Simon Leigh is your average, ordinary advertising sales rep, nothing like the “Mad Men” of legend. He’s a regular guy, the steady sort, very dependable. If he’d been a bit more ambitious, perhaps he wouldn’t have lost his job and his wife over the span of two months. Now living in a boarding house, with no job leads in sight, he feels like he’s lost everything. At least he still has his dog to talk to. Like most dogs, Eric’s conversational skills aren’t that great, but his voice comes through loud and clear. Simon needs to do something exciting. He needs to go chase tennis balls.
Opportunity knocks when Simon meets his new neighbor, Archie. He seems friendly, but there’s something not quite right about him. When Archie offers him the chance to make a lot of money doing something that’s not even remotely steady or dependable, let alone legal, it launches Simon into a bit more excitement than he bargained for. Simon blunders into a world of stolen cars, robbery, car chases, narrow getaways, murder, and corruption. Through it all, the only one he can trust is Eric.
If you enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s films Snatch, or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, this is the book for you. Simon can’t catch a break for love or money, and his awkward, middle-class lifestyle could have never prepared him for a situation quite like this one. He is caught up in events both terrifying and absurd, and his old life is falling apart. Author Paul Casselle does a brilliant job with Simon’s character, playing his anxieties so perfectly that every reader will find something familiar there. Even when Simon attempts to do the right thing, his social ineptness, timing, and circumstance seem to work against him. Even Simon works against himself, sometimes acting against his own self-interest with hilariously cringe-worthy effects.
The supporting cast is also full of surprises. His other neighbor, Rebecca, seems like the candles-and-incense type, but like everyone in the book, she’s much more than she seems. She has a stronger stomach for violence than Simon, but for the most part, she could use some anger management courses. Archie bounces between a manic temper and everyone’s best buddy, hitting all points in between. His cohort Tommy Dragon looks like a tattooed gangster, but he’s got his own agenda. It’s clear why Simon prefers to confide in Eric than any of the “partners” involved in the scheme.
Conversations with Eric could easily be adapted as a screenplay for a successful film. It’s the kind of crime comedy that is filled with both nail-biting tension and awkward, sometimes absurd humor. Of course, this is a crime novel and the author doesn’t shy away from the violence and bloodshed of this illegal enterprise. I highly recommend this for fans of British comedy or the type of cringe comedy found in American TV shows like Curb your Enthusiasm.
Pages: 353 | ASIN: B00XRMZPCG
The Hungry Monster interview with the author
Q – Conversations with Eric is a crime comedy filled with tension and absurd humor. Simon blunders into a world of stolen cars, robbery, car chases, narrow getaways, murder, and corruption. What was your inspiration for the crime spree that Simon goes through?
A – I love ‘Road’ movies. They physically describe the journey the protagonist makes emotionally. There is a great example of this in Bob Gale’s (Back to the Future et al.) Interstate 60. I saw this film some time ago and wanted to write something using that structure. I love the episodic build-up that imperceptibly takes us on the arch of the characters in small, pithy chunks.
Q – Simon’s dog, Eric, is the only one that he can talk to. Even though Eric doesn’t have great conversational skills I felt that their relationship and conversations were still strong. Do you have your own dog?
A – Eric is real. He died a few months ago having been by my side for nearly fifteen years. Everyone that knew him agreed that he was not a dog; he was a very wise, funny and extraordinarily perceptive human inhabiting a Labrador’s body. My partner often commented that I never spoke to him as though he was a dog. I talked to him as if he were simply another person living in the house. What was so hard to understand? He was!
Q – The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
A – I think that has to be Archie. He was such an easy man to write. He is so honestly dishonest. He calls a spade a spade. Every day I was writing the book, I looked forward to sitting down at my desk with Archie. He wrote himself. I never quite knew what he was going to do or say until he did it, right on the blank page, in front of me.
Q – I felt that you did a brilliant job with Simon’s character, playing his anxieties perfectly. He lost his job, wife and house, and seems to be barely keeping things together. What was your inspiration for Simon’s character?
A – Some authors refuse to admit that they are writing about themselves; some do nothing else. Simon was me in so many ways. I hope that I am less inept than him, but I am as lost and certainly as confused. The main difference between us is that Simon didn’t realize how much he was under-achieving in his life; I think I do. I have been searching all my life for a satisfying purpose. Maybe I have finally found it in writing? As I say in the dedication of my new thriller As Mad as Hell, ‘To my mother, who gave me my very first birthday present. I have been trying to find a use for it, my entire life’.