You could’ve been someone, you could’ve been a contender, yet instead you ended up here, a dishwasher at the Flamingo Hotel. From the death of your mother, to homelessness, to insanity, and back again, to an encounter with an American serial killer, a love affair with a performance artist, to the loss of your foreskin, to living in a shed, and certain bum operations, you have only ever wanted one thing…
To find someone worse off than yourself.
And now’s your chance.
You’ve got seven nights…at the Flamingo Hotel.
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel is the first book to be published by new indie press Bearded Badger. It is very exciting to see a new indie publisher (especially one with such a delightful name/logo) and the fact that the Badger has burst onto the scene with this daringly different, totally mad but utterly brilliant book bodes very, very well indeed. Huge thanks to Paul for reaching out and sending me a copy of Drew’s book in exchange for an honest review.
The most obvious stylistic feature of this book is of course the second person “you” point of view. I’ve read quite a few short stories which use this voice, but not many novels – Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City is the only one that comes readily to my mind. It’s a tricky voice, and one that has the potential to sound gimmicky, but Gummerson absolutely smashes it: the direct address, the sense of complicity, the capacity for alternating between effrontery and empathy, all add so much to the richness of the eccentric tapestry he weaves. This is not experimentation for its own sake: the point of view fits the story perfectly.
And what a story! There are so many crazy, crude, shocking surprises in this book that I don’t want to divulge too much. If you are easily offended by graphic descriptions of sex and bodily functions, you’ll want to steer clear of this one, but the surface level of puerile humour is far from the whole story. Seven Nights is clever, it’s insightful, and it’s far more complex in structure than it initially appears. Following the protagonist through the week results in some magnificent and hilarious set pieces, but what is most impressive is the way that the story BUILDS, almost without the reader noticing, until, by the end, this outrageous, filthy, utterly outlandish tale becomes something that is surprisingly deeply moving.
Finally, and you’ll have to trust me on this rather odd point: the bums and willies (and there are a LOT of bums in this book, always referred to with deliberately childish terminology, sometimes featuring in rather surprising ways) are there for a reason. The protagonist is undergoing a really quite poignant struggle with his own sexuality. It is subtly and quite beautifully done. This novel is hugely funny: it’s rude, bizarre, brightly original – but most importantly, beneath the jokes and the eccentricity, it tells a very human story, and it does so brilliantly.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have had the chance to read this book, and I urge you to give it a try, supporting a fab new indie press into the bargain.
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel by Drew Gummerson is out now from Bearded Badger Publishing and is available to purchase here.