Free Man’s Game by Michael E Bell

The first thing I’ve got to say about this book is that I enjoyed it very much. I read it in a caravan in Wales in the lashing rain, and it passed the time most sweetly.

The second thing is that although it’s short I can’t really tell you what it’s about, because life is shorter. It’s a sort of thriller, a sort of comedy, definitely noir and like a cross between the shenanigans of Steed and Emma in the old days of the Avengers, and an all shootin’ all rootin’ Schwarzenegger goreathon.

The protagonist is a journalist called Nick Hubris [sic], who is pleased to take on a story that will wow ’em in the gutters, although in the process he will quite likely end up dead. Or minced, or crushed, or atomised, or even liquidised like the tattooed man who explodes in front of him, in Hyde Park. We’re not talking realism, you see, we’re talking dirty fun.

For instance – the main villain is a famous, venerated film actor called Charlton Freeman. So cuddly and wise that ‘you play Nelson Mandela for God’s sake!’ Another actor, Royston Stone – ‘hard man extraordinaire, national treasure’ – is ranged against him in a game of amazing and obscure evil. But Freeman, who keeps a gang of captive thugs and murderers whom he feeds on alcohol and vindaloo to sap their will to revolt against him, has seen the light.

He captures Hubris to tell the awful story, because he wants it all to end. Violence, kidnap and control have come to seem acceptable because they have become routine, he says – and he and all his ilk must be stopped. Hubris doesn’t want the job, but he has no choice. Freeman is that sort of good guy.

The apocalyptic climax is a battle deep underground in London – the ruins of the ancient Millgate prison, ‘flooded and abandoned when the river rose.’ Hubris, surrounded by characters called Bastard and Weasel and Ballbag, Tiny Tim and Bigman, lives on to fight another day.

‘It makes perfect sense – when you’re in possession of all the facts’ is a quote from early on, and that’s largely true. It’s a romp, and at under a quid a raving bargain in anybody’s language. It lacks rounded characters, which is a pity, and it would probably be improved by fleshing out in places. But what the hell! It rolls…

Reviewed by Jan Needle

Free Man’s Game is available in Kindle format

Find out more about Michael E Bell  here

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2 thoughts on “Free Man’s Game by Michael E Bell

  1. Love the style of this review. No need to add the reviewer’s name, guessed it by second para. It rolls, it’s a romp and a raving bargain too.

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