Man-Eating Typewriter by Richard Milward - review by Nicholas Harris

Nicholas Harris

Molto Sang Guaranteed

Man-Eating Typewriter


White Rabbit 544pp £25

This is the sort of novel they say no one writes any more. It is wilfully, indulgently experimental. It is disgusting and violently sexual. It is chaotically metafictional, baroquely footnoted and told by competing deceptive narrators. There are plot clues hidden in the text and embedded in font changes and anagrams. It makes use of arcane, invented languages and is written substantially in the gay-underworld slang Polari. It is a daring, meandering, brilliant book.

Man-Eating Typewriter opens in November 1969. The first person we hear from is Stanley Merritt, director of the fictional publishing house Glass Eye Press. Based in Soho, Glass Eye is a struggling, seedy operation. It scrapes along by rattling out books with titles like The Lonesome Abortionist and The Nuremberg Nymphomaniacs, seemingly designed for little more than testing the boundary between literature and pornography. (After the obscenity trial involving Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sexually explicit books could evade the stiffs and censors by displaying ‘literary merit’, however thin.) But even by Glass Eye’s standards, something dodgy is afoot. Stanley has received a letter from one Raymond Novak, psychopath and aspiring writer and terrorist.

Novak has a plot, he writes. He intends to commit a ‘fantabulosa crime’, ‘batons, bombas, pistolets and molto sang guaranteed’. It will be an audacious, violent crime, he promises, one which will shock the world and see the ‘Establishment brought to its lally-caps’. And in anticipation, the better to

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