Originally released in the early seventies and recently resurrected by Penguin, Don’t Point That Thing At Me is the first in a trilogy starring Charlie Mortdecai, an aristocratic, narcissistic and ruthless antique dealer, accomplished fencer (of stolen property) and occasional hitman. Accompanied by his trusty manservant/vicious thug Jock, Mortdecai attempts to make a profit from stolen artwork and stay alive in the face of constant peril. Frequently witty and sporadically unpleasant, it’s a raucous ride across England and the US as Mortdecai struggles to stay one step ahead of whoever seems to be after his life at that current moment.
Every chapter starts the same way, a woozy awakening from the previous day’s incidents and imbibements, and a cup of tea served by Jock (often accompanied by a hair of the dog that bit him.) He spends his days drinking, insulting and scheming, and the novel starts with him trying to palm off a stolen Goya. After being interrogated by the secret police, he finds himself being pulled into performing a service for them, which soon becomes more and more complicated.
The plot moves along at a fair pace, laying on the farce as Mortdecai slips further and further down the pit of his own making, and yet his constant self-deprecation and amusing riffs on things keep it upbeat. Politically incorrect, amoral and thoroughly uncaring for anything but his own interests, Mortdecai is a nasty, self-absorbed and yet oddly charming fellow. Stylistically, his narration does conjour up thoughts of Wodehouse – but this can be read as being an affectation of the pompous and self-obsessed Mortdecai. He sees himself as being a carefree fellow in the mould of Bertie Wooster, and makes various references to Wodehouse’s famous characters as he goes about his day, trying to put an upbeat spin on his shady life. There is a vulnerability to him in this, even if it is masked by his bravado and he seems unlikely to learn from his darker moments.
Overall, it’s a fun and politically incorrect slice of comedic writing, filled with witty banter and an intriguing set of set pieces.