Dial M for Merde

Published april 2009 — Black Swan Icône de flèche pointant vers le bas
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Dial M for Merde was enormous fun to write. I say this not in the belief that it might improve your day to know that I enjoy my work, but because I think it shows when you read it. The whole text has a huge smile on its face.

I had a blast doing the research. The novel brings Paul West back to France, and it gave me a chance to re-visit some of my favourite haunts on the south coast (yes, life is tough), at my favourite time for visiting them – autumn. Warm sea, no Parisians, locals almost friendly. Sublime.

The novel also gave me a chance to have a go and something I'd wanted to try for a long time – nude pétanque. No, sorry, bit of a Freudian slip there. What I meant to say was, writing a comedy crime novel. Not Hannibal Lecter with jokes, something more along the lines of classic French film comedies, joyful 70s romps starring Louis de Funès and Pierre Richard, made in the days when Gallic film directors liked to have fun with a storyline instead of grinding us relentlessly down with the gruesome details of their divorce.

So when people ask me what the novel's about, I usually say that it's Paul West in the sun, thinking he's playing at James Bond when really he's being used as a Bond girl. Not that he has erotic encounters with Daniel Craig, of course. I just mean that Paul thinks he's playing the secret agent when in fact he is neither secret nor an agent.

The plot is pretty simple, really – Paul calls an old flame (hence the "dial" in the title), her nickname is M (are you getting the picture?) and she drags him into some deep southern French merde. Meanwhile, Paul's old chums Elodie (who is marrying into an ultra-posh, strictly Catholic French family) and Jake (who is trying to get a grant from the French government to help him inflict his sex poems on the world) add to Paul's headaches.

As usual, you don't have to have read the other books to understand this one. You don't need to speak French, although it does help to know what "merde" means. And you don't even have to know the name of the French President, because although he is (allegedly) in the book, he is never mentioned by name. Which reminds me – the publishers have asked me to say (and I quote) that "this novel in no way implies that the current President of France, or any of his predecessors, has received sexual favours from his assistants. This would be an outrageous, and frankly unbelievable, allegation." I hope that's crystal clear now.

Talking of allegations, it is true that the novel imagines an assassination attempt on Monsieur le Président. But I must stress that in reality I am totally against violence, and do not want any French politician to get shot. Except perhaps with a whipped-cream squirter. And then only during consensual adult activity. Using low-fat cream,of course, because we wouldn't want to give French politicians a heart attack, would we? Oh, OK then, full-fat cream. From cows fed on doughnuts.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the novel. By all means let me know what you think via the "contact" page on the website.

Publisher's Synopsis
Englishman Paul West has just received an offer he can't refuse: two weeks in the sun, all expenses paid, with a beautiful blonde called Gloria Monday. M, as Gloria likes to be known, is down south to report on caviar trafficking - but it soon becomes obvious that she's interested in something a lot more fishy than caviar. Meanwhile Paul's best friend Elodie is marrying a French aristocrat, and Paul is asked to do the catering. Cooking for the French is a risky assignment at the best of times, but Paul, who is starting to feel a bit like James Bond, assures her that nothing can go wrong. Or can it? As Paul is sexually harassed by an English hen party, picked on by French commandoes and arrested by excitable gendarmes, he realises that events are spiralling out of control. And when he discovers that M's real target is France's biggest fish of all - the new President - and that he's coming to Elodie's wedding, Paul knows that the merde really is about to hit the fan ...

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