An astonishingly workaday title for a book that features a singing otter, flying dinosaurs and a sheet of electronic tissue paper. Welcome to the madcap world of Paul Ewen, a softly spoken New Zealander with a knack of finding trouble in public houses. It’s a world not unlike that of Michael Hodges, only with less vitriol and more adjectives.
The just-published paperback collects together 44 ripping yarns, each set in one of London’s famous bars. Paul staggers from pratfall to misadventure, in what Toby Litt describes as a Campaign for Surreal Ale.
There’s very little ‘reviewing’ going on here. The book would be more accurately titled ‘Almost 50 ways to get thrown out of a pub’. Typical tales end with a trip to the casualty department, or the intervention of Her Majesty’s Constabulary.
So we follow his efforts to drink 19 pints in 10 minutes in the Pembroke Castle, travel back in time inside the Sun Tavern, and communicate entirely by handwritten notes in the Blackbird, Earl’s Court (which only a Kiwi could file under ‘Central London’).
The transition from pub-lashed to published was helped by the remarkable illustrations of David Le Fleming. His unique style establishes a whole new school of art that will come to be known as ‘drunken toddler with eyeliner pencil‘. The incoherent scrawl fits perfectly in this terrific book that’s best read inebriated.
One question remains: how, in the devil’s wine cellar, is it possible to write a chapter on The Albert, Victoria Street without mentioning the ejaculating penises etched upon the windows?
London Pub Reviews is available now from Foyles, Tate Britain and Crockett & Powell.