Peter Paget names the Police support he has, we are taken to the home of Commander Barry Leman where his wife receives a threatening phone call from an mystery caller who demands that Leman withdraws his support for the Paget bill or there would be dire circumstances. As the caller knows the identity of his daughter and where she goes to school his wife is understandably upset by this call. Leman thinks he knows who this is however and believes it is just idle threats however circumstances take an unexpected turn and his support in Paget is tested to its limits.


                I very much enjoyed this book. I found the layout of the story to keep me very much intrigued by what would happen next. There are no chapters as such, the story moves to different locations and this sometimes happens after many pages or just a couple of paragraphs. I enjoyed how Elton linked each character to each other at certain points and how we saw each situation through the different eyes of the characters in question.

                The characters themselves while very believable, were obviously based on certain characters in real life, and at times it was a bit difficult to actually concentrate on Tommy Hanson for example, and not think “that is SO Robbie Williams”. While I do believe it was a good idea to have each character ‘speak’ in their own accents, I found this a bit hard to get used to at first – even the Glasweigen Jessie to which I have a lot of experience in trying to understand – however it does allow Elton to utilise local colloquialisms to great effect when characters are describing their experiences.

                I think the only character I could properly sympathise with was the Jessie character as I felt that her situation was a lot more genuine and not in any way her fault whereas the others had things to answer for in their choices through the storyline.

                I very much agree with the subject matter in the book and feel that Elton did a very admiral job in getting across this viewpoint and would hope that this book will, while fiction, open up the minds of quite a few people that the war on drugs was lost years ago and it is time to look at other options to try and make the country a safer and better place to live. His choice of characterisation did very well in highlighting that it is more than likely people will know at least one person who is in some capacity, a drug user.

                I have never read any other Ben Elton books but I felt that his use of political issues worked extremely well and I am currently on the look out for another of his books. He really does make a very good case for the legalisation of all drugs however I was an easy audience for that. I am not sure how someone who is of a different viewpoint would react to the very radical viewpoint however I think that as long as this book is approached with an open mind, I would think that almost anyone would find at least something about the book interesting, if not to exactly agree with it.

                I have decided to give it four stars here because I did find it very enjoyable, it did make me turn each page with vigour, however I feel that there will be some people who will take great offence at the subject matter and some may find the regional dialects difficult to read.

                The book is available from amazon.co.uk at £5.59 which I think is a fair price.

                Thanks for reading and take care people!

                drew

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                  23.02.2004 02:48
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                  Ben Elton's High Society is a book based on a very interesting 'what if ...' I read the back and it sucked me in there and then... "High society is a story about Britain today, a criminal nation in which everybody is either breaking the law or knows people who do..." "The war on drugs has been lost. The simple fact is the whole world has become one criminal network." Two statements with which I readily agree with, though if you disagree or maybe just can't understand why an ever-growing mass of people are all for the legalisation of drugs, this novel will explain just what it's is all about in an easy-to read (..but hard to put down!) interesting way. The book tackles the subject of drug use throughout todays society using characters views from each end of the spectrum. It presents the reader with a realistic view of a world fighting a losing battle against growing drug use and the danger of the drug culture present across society. -And seeing as how it was only £3.73 ( bargin! ) i gave it a go.. The story is centred around 5 different characters whose lives are in all different ways heavily influenced by drugs. Peter Paget the backbench MP A backbench politition with a small voice in the political world, this middle-class respectable man is in total favour of legalisation of all drugs. He sees that the ongoing war against drugs cannot be won, and believes that the only way forward is to minimize the harm they cause. He believes the only way forward is to remove the criminal element and take control of the distribution away from the violent and dangerous dealers. When he is unexpectedly given the chance to present a Private Member's Bill, he is perepared to speak out and make people face the issue despite the conterversy and the the suicidal risk to his carreer. But he isn't prepared for the response , or the press going through his p
                  rivate life. Commander Barry Leman A policeman also in favour of legalisation. While investigating corruption within the police drug squad he witnesses officers on the front line facing a impossible task and succumbing to corruption. Tommy Hanson 'Pop idol' Our first encounter finds him at an 'AA' recovery meeting. The winner of a 'Pop Idol' type programme he bacame a star lost touch with the reality of 'normal' day-to-day life and consequently -his life is a mess. He takes drugs frequently and it has become an normal accepted part of his mad everyday 'pop star' existance. Sonia the Brummie She runs into a shady guy while out clubbing and accepts a thousand pounds to act as a ?drug mule?. She yearns for some excitement and with the offer of a 'free holiday' abroad in the sun and £1000 makes it seem a worthwhile proposition. Glasgow Jessie is 17 years old and has become a heroin/crack-addicted prostitute (the main ' victim' of the story) She was sexually abused at home, and ran away to London. She soon found herself in the ?care? of a pimp who gives her heroin and crack untill she is hooked and sends her out to whore for money to feed her addiction. These are the main charaters though there are a couple of others..like ten year old Billy who fnds his big sisters stash of 'E' ...Jason and Natalie Heroin addicts parents to baby Ricky. All these people are linked together by one factor...drugs. Throughout the book these people are brought together as their lives and stories mix . Made me think about that' 6-degrees of separation' theory about how theres only about 6 people between you and everyone else..you know like your friends-friends-friends..etc how when people meet it can start off a sort of chain-reaction affecting different peoples lives. The story gives you a structured collection of different per
                  spectives tackling the debate on drugs, and I think the style in which it's written will appeal to a wide and varied audience. Ben Elton has taken a much debated and ignored issue and managed to make some sense of it all, making the reader think and possibly re-evaluate thier own opinions.Once i'd started reading it was very hard to stop and it didnt take me long to reach the end, and i wasn't dissapointed though it does fall a bit into the 'happily ever after' catagory. Its definately worth a read. What can i say? its a good read and will make you think about this big issue that seems to be taking over, I enjoyed my first 'Ben Elton experience' very much !.

