Liz with almost all her Paul Magrs books

Me with almost all my Paul Magrs books

I was really looking forward to re-reading this one and it didn’t disappoint. I first read it in 2002 from the library (that must have been Lewisham Library, where I discovered Paul’s books from the late 90s onwards, and probably the last one of his I had from there, as I swapped over to the smaller Charing Cross Library when I moved into central London in 2003), and then again in 2008 after buying it in Hay-on-Wye in May of that year. I do love having authors I can re-read, although I know a lot of people don’t do much re-reading (I think next year  might include a re-reading challenge of some sort).

Paul Magrs – “All the Rage”

(18 May 2008 – bookshop in Hay-on-Wye)

A ‘straight’ novel with no magic realism but still with Paul’s trademark wit and warmth, revolving around the story, in alternate chapters, of a boy-girl-boy-girl band in the 1980s who mess up their Eurovision chance but are taken to the hearts of the British public then follows the inevitable trajectory of fall-outs and new musical directions, and of Tim discovering Debbie Now in her mum’s karaoke bar years later and embarking on an epic road and rail trip around the UK of her past. Discovering their hit is going to be covered by a vapid starlet, they collect Tony, Debs’ old best friend (who lives with a rather marvellous creation, another has-been pop star, who has gone beyond gender and, it appears, sense) and then her ex-husband Clive as the plot spins faster and faster, ending up with a hilarious set-piece.

Will meeting Tony be a let-down for Tim, who saw him as someone like him on the telly before he even knew who he was? Is Tim’s job at the shop selling rubbish for your house gone forever (funnily enough, the scenes in the store rooms at the beginnning of the novel made me think of Catherine O’Flynn’s “What Was Lost“, which is partly set in the backstage of a shopping centre, and of course I found I read both novels in April and August 2008!) and can he repair his friendship with colleague Shanna?

Full of warmth – Tony being the centre of this, supporting Debs by shouting out the truth about both of them at school, carefully laundering Tim and Debs’ clothes when they stay over – and care for characters who don’t have much self-confidence (Tim is “just … being nice, not wanting to disappoint people”). There are also big, over-the-top characters: Brenda the fourth member of the band with her helmet of telly hair and Roy the enormous and unapologetic transvestite band manager. Oh, and characters from other novels, something I love about Pau’s books – I whooped out loud when they met a tall, black guy working in a chip shop in Blackpool and yes! it was Timon from “Fancy Man” (although that book was lost by then, so this is the first time I would have made that connection!)

A great fun re-read with a big, warm heart.

Are you joining me in the Magrsathon? Some of the books are sadly out of print but second hand copies can be got hold of and the Mars trilogy and the Phoenix Court series plus Paul’s excellent books about creative writing are available new. Find all my posts here.