Magazine article The Spectator

Ketchup and Thunder

Magazine article The Spectator

Ketchup and Thunder

Article excerpt

Ketchup and thunder SEVENTY Two VIRGINS: A COMEDY OF ERRORS by Boris Johnson HarperCollins, £17.99, pp. 400, ISBN 0007195907

I have read somewhere that the friends of this author are worried. Apparently he is an MP, a shadow minister, a performer on chat shows, editor of a weekly magazine, the next prime minister but three - and now out pops a novel. How can he manage it all? They need not worry. On the evidence I would guess that he wrote this in three days, flat out day and night, finishing with the arrival on the fourth morning of what with his Homeric education he would call the rosy-fingered dawn.

And none the worse for that. The rollicking pace and continuous outpouring of comic invention make the book. There is no doubt which master he follows. Several times in P. G Wodehouse the Wooster-figure meets in ambiguous circumstances a police constable, who may hold a torch and say, 'Ho.' Boris Johnson has successfully elaborated this simple theme. Here is not one Wooster but two - a gormless Conservative MP and the President of the United States, addressing Parliament in Westminster Hall. Here is not a single policeman but the whole array of the British and American forces of order, struggling through mishaps and misunderstandings to save the President from assassination by three Muslim fanatics in a stolen ambulance.

Add plenty of insider jokes. To enjoy the book you do not have to identify Sir Trevor Hutchinson, who writes an immense column attacking the erosion of liberty, culminating in anger at being asked to produce his passport 'when boarding a flight from Heathrow to Inverness to fulfil an important shooting engagement'. …

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