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                    20.10.2003 21:08
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                    Many people knock Ben Elton these days and accuse him of ?selling out?. Indeed, Queen and Rod Stewart musicals, collaborations with Lloyd-Webber and compering the Queen?s jubilee concert are not what anyone would have foreseen in the 1980?s for the writer of the anarchic Young Ones and surprisingly filthy, politically-militant stand-up. I myself was a huge fan in the old days, but these days find him rather too tame for my tastes. That said, I?m not one of his knockers. I think he?s an immensely talented and versatile man. And at nearly 40, I understand the difference between ?selling out? and mellowing, and I?ve come to appreciate the populist just as much as the avant garde. So when I plucked his latest novel, High Society, from the supermarket shelves I approached it with an open mind and looked forward to a rollocking good read with a bit of food-for-thought thrown in for good measure. High Society is about the war on drugs and the fact that it is well and truly lost. Like the film and TV series Traffic, it presents drugs and their personal and societal effects from a variety of perspectives and forms a map of a world paying a huge price for the way it has allowed drugs to infiltrate all levels of the social strata and take control. The novel centers around five different characters whose lives are ruled by drugs: Peter Paget MP is in favour of the legalisation of all drugs. He sees that the war against them can never be won and believes that the only way to minimize the harm they do is to take them out of the hands of the violent criminals who control and peddle them. Commander Barry Leman also believes in legalisation. Currently investigating corruption in the police drugs squad, he sees that officers working on the front line are more likely to be corrupted or defeated than they are to scrape any more than the smallest temporary victories. Tommy Hanson, pop icon, takes drugs the way that others tak
                    e a cup of tea ? frequently, every day. His life is a mess and his personality changes according to his drug of choice at any given moment. But he has seen the light, and he?s attending recovery meetings. Sonia, a young Brummie girl, accepts a thousand pounds to act as a ?drug mule?. She thinks the challenge will be exciting and worthwhile. Jessie is a 17 year old heroin-addicted prostitute. Sexually abused in her Glasgow home, she fled to London and found herself under the ?care? of a pimp who fed her heroin and crack until she was addicted enough to go out and whore for more. All of these people are related by drugs, and as their stories interweave their lives also come together and/or affect those of the others? in the story. So far, so good. We?re getting the whole picture, we?re seeing how it all interweaves and forms a chain-reaction, and it?s written with a fine structural control. We?re also getting the current ?drugs debate? in a way which makes sense to us and explains without any hysteria or misconception the case for legalisation. However, the book has many problems, and for me those problems are the characters. Almost every character in this book is a cliché. Paget is the archetypal nice, well-suited middle-class family man who falls prey to temptation. Leman is the archetypal maverick policeman who finds himself facing corruption in his own back yard. Hanson is so clearly modeled on Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher that you can?t divorce him from them in your mind. And Jessie is the poor victim so beloved of every cop show on TV. None of this is helped by the fact that both Hanson and Jessie are given accents so strong and stereotypical that they become caricatures. The second big problem for me was Elton himself. He just can?t keep himself out of this book. Every so often, particularly when talking for the favour of legalisation, each of the characters will say something wit
                    h a phraseology untypical of themselves and completely typical of Elton. It?s not what they say that offends me (in fact I am in favour of legalisation myself), it?s just that it?s so unsubtly done that it interrupts the flow of the narrative and further suspends our disbelief in the characters. I do applaud Elton for writing a book of this nature in a style that will appeal to the widest possible audience. I admire the way he takes such an emotive and misunderstood theme and spells it out in terms that make it seem the only sensible thing to do. But descending to cliché the way he does actually undermines the message he is trying to get across and insults the intelligence of his readers. If you don?t know much about the drugs debate or don?t understand why an increasing body of people are calling for legalisation, this novel will explain in easy-to-read terms what it is all about. And if you can suspend your disbelief in the characters and grow to care about them, it is a page-turner. However, my impression by the end of the book was that Elton is capable of better than this, and better than this is what the reading public deserves.

