HOBSON & CO.: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS
Ripping Publishing / 356 pages / 10 September 1997
Once in a great while a truly amazing book comes along — the kind of book that you will forever include in your top 10 list and bully your friends into reading. For me, one of those books is Good Omens. How strange that the next book to come along with that kind of appeal is also about, oddly enough, the end of the world.
If Charles Dickens, Kingsley Amis, and Tom Sharpe were sent through a teleportation device (just go with me on this one) and appeared at their destination as one functional person, the first book they/he would turn out would be Hobson & Co. And a more gleefully malicious human you would be better off never to meet.
Just mail in the manuscript, why don’t you. No need for you to have to make the trip in. Really!
Oh! I forgot to mention that you’d have to add in the talents of a Gahan Wilson or an Edward Gorey, seeing as Hughes does his own delightfully whacked illustrations.
Things are not going well in Greyminster. That is, if you see the end of the world as a bad thing, rather than just natural selection in action. Unfortunately for the world, there are only two men with the power to stop the approaching Armageddon, and neither of them is the type to inspire confidence. True, they do advertise themselves as paranormal investigators, but in the many years since they formed the enterprise, no one has taken them up on the offer. Which is probably the main reason why there is still a world to destroy at this stage.
The point is: all hell is about to break loose and our only hope is mostly hopeless. Unless the unflappable and unstoppable Mrs Prune can straighten the boys out and get them to work on the problem, it’s pretty much over… except for the extended screaming.
Hughes — for all I’ve compared him to the Greats — is a true original. Finding Hobson & Co. is like being handed the advance review copy of Blott On The Landscape; you know you’re holding the future of genre in your hand, but no one else knows it yet.
One warning: if you know anything from Tom Sharpe’s work, it is never good to get attached to a character. And Hughes, like Sharpe, kills them off with impunity. It can be a bit disconcerting, seeing what you thought was the protagonist knocked off midway through the 3rd or 4th chapter, but that is one of the things that makes such novels asHobson & Co. so wickedly delightful.
This is rough humour, where no character is indispensable, and almost every character will be expended, sometimes in an absurdly gruesome fashion.
There are laugh-out-loud scenes and slightly nauseous passages. It’s earthy, bawdy, and brilliant. The physics of it will rebound within your head and you may never fully understand it.
Could there be any better reasons to devour a book?