Review – James Walley’s The Forty First Wink
The Forty First Wink is the debut release from British writer, James Walley. The story centers around Marty, who after a night in the company of Tequila manages to awaken trapped inside his own dream. From that very first moment when he comes around to a beer monkey sat on his chest wielding a polo-mallet it’s obvious this is going to be quite a ride. That ride naturally being on land, underwater and, of course, from the deck of a pirate ship being flown through the air, carried by a large metallic parrot.
Marty’s mission, and in turn the story, it turns out is just as you would expect – he just needs to awaken to escape from his current predicament. Aiding Marty on his journey through this craziest of lands Walley has created a great supporting cast in: Timbers, a tiny, cloth pirate from Marty’s youth and the wisecracking star of the show; Kate, the one who due to Marty’s ineffectiveness ‘got away’; and the cloth crew of Timbers’ flying pirate ship in Whipstaff, Oaf and the twins Bob and Also Bob. The geriatric, lycra-clad superhero, I’ll let you discover for yourselves…
Escaping from a dream however is not as easy as you would imagine, especially when added into the mix is Walley’s antagonist Mr. Peepers, scary clown extraordinaire, and his posse of giggling, clawing, red-nosed cronies. It’s enough to encourage Coulrophobia in the best of us. Now, Marty is wanted by Peepers over all the others and he’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on him. This creates almost a constant state of ‘chase’ throughout the novel. From scene to scene Marty stumbles around in an effort to get home, while trying to keep one step ahead of Peepers.
With equal parts humor and suspense in Walley’s debut, it’s easy to see why names like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett have been mentioned in comparison. In fact, anytime someone seems to write with humor these days the same names get banded around – at least this time I can confirm it’s deserved. One minute you find yourself gripping the arm of the chair as the chase intensifies, the next you get that imaginary nudge in the ribs, accompanied by a cheeky wink, as someone drops a genius one-liner.
In a way what Walley has created is quite brilliant – when your setting is a dreamscape, absolutely anything goes. If you want your cars to be on pogo sticks, that’s fine. If you think the best way for your pirate ship to travel is to be flown by a giant metallic parrot, you know, that’s cool too. The best thing about it all, there’s no need to explain why. No reason necessary, because after all it’s just a dream, and everyone knows how crazy they can be.
Distractions-wise, there was very little to halt the flow. There were a couple of instances when I ‘lost visual’ and had to drop back slightly to get a grip on what exactly was happening. But when everything is a little madcap, that’s always the risk you take. Otherwise, a fully stellar debut from Mr Walley.
I’ll leave you with my favourite quote, I think it says it all:
“In no conceivable reality did he ever imagine he would be riding a pogo stick propelled gangster wagon full of psychotic clowns, anticipating a possible death-defying leap into an ice cream van piloted by a geriatric and a bunch of pirates”
**** 4 1/2 STARS