Monday, July 14, 2008

Mike’s Angels

I admit to being far, far behind in my reading of British novelist-columnist Mike Ripley’s award-winning comical crime series featuring Fitzroy “Roy” Maclean Angel. In fact, just between you and me and the shag carpet, I recollect reading only one of those books--which I believe was Bootlegged Angel (1999), though I wouldn’t swear to it.

Fortunately, reviewer Fiona Messenger has been keeping up better than I. And as the 15th (“and probably last,” to quote Ripley) installment of his Angel series, Angels Unaware, is being readied for UK bookstores later this month, and the author prepares to celebrate 20 years in the company of his protagonist (Roy Angel first appeared in 1988’s Just Another Angel), Messenger has taken it upon herself to pen an appreciation of these books for the e-zine Shots.

The piece begins, appropriately, by introducing our sort-of hero:
So who is Fitzroy Maclean Angel? He lives in East London, is a streetwise, thirty-something, good looking dude with a penchant for honest food, good bitter and sassy women, providing they are inexpensive, or can be claimed on expenses, and has an unnerving ability to be in the wrong place at the right time. Too ordinary? He drives a black cab he calls Armstrong, plays jazz trumpet when he’s allowed or is being paid to, shares a flat with a psychotic black cat called Springsteen and spends his time trying to sidestep trouble only to find himself getting deeper into it. He only really became an official Private Investigator in recent years, but he’s seen more dead bodies in the years leading up to this than any human stomach can handle. Some of them he’s even been responsible for. Yes, despite the fact that Angel comes across as just the kind of guy you could have a drink with, or at least be in the same bar [with], Angel has been responsible for seven deaths; but none can be pinned on him conclusively, or at least the witnesses won’t or can’t talk ...
From there, Messenger offers brief synopses of Ripley’s Angel books. She has even created a separate fan Web site devoted to all things Angel, on which you’ll find some of her commentary about the individual novels. And in commemoration (or is that conclusion?) of his two decades of work on the series, Ripley adds a separate Angel trivia page, well endowed with his characteristic humor. (“It was book five in the series before a reviewer [in The Observer] used the expression ‘the Talented Mr. Ripley’.”) All making for a fine tribute to a character who, though he’s never been picked up by a U.S. publisher of even minor ambition, has nonetheless managed to secure a loyal following, thank you very much.

Now, where did I shelve that copy of Bootlegged Angel?

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