I, Robert – The Far-Fetched Autobiography of Robert Rankin

I have mentioned Robert Rankin many times before. I am what you might call a fan of his unique works of what he calls far-fetched fiction. While they generally get filed under sf and fantasy in bookshops, and do indeed have fantastical elements, the main thing about them is that they’re funny. Generally laugh out loud and get funny looks on the bus funny. And they’re quite delightfully filled with asides about how nobody’s going to believe some plot development or other and similar bits of self-referentital silliness. There are running gags that don’t just work through a single book or trilogy (such as the classic Brentford trilogy, now up to a healthy seven books), but through most of his quite considerable output. It’s a tradition, or an old charter, or something. Which is one of them that I’ve shamelessly borrowed stolen once or twice.

Now I had wondered why his most recent novel, which I seem to have neglected to mutter about, was a self-published ebook rather than being available in DTV form from actual booksellers. Come to think of it, I had wondered why his last few books hadn’t been as widely publicised as used to be the case. For instance, why did I only learn that one of them existed when I read a post-release review? Well, the answers to all those questions are now at hand. Well, they’re at my hand. To get them near your hand, you’ll need to click the nice picture at the top of this post, which will take you to Robert’s site, where you’ll be able to order your own copy of this frankly quite lovely book. It’s a signed and numbered limited edition (mine’s 2,511 of 5,000, as I was a bit slow in getting round to ordering it, which was very naughty of me), so you’d better hurry. Go on, get it ordered now, I’ll wait…

Right, I’ll assume you’ve done the decent thing and ordered the book, so now I can tell you what to expect (delivery was pretty damn quick for me, so you shouldn’t have long to wait).

It’s a book of two halves. Well, approximate halves. Perhaps it’s more of a book of a third and two thirds. Umm, well, anyway, there are two sections.

The first section is Robert talking about his life. It’s a nicely disordered collection of anecdotes and incidents than a properly arranged story, which makes it (a) much more like real life and (ii) pretty much what you’d expect if you’ve been doing the required reading. Lots of fun. Ups, downs, bad jobs, good friends, and more asides than a thong[3] with a lot of asides.

The second section is sort of based on the books. There’s a section for each novel, giving some indication of its background, where the story and characters came from, what was going on in his life at the time (more ups, more downs, more general oddness), and yet more diversions and distractions. It was interesting to learn who Hugo Rune was really based on (in addition to the obvious Aleister Crowley bits) and which of our popular friendly characters is Robert’s alter-ego.

And it’s frustrating to learn how his dealings with mainstream publishing came to an end. In a story which absolutely didn’t happen, he tells us of the sad results of his long-term editor leaving the publisher in question, and the horrors of what her successor seemed to think was a reasonable thing to expect from Robert. Pretty much along the lines of “we’ll tell you what to write”, which seems a bit silly to me[1].

Robert describes himself as retired now, but he’s still writing, and thanks to another publisher not managing to grab the ebook rights to his first 23 or so books, managing to make some money from those. I’ve already got then in DTVs of course, but my Kindle could probably do with some of them for ease of rereading..

Oh, and if you use Audible, I strongly recommend the audiobooks of Robert’s books. They managed to get a quite wonderful reader for them – a chap called Rankin. He’s done a lovely job of these – updating some gags that relate to almost forgotten events and people, or sometimes explaining the references, making comments about things that don’t work in audio, and yet more asides.

And you don’t have to take my word for it – Sir Terry Pratchett, quite apart from being Robert’s friend, was quoted as saying of Robert

One of the rare guys who can always make me laugh

Which should be enough recommendation for anyone. And I, Robert closes with a joke that Terry told Robert which I won’t repeat here, as I think you should buy the book if you want to see it. It’s almost worth the price for the joke alone!

[1] Of course, it didn’t happen like that[2], but if It had, I’d think that.
[2] This may be something to do with lawyers, so we can’t be too careful
[3] 2 May 2016 On re-reading this post, I noticed I’d typed the word “thong” there. I probably meant “thing”, but I think I’ll leave it there as it’s a moderately amusing typo, as such things go. Other typos may have been corrected

One thought on “I, Robert – The Far-Fetched Autobiography of Robert Rankin

  1. Pingback: Robert Rankin – East of Ealing | Losing it

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