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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Or you could just go and read "Foucault's Pendulum"

As you may know, it's now compulsory in the UK to carry a copy of The Da Vinci Code if you're going on public transport. If you're wondering what those armed police are there for in the Tube stations, they're there to shoot you repeatedly in the head if you don't have one, so don't say I didn't warn you.

I've really been trying to read the Code. Honestly. But Dan Brown doesn't make it easy for you. You open it up and on the very first page it says, "On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly." Dan, I can take Steven Seagal movies without breaking a sweat, but you just might have me beat.

So, I'm sitting there on the Northern Line, and every single person there is bolting this stuff down with rapt, hungry expressions on their faces. I bumped into Donald Sutherland the other day. "Hey Don," I said, "that Da Vinci Code is fucking terrible, isn't it?" And he pointed at me and did this awful bug-eyed shrieking thing, and I knew they'd got him too.

If you can't beat them, you might as well make a few quid off them. Here's the start of my new blockbuster novel.

In suite 419 of the Continental Radisson, Paris, a man lay sleeping. His name was Richard Congdon, investigative train-spotter. His monogram explaining the hidden significance behind the Richmond to North Woolwich Silverlink Metro timetable had set the world of locomotive horology on its ears.

Women adored his rather Tom Hanks-like good looks, and men envied the way he bestrode the world of train-spotting like a colossus, although without coming off like a know-it-all.

"Damn," thought Congdon, groggily, as a heavy fist knocked harshly on the door of his room, waking him up. "I have an early lecture tomorrow on the nine Secret Railway Bank Holidays. With my luck, this stranger will draw me in to a terrifying world of shadow conspiracies, much as in my recent outing Dark and Stormy (Corgi, £5.99) - and I'll never get any rest!"

Hesitantly, Congdon strode across the pale green Prunesquallor carpet, examining it with his sensitive feet. He opened the door a crack.

"Excusez-moi, M'sieu Congdon, but is it that you are - 'ow you say - sleepeeng?" a voice asked. Congdon's eyes travelled through the crack to meet the voice's owner. His face was as thin and hatchet-like as a small slim-bladed axe. "You will come avec moi, yes? I am Jean-Pierre Carton of the Gendarmerie."

Reeling, Congdon's mind hurled him back to the day before, when he had been giving a talk at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which was built in 1977 and is distinctive for having its pipes on the outside. The centre was named for Georges Pompidou, the president of France from 1969 to 1974 when he died.

"And now, the most handsome man you'll ever see in a Pacamac - Richard Congdon!" Congdon had shifted uneasily in his seat. When he had agreed to talk to the Locomotive Enthusiasts of Europe he hadn't known that it would be so embarrassing.

The stunning blonde moderator continued mercilessly. "Professor Congdon is so learned and fascinating, he has been voted as the most interesting, enigmatic and magnetic man in the world by Marie Sue magazine." I hate that magazine, thought Congdon angrily, as the audience, mostly women, laughed adoringly. "'Can it be long before the sexy Prof gets the Nobel prize he deserves?'", she quoted.

Congdon reached nervously into his pocket and fingered his secret Nobel medal. The Nobel Prize was set up by Alfred Nobel in 1895 and was first awarded in 1901. The irony that Nobel had been Swedish was not lost on Congdon, who had been given the medal by the Nobel committee in gratitude for a secret assignment he had taken on for them.

"Yes, yes!" said Congdon, suddenly interrupting. "Shut up! We all read the article! Now, shall we get on with the lecture?"

"Ha ha ha ha!" said all the women adoringly.


At exactly the same moment, an ominous figure lurked in the woodshed. Five feet tall, with a pronounced hunch-back, glass eye, hook-hand and third nipple, his name was Clive.

"Ah, that is good!" he rasped gutturally, pouring boiling-hot Bovril into the crotch of his corduroy trousers. Only by mortifying his flesh could his sins be purged. This morning he had shot a man in the guts; the irony was not lost on him.

He picked up his cellphone and dialled a number.

"Hello," came the menacing voice of his Master. "I trust you have sent our friend on ... heh heh heh ... a permanent vacation!"

"Yes," said Clive, "Just like Our Founder intended."

"Yes," said his Master. "As you know, Clive, our founder was Roger Cashman, the presenter of the BBC's Gearstick! since 1999."

"Yes," said Clive. "And we have been dedicated to destroying all forms of public transport ever since." He put the kettle on for more Bovril.

"But Congdon still lives!" said the Master.

"Not for long," said Clive. He ended the call. Then he picked up his ritual ping-pong paddle and began to beat himself about the face and neck with it.

"Vescere bracis meis," he intoned, tonelessly. "Sic faciunt omnes..."

I think I'm on to a winner here.


Blogger Mac said...

ow ow ow...please stop. You'll probably get richer than Stephen King--but it would be so very wrong of you.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Schroeder said...

A while back, I came across a critique of the Da Vinci code on the Loyola University web site.

6:51 pm  
Blogger Torgo said...

Yep, it's cobblers. Isn't it enough that it makes Jeffrey Archer look like Nabokov?

7:02 pm  
Blogger Stephen Newton said...

Torgo, Thanks so much for stopping me before I started writing like Dan Brown, the son of a Presidential Award winning math professor and of a professional sacred musician, who graduated from Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy,

I was so relieved after I read your parody, I cancelled the surgery I scheduled to give me his rugged looks and cleft chin, thinking that maybe then I could write a best seller.

BTW, thanks for the tip about carrying The Da Vinci Code. As soon as I find some public transportatin here in the US, I'll try it.

3:14 pm  
Blogger Stephanie Bose said...

And I thought something was wrong with me because I had to wheedle myself ("C'mon, you gotta do it... everyone else is") to finish the book. Thank you, thank you. I am not alone. (And, to be honest, I plodded through Foucault's Pendulum, too, so perhaps I am a literary ingrate).


8:57 pm  
Blogger Simon Haynes said...

I read the Da Vinci Code to see what all the fuss was about - like everyone else, I guess. It was better than the awful code cracking novel (Deception Point?) but not by much.
On the plus side, every bestseller drives people into bookstores. Many leave with more than one book under their arm, which is good. Unfortunately, most of those additional books consist of Dan Brown's other titles, which is bad.

8:50 am  

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