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                      30.07.2003 21:40
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                      Ben Elton was recently described by Parky (who knows these things) as "a bit of a clever clogs". He has been succesful as a comedy writer, stand-up comedian, writer of musicals, actor and author. This appears to be an extraordinarily prodigious output to those amongst us who have a mere 24 hours in the day. Not only that, in each of these pursuits he has brought pleasure to many millions of people - certainly an enviable record! Although my acquaintance with him goes back as far as the Young Ones, I was only introduced to Elton's books relatively recently. This is the third that I have read and the second on which I have written an op (the other being the spoof Big Brother murder mystery Dead Famous). As a result I still have another 5 of his novels to get my teeth into and after having devoured this offering I can't wait! As was the case with Dead Famous (the Big Brother phenomenon) and Popcorn (Violence in the movie industry), High Society tackles a topical subject, in this case the war on drugs. Elton uses interwoven narratives in short, readable chunks, leaping from story to story and changing perspectives within each of them to produce a very accessible book with a moral message that is easy to relate to. *+*A brief outline of the story - won't spoil things for you!*+* Peter Paget MP has the chance to introduce a Private Members Bill in Parliament. He chooses a controversial subject - the legalisation (and thus control) of all drugs, fully expecting to be shot down in glorious flames. Before the immediate uproar has had a chance to die down however, events transpire to place the topic on the national agenda and cabinet ministers are rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of the tax windfall. But will Paget's secret affair come out in the open and ruin everything? Commander Barry Leman, investigating police corruption in the drug squad and working together with Paget comes a little too
                      close to the truth for someone's liking - will it cost him his family? Tommy Hanson, winner of Pop Idol and second only to Robbie in the nation's affections is an addict. Booze and cocaine with occasional heroin and speed thrown in for good measure. His confession, in front of an AA meeting is detailed throughout the book as he falls from grace due to his addictions. Sonia is offered a thousand pounds and a week's holiday to act as a 'drug mule' - will she be caught? Jessie, 17 years old, runs away to escape an abusive father and finds herself trapped into prostitution by her pimp who keeps her on a tight leash through the needle. All she wants is her life back. Elton interweaves these stories, and those of a number of other characters to create a compelling case for the legalisation of drugs. Not the decriminalisation, nor the legalisation of some drugs but the full legalisation of all drugs. Society is full of criminals. Who amongst us has not at some time partaken of an illegal substance? I don't see very many people holding up their hands. We are all therefore criminals. If the drug culture is so pervasive and cannot be stopped (in the words of the late, great Bill Hicks "They're winning and they're the ones who are screwed up!") then surely the way forward is to accept it, control it and turn police resources to tackling the associated problems - deaths due to contaminated doses, illness due to infected needles, theft and violent crime and prostitution. At the same time, Elton aims a broadside at the press. Throughout the narrative the media is painted in a very negative light; thirsting for a story above all else, lacking in moral backbone and hypocritically abusing drugs whilst moralising over other people's use of those very same substances. The characters are familiar; the crooked politician, bent policeman, an overnight pop sensation who has let
                      fame go to his head and been in and out of rehab. The tone is lighthearted but Elton has a serious message to put over. This book is relevant to one of the biggest problems faced in todays society in the same way as his stand up routines once were. In certain places I could imagine him reading the text as a Man from Auntie monologue (without the nob gags!) This book is well worth a second glance. A globally important topic addressed from an interesting viewpoint in a manner that is exceedingly entertaining and squarely in the context of a British society to which the reader can easily relate - top stuff Ben!

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                      The searing new novel from the bestselling author of POPCORN, INCONCEIVABLE and DEAD FAMOUS. Ben Elton's new novel High Society initially appears to be a cautionary tale about Britain today, but its vision of a society totally in thrall to criminality has elements of the visionary novel about it. Happily, the state of the nation is not (yet) quite as awful as it's rendered in this terrifying kaleidoscope. We're taken into a world in which drug use holds total sway, and the whole world essentially functions as a single criminal network. From royalty and the upper crust to drug abusers and prostitutes--right across the social spectrum--we are (in Elton's unsparing universe) plunging into a criminal world. Elton's cast of characters is massive, but all (notably a government minister who is trying to push through a bill to legalise drugs) are etched in with maximum vividness. Interestingly, although Elton casts a cold eye across the whole of society (including an unforgiving look at the media) the final effect of the book is anything but bleak. All the trademark wit is here, along with a sense of focus that is considerably more sophisticated than anything Elton has tackled before. As a serious satirical novel (yes, there is such a thing), High Society makes an indelible mark.