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Spanky - Christopher Fowler

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5 Reviews

Author: Christopher Fowler / Genre: Fiction

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      28.08.2002 15:14
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      Would you like sex with attractive people? A new apartment? Expensive designer clothes? A promotion? A new Mercedes? Your family content? Your friends happy? What is the price of such advancement and luxury? Your free will. What is the penalty if you are not willing to pay the price? An eternity of pain, the slow destruction of your life, the death and rape of loved ones or a slow descent into insanity. Such attractive inducements were offered to Martyn Ross, an average man with a boring job with no prospects, little charisma and a bleak future. The offer is made by an enigmatic stranger who is a supernatural being, a daemon named Spanky. Martyn embraces his new lifestyle of fast cars, fast women and fast promotion with gusto and does not stop to think that there may be a price to pay. When he discovers that what the daemon wants in return is the use of his body for the rest of his life, he realises that the price is too high to pay and yet the consequences of refusal are dire. He finds himself in a desperate struggle to protect his family and friends from the fatal actions of the daemon, and to prevent him entering his body and taking over his will. The daemon cannot enter without being invited but the all too real hallucinations which torment him night after night and the actual daemonic murders that occur daily are a strong incentive to give in to Spanky. Martyn discovers that he only has to keep Spanky at bay for a week and at midnight the daemon will find itself without a human host and forced to drift through the ether as an ethereal being. But does Martyn have the strength, the determination and the intelligence to outwit the supremely clever and powerful Spanky? Fowler starts the novel with an exciting opening chapter; a race to save the life of a colleague from the actions of the daemon. Martyn arrives too late and the man is already lying impaled on an iron poker dying with the
      belief that it is Martyn himself who has murdered him. Spanky has taken on Martyn?s appearance for the deed and Martyn must live with the knowledge that his colleague went to his grave with the image of Martyn slaying him etched on his psyche for eternity. The book then reverts to a prolonged flashback to explain how Martyn was approached by Spanky and offered his help to improve his life, his personality and his future. This is an effective technique, as not only does the opening chapter grab your attention but for the following chapters the reader is hooked and desperate to discover how the encounter with the daemon could lead to such catastrophic results, as at first all Martyn?s dreams become true and it seems as if only good will come from the partnership. You are gripped as you read through the pages, looking for signs of the interaction going sour and wondering how Martyn will arrive at the unenviable position in which we found him at the start of the novel. The book is unarguably exciting and an enjoyable read but Fowler also tries to give us more meaty food for thought. Martyn?s research into daemonology reveals that Spanky must be a reflection of an element within himself. In effect Spanky is the concentration of all that is bad and corrupt within Martyn and he has only come into being because of the subconscious desires of Martyn himself. If this is the case, how can Martyn possibly beat him if they are ultimately inextricably linked and Spanky can anticipate his every move, not to mention read his thoughts. The character of Martyn is not easily likeable, although it is easy to empathise with him. How many of us have been stuck in a dead end job, going nowhere with our love lives not on track and no spare cash on tap? How many of us would turn down the opportunity of a life filled with money, sex and worldly goods? His character changes rapidly as the daemon leads him into a future of power, sex and money and his readi
      ness to alter shows him to be weak. However, our sympathies and desire for him to beat Spanky originate due to the atrocities that the daemon begins to perpetrate on Martyn?s friends and family. These victims are innocent and are being destroyed or tortured purely as a threat to Martyn. It is for this reason that we find ourselves on the edge of our seat hoping that Martyn will find a way to outwit the daemon. As with other Fowler novels the ending seems a little weak. Fowler could have chosen several ways to end it and the one he chose was not the best option. He was trying to finish by leaving the reader with a deep philosophical truth to consider; can a human be complete and content without the inclusion of the darker side which lies within all of us? This does not seem compatible with the style of the rest of the novel. We have been enjoying the action, the excitement and have not been required to philosophise during the development of the plot and, therefore, to be left with such a dilemma at the end of the novel is out of kilter with the rest of the book?s style. The book is filled with tension, suspense, excitement and action and is worth reading for these qualities. You may be somewhat disappointed by the finale but you find your mind working overtime considering how you would have penned the final pages. Such a mental exercise would not be presented to you if it wasn?t for Fowler?s failing, so perhaps this could be thought of as an added bonus! Enter the world of the daemon and ponder on the dark entity that lurks within your own soul.

