(Other Press, 11/09/2010) The plot is this: In the “Darkwood” lurks someone nasty called “Mr. Toppit”. But not even “Mr. Toppit” is quite as malevolent as the things in “Luke Hayman’s” past, or as repellent as Luke’s maladjusted and annoying family members and hangers-on. The story of the Hayman family runs parallel to that of “Luke Hayseed”(as opposed to Luke Hayman), a character created by Luke’s father in the “Hayseed Chronicles”, a famous series of children’s books that he wrote featuring “Mr. Toppit”.
In Mr. Toppit Elton has created a fairy-tale within a tale, with suitably Grimm-like ominous overtones. He sets readers quite a challenge with this tricky novel in which he balances an atmosphere of creeping evil with a darkly humorous depiction of the phenomenon of celebrity.
Ben Elton is an English comedian, author, playwright, actor and director. He was a part of London’s alternative comedy movement of the 1980s and became a writer on series such as The Young Ones and Blackadder, as well as continuing as a stand-up comedian on stage and television. His style in the 1980s was left-wing political satire. As an entertainment industry insider, and a celebrity himself, he knows how to depict celebrity with a slightly poisoned quill.
He has published 15 novels – most of them bestsellers in the UK, and written the musicals We Will Rock You (2002) and Love Never Dies (2010), the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. I have not read any of his other novels. Perhaps this one is not the best introduction to his work and others might be more enjoyable and have fewer confusing texts and sub-texts. Mr. Toppit really takes a while to figure out.