Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Robert Rankin's "The Brentford Trilogy"
The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe is often referred to in Robert Rankin's The Brentford Trilogy books.
The Brentford Trilogy
The Brentford Trilogy is a series of eight novels by writer Robert Rankin. They humorously chronicle the lives of a couple of drunken middle-aged layabouts, Jim Pooley and John Omally, who confront the forces of darkness in the environs of West London, usually with the assistance of large quantities of beer from their favourite public house, The Flying Swan.
John Vincent Omally and Jim Pooley - an Irishman living in Brentford and his best friend. The 'heroes' of the series.
Neville - the part-time barman (who is actually full-time since nobody knows where the real one is) who holds down the Flying Swan in Brentford.
Norman Hartnell - Brentford shopkeeper and inventor of various bizarre gadgets, including a means of transporting the Great Pyramid from Egypt to Brentford. Not to be confused with the other Norman Hartnell.
Old Pete and Chips - Old Pete (Age unconfirmed, although he seems to be over a hundred) always appears in the Flying Swan, and Chips is his scraggly dog.
Professor Slocombe - aged, wise magician who often supplies much of the exposition about the various enemies present in the series (Was apparently Merlin in the distant past). Is once described as bearing a resemblance to Peter Cushing. Has a butler named Gammon.
Marchant - John Omally's bicycle, whose anthropomorphic qualities may be a reference to Flann O'Brien's novel The Third Policeman.
Soap Distant -last of a long line of Distants who have spent their lives searching for the denizens of the inner Earth. Soap is an ordinary man when first seen but returns as a cowled and robed albino after five years 'below.'
Small Dave - Brentford's dwarf postman, known to all as a 'vindictive, grudge bearing wee bastard.' Raised the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
Hugo Artemis Solon Saturnicus Reginald Arthur Rune - mystic, charlatan and confidence trickster and self declared 'most amazing man who ever lived'. Has an acolyte named Rizla.
Hairy Dave and Jungle John - these two brothers are local jobbing builders who are known for their wild coiffure.
Archroy - former worker at the rubber factory who became a globe trotting master of the martial arts.
Jennifer Naylor - Brentford's sexy lady librarian, later elevated to the town council.
Young Master Robert - the brewery owner's son, and the bane of Neville's existence.
Leo Felix - white Rastafarian who drives a tow truck.
Novels in the series
The novels in this series are as follows:
1.The Antipope (1981) - Pooley and Omally take on the resurrected Pope Alexander VI the last Borgia pope.
2.The Brentford Triangle (1982) - Pooley and Omally thwart an alien invasion of Earth when the natives of Ceres (the fifth planet in the solar system before it exploded and became the asteroid belt) come back to the system and seek a new home.
3.East of Ealing (1984) - Pooley and Omally are forced to deal with a high-tech Satanic takeover of Earth by way of barcoding the entire population, aided by a temporally-relocated version of Sherlock Holmes.
4.The Sprouts of Wrath (1988) - the unlikely decision to site the next Olympic Games in Brentford threatens to disrupt Pooley and Omally's way of life, as the evil Kaleton threatens to turn the stadium into a monster to destroy humanity.
5.The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (1997) - as the millennium comes early for Brentford, Dr. Steven Malone finds a way to clone Jesus from the Turin Shroud, as the man called Fred (who sold his soul for ultimate power) attempts to blackmail Pooley into arranging a ceremony that will give his Master power over all the world.
6.Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (2000) - Omally manages a rock group, the lead singer of whom has the power to heal the sick. This book also sees the return of Soap Distant and Small Dave. In this book, Pooley suffers a brutal, but not long-term death.[clarification needed]
7.Knees Up Mother Earth (2004) - there's big trouble in little Brentford. Property developers are planning to destroy Griffin Park, the borough's beloved football ground, intending to dig up the creature buried underneath it - namely, the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden; the source of original sin. As well as being the seventh book in The Brentford Trilogy, it is also the second book in The Witches of Chiswick Trilogy.
8.The Brightonomicon (2005) - Hugo Rune and his amnesiac assistant Rizla work to stop Count Otto Black from finding the Chronovision. Unlike the other novels in the series, it is set in Brighton and Omally only makes an appearance in the final chapter. It is revealed that Rizla on this occasion (Rune's many acolytes are always called Rizla), is actually Pooley.
9.Retromancer (2009) - the sequel to The Brightonomicon again pairs the young Jim Pooley with Hugo Rune in another series of adventures only set partially in Brentford. This book also forms a prequel to The Antipope, and brings the series full circle.
Several of Rankin's other novels feature Pooley and Omally, but are not part of The Brentford Trilogy:
They Came And Ate Us (Armageddon II: The B-Movie) (1991) - Pooley and Omally make a brief appearance as one of a number of "trick endings".
The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived (1995) - Pooley and Omally make a brief appearance, offering their help to Tuppe as he plans to free the book's lead character, Cornelius Murphy, from prison. Before they can put their plan into action Cornelius reveals he has already escaped without their help.
Nostradamus Ate My Hamster (1996) - a movie prop-house worker finds a way to put old stars back on the silver screen. Over the course of the book, he learns of the legends of Pooley and Omally and sets out in search of The Flying Swan, culminating in a desperate race to stop the return of Adolf Hitler.
Web Site Story (2002) - set in the year 2022, Pooley and Omally have long since passed into the myths and legends of Brentford lore. As people start vanishing into thin air in Brentford, the staff of the Brentford Mercury investigate.
Although the books theoretically form a series, actually there is little continuity between volumes. World-changing events that take place in one book are usually ignored in following volumes, and it is very rare for the events of a previous book to be referred to. For example the character of shopkeeper Norman Hartnell (not that one) is abandoned by his wife yet is inexplicably reunited with her in later books. Soap Distant also appears in later books as a Brentford resident despite being declared dead, becoming an albino and dwelling beneath the earth.
Robert Fleming Rankin (born 27 July 1949) is a prolific British humorous novelist. Born in Parsons Green, London, he started writing in the late 1970s, and first entered the bestsellers lists with Snuff Fiction in 1999. His books are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, the occult, urban legends, running gags, metafiction, steampunk and outrageous characters. According to the (largely fictional) biography printed in some Corgi editions of his books, Rankin refers to his style as 'Far Fetched Fiction' in the hope that bookshops will let him have a section to himself. Many of Rankin's books are bestsellers.
Most of Rankin's books are set in Brentford, a suburb of London where the author grew up, and which, in his novels, is usually infested with ancient evil and/or alien conspiracies.
In addition to his novels, Rankin held a position as the Writer in Residence of Brentford's Watermans Arts Centre during the 1980s, and organised a regular poetry event there which he claims was the largest in Britain. He also has performed on stage with a variety of bands.
Named after Rankin's fixation with the vegetable, there is a fan club called The Order of the Golden Sprout who maintain a web site and arrange events, many around Brentford. In 2009 he was created the first Fellow of The Victorian Steampunk Society in recognition of his unique contribution to the genre. He lives in Brighton with his wife.