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        24.03.2002 18:49
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        Despite the dubious sounding title, Spanky is an inventive yet genuinely frightening novel about the dangers of giving in to our personal desires when they are placed in front of us, seemingly with no strings attached. With all the hallmarks of a modern-day Mephistopheles about him, Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae' (known as 'Spanky' to his clients) visits Martyn Ross with promises of wealth, women and a life of revelry. From this point onwards, Christopher Fowler demonstrates the havoc that can be wreaked when we rub the magic lantern and summon the genie. Martyn Ross is stuck in the rut of a dead-end job, no money and no prospects of a relationship blooming. Not only has his one opportunity for success been handed to a sycophantic fellow worker, he is burdened with a permanently drugged flatmate and it seems his only way to succeed is just to give in and give up. This is the sort of depression that we seem only able to deal with through the lucrative (if idealistic) promises of riches from the lottery or the (now obsolete) Football Pools. Win this and we could all give up the 9-5 and move into the dream house and live the playboy lifestyle and everything would be perfect. The other way of getting out of it is to meet the perfect alter ego. Spanky is the sprite with the sophistication, wit, charm and power to enable Martyn to enhance his life beyond his wildest dreams. Through this less than divine intervention, a life where he is noticed due to his money, female attention and overall status is within his grasp and he is transformed from the down-at-heel worker to a high-flying executive for whom excess is non-existent. Regardless of who tries to prevent Martyn's passage to the top, there is always his enigmatic minder ready to murder and maim for his master. Unfortunately Martyn is now in the debt of Spanky who intends to collect regardless of cost to the living and the dead. When the debt cannot be paid, the landlord will
        repossess, be it the body, the soul or both. Like a loan shark, Spanky is the parasite, he survives by gorging himself on the vitality of a human, just as this particular human has indulged his hospitality to the excess. By the time it comes to the conclusion, reality and hallucination are blurred (like the life of his flatmate) to the point of driving Martyn insane. Be them Spanky's demons or his own personal nightmares, the terrors that invade his sleep and greet his waking prove that dancing with the devil becomes a danse macabre. What follows is a superbly plotted cat-and-mouse chase into the deepest recesses of the city where it becomes more apparent that Spanky doesn't just hold the power of life and death over humanity itself, his manipulation plumbs far more horrific depths. It's virtually impossible to reveal any more of the plot without letting the reader in on the conclusion but suffice to say, Fowler weaves his literary magic to the utmost, conjuring up a powerful, riveting and downright brutal ending. He satisfies the desires of those who appreciate elegant writing and those who simply want to read a gore-fest in his usual assured fashion, which is why people are lavishing such compliments upon his remarkable ability to sustain such brilliance. This was the second Christopher Fowler book I had read (the first being Pyschoville) and this writer is one who will be around for a long time. Quite easily the British rival to Stephen King, his is a mind that explores the uncharted waters of the human existence then torments us with his findings. Although there are the inevitable comparisons with Dr Faustus, it is worth reading this alongside one of Stephen King's best novels, Needful Things which deals with a similar concept but is set against the background of Castle Rock's idyllic suburbs.

