Heads You Lose by Rob Johnson
A little about Rob Johnson:
Rob Johnson sounds like a really interesting bloke. As a Brit living in Greece, I had wondered whether he would begin to draw on his own experiences abroad to begin informing Trevor’s trials and tribulations, and now in Heads You Lose, Trevor has travelled to Greece in order to care for an elderly (but not so disabled) patient. I have no doubt that there is a taverna close to where he lives where smoking is just about a condition of entry, and that there is a local officer Pericles whose gusto for seafood is only rivalled by his passion for his job.
In Johnson’s own words:
Having worked for several years as an administrator and publicist for touring theatre companies, I decided to try my hand at writing plays myself. Four of these were professionally produced and toured throughout the UK, but when public funding for non-commercial theatre virtually dried up overnight I was forced into the world of ‘proper jobs’ as my father liked to call them.
During this period, I also made use of my Equity card and appeared in numerous TV shows as a ‘supporting artiste’, otherwise and somewhat less attractively known as an ‘extra’. (Ricky Gervaise was spot on by the way. Just wish I’d written ‘Extras’ myself.)
I now live on a 5-acre smallholding in Greece with my partner Penny, six rescue dogs and three cats and divide my time between writing and growing olives organically for oil. I have several writing projects on the go, and my comedy thriller Lifting the Lid is now available from an online bookseller near you
About Heads You Lose:
I have to admit that I approached this book with a touch of reluctance. I really enjoyed Johnson’s first, Lifting the Lid; what if this one wasn’t as good? It’s hard to write a follow-up which contains the same characters with all their flaws and fascinations without being repetitive. To find new situations for them which contain the same combination of ridiculousness and Irish fate without being out and out dumb.
I should not have worried. Johnson has delivered another masterfully planned and executed novel, holding two intricate storylines and a large number of fascinating characters in his fingers. The story is so enjoyable that it’s easy to get lost in it and not appreciate the magic that he weaves so skilfully.
Firstly, his favourite characters – Trevor, Sandra and let’s not forget Milly – appear again, solidly consistent with their previous selves but in no way dull. They are joined by an enormous host of new characters, all fully rounded and wholly convincing. As with book 1, they are exaggerated versions of real life tweaked in order to be humorous, but never slip into caricatures, and I never felt the author was ridiculing them. One of my favourite new characters is Marcus Ingleby, the grouchy old man who Trevor and Sandra go to look after. Of course he has a dark past of his own, which manages to catch up with him at exactly the same time that Trevor (or let’s be honest, Sandra) is in charge, also the moment when Ingleby’s neighbour begins carrying out her careful plan of revenge.
Then there is Johnson’s timing. Although the beginning of the book is slow, his scene setting is impeccable and necessary. Around page 70 the strands begin to interweave, and the pace picks up. From then on the pacing is perfect, taking the characters from one ridiculous situation to the next and culminating with all of them getting an approximation of what they deserve. Johnson ties up all loose ends beautifully, even giving Trevor an opportunity to show that some of Sandra’s gumption has rubbed off.
The writing is professionally edited, making reading the story a highly enjoyable experience. It is a romp through expatriate Greece seen through the eyes of an observant and light hearted writer who is gentle on his characters and undoubtedly has a very quirky sense of humour.
It tickled my funny bone in all the right places.