Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

by Kyril Bonfiglioli

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Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:44 am

At the risk of being redundant, I’m going to ask this question anyway……

What is your opinion of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s writing style (e.g. word choice, sentence fluency, voice, etc.)? NOTE: we are not talking about genre, here. That will be a separate question.

On a scale from 1-10 (1 being full of holes), how would you rate the plot? Were there places in the book that made you scratch your head?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:01 am

A little difficult to answer this one, as Kyril Bonfiglioli died before completing this particular book. Not sure which parts are his and which are Craig Brown's. I suppose that's a compliment to Craig.

But I would need to read the other books to get a complete sense of Bonfiglioli's style.

And I did enjoy this book enough to want to read the others, so that's a check in his favor, I suppose.

I thought the plot was interesting and typical of such mysteries, with a lot of subplots and red herrings to throw you off the track. I'd probably rank it a 7. :ok:

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:56 am

This is the only one of the Mortdecai books I have read, so I can speak only to it.

I loved the lyrical prose, the constant string of "college words", meaning big complicated multi-syllable, obscure verbiage. I find that sort of thing fun to read, relaxing, pleasurable.

As to the plot, I thought it really dragged on and on. The first chapters, setting up the mystery, took a day or two of narrative to set up, with frequent stops for drinks and meals and naps that received equal attention with the mystery. The whole Russia trip was a waste of my reading time. A red herring, perhaps as Snoopydances , mentioned, but it seemed out of place and it didn't go anywhere. It didn't fit. A true red herring is be part of the story flow and not leave you wondering why the author bothered to write that extraneous bit. The basic story of the good doctor setting his wife up for an accident by turning her lenses a half turn was clever. Charlie searching down clues and finding the truth at its bare bones made a good detective story. But so much of it got lost in meaningless "stuff".

Compare this to something like Gone Girl or Dark Places by author Gillian Flynn, which are at their heart "who dunnits" -- I was gripped on page one and driven forward, staying up too late at night to read a few more chapters of them. Mortdecai was slow and ponderous by comparison. For me, Mortdecai was more of a character study and less of a murder mystery, charming in its own way, but nowhere near as intense.

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Don Wells » Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:17 pm

I've got to say that Bon was not the world's top plotter. I've read all his books and if ever I "lost the plot" I didn't let it bother me. By then I knew that if I tried to go back and work out who did what and with which and to whom (there may be a joke in there somewhere) the probability was that I would be none the wiser. I just ploughed on and enjoyed the wit and wordplay, usually laughing out loud as I did.
Bon did the bulk of the writing of "The GMM Mystery". Craig Brown penned only the penultimate chapter. I have this on good authority but I can't lay hand or eye on it at the moment. I agree - CB made a neat job of the "invisible mending".
My personal favourite of Bon's work is "All the Tea in China". I wonder if Johnny has considered it as a film subject. A lot of it is set on shipboard, so maybe there's too much in common with "Pirates". However, taking an option on it would keep it in the freezer till it was ready for cooking up into a great film.
Yes, I can see how Bon's tendency to allow his love of wordplay to deflect him from the serious business of plot, can exasperate some readers but, for my part and many others it seems, the delicious humour is worth the temporary side-track.
Margaret Bonfiglioli's book "The Mortdecai ABC" provides the insight only a wife can have into Bon's character, foibles, quirks and eccentricities. All these have contributed to his writing style. Some of his short stories and verse have been included and they demonstrate the complexity of the man and his mastery of other kinds of writing.
If you can beg or borrow a copy, do so. They are terribly expensive now, even on Amazon. I've seen second-hand copies at over £200. I bought mine before they went out of print. There is only one error: in the "Chronology" appendix, he is listed as being in Brighton Barracks in 1954. No he wasn't; he was with me in Bridge of Don Barracks in Aberdeen, Scotland, teaching new recruits.
Bridge of Don to the locals is Brig o' Don. Brighton? Brig***on? Brig o' Don! Never use a spell-checker.

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:03 pm

Don Wells wrote:Bon did the bulk of the writing of "The GMM Mystery". Craig Brown penned only the penultimate chapter. I have this on good authority but I can't lay hand or eye on it at the moment. I agree - CB made a neat job of the "invisible mending".

Correct, Don. It was the second to last chapter--Chapter XX. And we will be discussing Craig's contribution in an upcoming question.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:20 pm

I agree that the trip to Russia was just out of place. But I think that was just part of his style - at least for this book. And the movie was true to that aspect, as the Russian scene in the movie didn't make sense either.

As Don said, the plot was not Bon's (I like calling him that :biggrin: ) strong suit....at least in this book. It didn't let it bother me too much, though, because what it lacked in plot, it made up for in humor.

I'd rate the plot a 6.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Don Wells » Wed Mar 25, 2015 1:22 pm

Did you know that Kyril Bonfiglioli has a Facebook page - under that name? His daughter Catriona writes it. I found it a bit weird, posting comments and messages to my virtual "old chum".
He (she) recently posted a link to a BBC radio podcast called "A Good Read", where two authors and a presenter discussed, among others, Bon's first book "Don't Point That Thing at Me". I'll post a link if you don't use Facebook. It's a good insight into his style.

It's a half hour prog but the Bon bit starts at almost exactly 20 minutes in.


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Re: Mortdecai Question #10 - Writing Style

Unread postby Liz » Fri Mar 27, 2015 3:38 pm

Thanks, Don, for pointing us to that podcast. It was quite interesting to hear their thoughts on it. Not sure I agree with the Christopher Frayling, who said that Mortdecai was played like a "buffoon" in the movie. That was his explanation for the bad reviews. So they thought Bonfiglioli's style was dark and campy. I'd agree with the campiness.

BTW for those who want to listen to this, the Mortdecai discussion actually starts a bit before 20:00 (18:48, to be exact, on my computer).

I couldn't find the FB page for some reason - only the automatically generated one.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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