Alby Murdoch, international photographer and undercover agent for D-E-D, the Australian Directorate for Extra-territorial Defence, ducks bullets and bombs as he attempts to unravel a lethal web of high-level dodgy dealings....
From the moment Alby drops his gun on a St Kilda tram he knows he's in for a bad day. Then his partner Harry is gunned down in a Double Bay coffee shop. By lunchtime, Alby realises someone wants him dead - and they want him dead now.
James Bond would have nothing on our Alby these days (and can we all just spare a moments thought for a character name like Alby Murdoch and wonder idly whatever happened to..... remember those Alby Mangel specials?), but I digress. Mind you, Alby's not opposed to the odd digression as well. Sure assorted bad guys have shot his colleague dead. So he's suddenly face to face with Grace - that gorgeous creature from the tram who returned his dropped gun and now she's armed, dangerous and driving the getaway car. But a good lunch is hard to find and there's absolutely nothing wrong with a quick stop for a glass of wine and a coffee or two. It's going to take a whole lot more than assorted mayhem to keep this man from the things that matter - your stomach and finding love in all the odd places.
Alby is really one of the starting (and "staring") lights of D-E-D, and in particular WORLDPIX - the famous photographic outfit that operates as cover for the operations of the Directorate for Extra-territorial Defence. They do all sorts of surveillance and general spying for the Australian Government, but nobody really expected that the yearly drudge of the security clearances for Bitter Springs - the top-secret US military facility deep in the central Australian desert - would quite trigger the blast of activity that ensued. In avoiding the people that want him dead as well, Alby escapes to Bali and sneaks back into the country, fighting off the pirates and handling the affections of Grace Goodluck.
Okay, there's not a lot that's particularly serious in D-E-D Dead! as you can probably tell from the book synopsis, but there are moments of inspired hilarity. Tongue-in-cheek, quintessentially Australian, Alby's a spy who's dangerous to know - not only does he have a tendency to get people trying to shoot him, he could represent Australia in the eating Olympics! But Alby's got mates and contacts that go back years, and he's also deeply annoyed that somebody shot his long-term partner Harry, and he's bloody determined to find out who and why. Spies who don't get around in tuxedos, nefarious goings on in Central Australia, politically incorrect and fun - enormous, great, rip-roaring, laugh out loud fun!
D-E-D Dead! is the second novel from this author - the first was Fat, Fifty and F***ed! and the third - sensitive New Age Spy is on the way.
GOOD OMENS - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
There is a hint of Armageddon in the air. According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (recorded, thankfully, in 1655, before she blew up her entire village and all its inhabitants, who had gathered to watch her burn), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. So the Armies of Good and Evil are massing, the four Bikers of the Apocalypse are revving up their mighty hogs and hitting the road, and the world's last two remaining witchfinders are getting read to Fight the Good Fight. Atlantis is rising. Frogs are falling.
GOOD OMENS is a collaboration between Pratchett and Gaiman. According to the introductory interview with them at the start of the book, it came about because Gaiman wrote half a short story, but he didn't know how it ended. He sent it to Pratchett, who didn't know either. But he did know what happened next. So half a short story became one very very good book.
Originally published in 1990, GOOD OMENS was written as a collaborative novel in the days before high speed internet connections - in fact according to the same interview a 1200/75 baud modem (yes kiddies, we used to use them - and we had electricity and everything), was eschewed as a communication method as it proved slightly less efficient than underwater yodelling and instead a bizarre method of messages in different working times exchanged via Ansaphone's was employed. (Yes - we used machines with little tapes in them - in the house - to record phone messages.)
The problem with a Divine Plan is that there's always somebody that forgot to read the requirements specification. Nun's can get it wrong. Avenging Angels (who can be such fussbudgets) and Fast-Living Demon with a passion for posh cars don't have to look forward to the coming Rapture. When you've lived amongst Humanity for quite a while now and you're fond of the cushy gig, you may actually decide to interfere with the Plan. So as unlikely a pair as they seem, Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop this silliness - even if they do have to kill the AntiChrist (who at this stage is really nothing much more than a naughty little boy). If they can only find him.
Obviously when you're writing high comic fantasy, the time in which the reader picks up the book becomes less problematic. But what really gives GOOD OMENS a life forever is that the central theme - the great battle of Good versus Evil - works no matter when you pick it up. Having said that, reading GOOD OMENS again in late 2007 / early 2008 and bingo - a timeframe in my human history at least - where the occasional consideration of Good and Evil, Frogs and Witches, Hogs and Devil Children - well lets just say between the hysterical laughter, just occasionally you read something that makes you go hmmmmm.
This edition of GOOD OMENS isn't the first one I've read. But it was absolutely no chore to read again. And again. And I might just pick that book up on a more regular basis for a bit of a re-read. For a collaborative novel it's hard to pick the who wrote what bits. As a novel about Good and Evil it works. As a reminder of Queen's Greatest Hits it was truly sobering. It's also dark and funny and pointed and clever and a darn good book!