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        14.08.2001 17:32
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        We've all been there. You hate your job and just to add insult to injury, someone else has been promoted ahead of you. The place you're living in is a dump, your flatmate is lazy and is driving you insane. You're single, and don't have a great deal of luck with women - and you ideal woman doesn't even seem to know you exist. Your family just doesn't seem to do anything at all...except slowly fall apart, haunted by the memory of a dead son. You want something to happen, anything, as long as it gets you our of the rut you seem to have fallen into. So, how about I offered you the world? Say I walked up to you in a club and told you I could turn your life around? I could get you a promotion, I could make your family happy? I could make you irresistible to the opposite sex? What would you say? You'd disbelieve me. You'd want to know where's the catch. You'd be sure it's too good to be true. And you'd be right. It is!!! This is the life that Martyn Ross has carved out for himself. He's 23, lives in London, and has recently been dumped by his girlfriend for being too laid back. He's a salesman in a furniture store and his ass-kissing colleague has just been promoted into the job that should have been his. He shares a house, which is currently attempting to fall down around his ears, with a dope-smoking waster, and even he seems to have a better life than Martyn. Then, one night in a club, Spanky walks up and introduces himself. Spanky is a daemon, a familiar, who promise Martyn that he can improve his life immeasurably. Martyn smells a rat, and turns down this "once in a lifetime" opportunity. But, once the vision of his future life is in his head he can't let it go. So he begs Spanky to do for him everything he promised. For a while, everything's coming up Martyn! His colleague has a nasty accident and has to leave work. Martyn's compan
        y is taken over by someone who "knows" Martyn's father, and the inevitable promotion goes to...Martyn. He gets a new flat, a new wardrobe, a new-found confidence. His sister and his parents finished mourning his brother. He consorts with actors, and both models and actresses find him irrestible. And the dream woman? Oh, yes! But there is a price. It cannot be paid in sterling. The daemon does not want your soul He wants your life. He wants to take over your body and live in it for the rest of its days. Would you pay? Would you fight? Martyn is understandably reluctant. He has this new and perfect life and he doesn't want to give it up for anybody. But Spanky needs his body as the one he currently inhabits only has seven days left in it. So he uses his immense powers of persuasion on Martyn. He kidnaps his family. He kills his friends, he ruins his relationship with his ideal woman. He takes away his job and his flat. He leaves Martyn with nothing. Martyn fights with all he can until...well, until you read the book, I can't give the end away, can I? This novel really is Fowler at his absolute best. The pace does not let up from start to end. Martyn's life improvement, and destruction, happen so quickly there is hardly time to draw breath. And as Martyn frantically tries to save his own life, and others, you are dragged along all the way, not able to let go...and not wanting to! Brilliant! The only thing I will say is that the ending could be better. Weak endings do tend to be a Fowler trademark. The inevitable confrontation between Spanky and Martyn is not the end of the novel...and the couple of chapters that follow are not up to the pace, or the standard, of that which came before. But, do you want to hear the worst of it? There is a little of Martyn Ross in all of us. Every one of us that hates our job, hates our house, wants a new partner - or a different one, wis
        hes our family or friends were a little more interesting. Everyone who has ever looked at someone else and thought "I want a little of what they've got". We could be Martyn Ross. All this means that when Spanky names his price, and Martyn starts fighting for his life. All the killing, all the nasty tricks that Spanky pulls on Martyn could be happening to us!!! Sleep well!

