Dirty Laundry

Don Taylor, Author Serpent's Tail $13.99 (230p) ISBN 978-1-85242-593-7
Errol Oldfield, ne'er-do-well hero of this gritty, amusing first novel from a British writer whose day job is described as ""water bailiff,"" would be perfectly content in the rundown English town of Lambton Spa, sharing an apartment with a roommate he mostly despises, working a menial job at the flagship of the Thrifty Miss Betsy discount clothing chain and poaching the occasional salmon from a local estate--if only the lovely Maxine, a 25-year-old divorcee, would agree to sleep with him. Alas, Maxine refuses to take their friendship in that direction (despite the expensive presents Errol gives her each week, funded by some sleight-of-hand with the shop's cash drawer), so Errol must make do with a variety of low-level trysts, while simultaneously avoiding rival salmon poachers and attempting to find his lost cat. Taylor's debut mines the same latter-day angry-young-man vein as Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting (set in North England in this case, and minus some of the hardcore narcotics), and while it fails to match Welsh's comic opera of the depraved in depth of characterization, it makes for an entertaining, all-night pub crawl of a read. Vaguely homicidal (he has strapped a homemade pipe bomb under his roommate's kitchen table), paranoid, sex-obsessed Errol nonetheless charms through a deprecating self-awareness and by meeting each new defeat with wry good cheer. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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