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          31.03.2001 01:34
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          Have you ever wished for your guardian angel to come and rescue you or to grant you just one wish that would turn your life around? Well be careful what you wish for as it might just come true. I have to admit that what first attracted me to this book was the front cover. Who could resist a picture of a very muscley bare chested man wearing skin tight PVC shorts, PVC thigh high boots and a rather large pair of bat wings? I certainly couldn't! I think that's why this cover was chosen - to attract lots of attention! You might not want to read this in public if you are a bit bashful! I had never heard of the author, Christopher Fowler, but that's never stopped me buying a book before! Reading the synopsis on the back cover of the book made up my mind for certain - this sounded like a very intriguing story. The story is told from the point of Martyn Ross, the lucky chosen one, who leads a pretty miserable mundane life. He shares a run down flat with a space age hippy called Zack (who is interested in the occult), has a dead end job in a furniture shop selling hideous furniture and has absolutely no love life. All this was about to change when one night in a club Martyn meets Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae or Spanky for short. Curiously enough they seem to look similar and have the same mannerisms, surely just coincidence? Spanky tells Martyn that he is a daemon, the link between man and god. Daemons act on a one-to-one basis in that they attach themselves to one person and work in a problem-solving capacity. This is the service the Spanky offers to Martyn. The payment for this service? Nothing, zilch, freebie. Martyn presumes that as Spanky is a daemon, he will have to sell his soul as you traditionally do. However, Spanky will leave him when Martyn's life is running the way he wants. Martyn just has to tell Spanky when to go. What a deal! Who could refuse?! Spanky starts to change Martyn's lif
          e piece by piece. The first to change is his appearance. Out go the scruffy in jeans and in with the designer labels. Next is his sexual technique believe it or not, with Spanky giving advice and encouragement at "crucial" moments! Sporting prowess to impress the work colleagues is next with Spanky giving Martyn the playing ability of a squash champion. Unfortunately the squash game leaves Martyn's opponent with a very nasty eye injury and a spell in hospital. A perfect opportunity for Martyn to impress the boss and gain promotion. Okay, so a few people have minor injuries or strange events happen in their life but nothing really nasty. Even Martyn's dysfunctional family gets sorted out and their lives improve dramatically. With a new posh apartment, a gorgeous girlfriend, a top job and a happy family life is perfect. Too perfect actually. One day Martyn receives a bill from Spanky, itemised for every single improvement in his life. Basically Spanky lied. He wants paying for his services and not in cash. Surprisingly enough Spanky doesn't want Martyn's soul, as you would have expected, what Spanky wants is Martyn's body. Spanky is a daemon in human form but his body is "borrowed". Daemons can only come to earth by inhabiting the body of a mortal. Spanky needs a human body to exist in but as we all know, human bodies only last so long. In Spanky's case his has lasted 70 years and its now time to find a new one. In fact Spanky only has 7 days to find a new body. But he's not totally unreasonable, Martyn has 24 hours to willingly give his body to Spanky (Spanky can only take a body if the owner agrees) or all hell will break loose and Spanky will get very angry. Not surprisingly Martyn doesn't agree and that's when all hell really does break lose. Spanky is not prepared to go without a fight and Martyn has 7 days in which to resist Spanky. Things get really nasty, a lot of pe
          ople get hurt and a lot of property gets damaged. I don't want to give too much away as this is really the climax of the book. It was extremely difficult to put the book down at this point in the story. It was always "oh just one more chapter". The end chapters will make you gasp and your knuckles to go white. You can feel Martyn's desperation as he tries to resist Spanky and his threats for 7 whole days. The countdown was incredible and the tension rose in the book almost to breaking point. I thought this book was going to be a bit of rubbishy horror judging by the picture on the front cover but it turned out to be a very good story. Lots of suspense, feelings you can relate to and characters you can really empathise with. If you ever spot this book (and its hard to miss it with such a striking cover!), give it a go, I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise.

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            12.08.2000 14:36
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            Ever wanted to escape your humdrum mediocre existence, ever allowed yourself the thought that you /should/ be the one being promoted, getting the girl of your dreams, being the person you feel you need to be to be accepted by outside society. Well, so did Martyn, hero(?) of Spanky. Then, one day in a random nightclub encounter (ok, ok, so it's one NIGHT) Martyn is offered the chance to have a personal daemon, Spanky, working with him (no strings!) to improve his life. After initially turning down the offer, Martyn soon has second thoughts and persuades the charming Spanky to take on his case. Romps with beautiful girls, style and charm lessons and sorting out of family and work problems all start to become part of Martyn's life. But 'no strings' rarely means no strings when dealing with the supernatural, especially when dealing with them from the pen of an incredibly talented horror writer. And so inevitably perhaps the plot veers towards horror as Martyn has to start to live with the outcomes of his base wishes and desires. After much soul-searching he takes Spanky on and starts to play against his one-time bosom buddy. And of course, I'm not going to ruin the rest of the plot for you. It's well-written, humourous, jaunty, scary, sick (at times only), an easy read in that the language and plot flows so well, and a lovely take on the time-honoured 'be careful what you wish for' folk tales. Plus it has a great front cover (or did when I first read it). I heartily recommend it.

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          • Product Details

            Martyn hasn't had the most inspiring of lives so far, so when his personal demon appears and offers him the chance to turn all that around...