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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dubious Deeds

Is the name of a very funny book by someone named Philip Ardagh. It is the first in a series which is itself a sequel series (lost yet?) about a little boy named Eddie Dickens. The style is hard to describe -- they are set in the Victorian period, but the author talks to you the reader in the present day. Hmm. Better just give you an excerpt and leave it at that.

***

He knew that English Law could be a very slow process. Once a local schoolteacher had tried to sue when Mad Uncle Jack had grown a particularly ugly hybrid vegetable and named it after him. Some gardeners made it their life's work to grow new varieties of flowers and vegetables, with varying degrees of success. Mad Uncle Jack's cross between a pea and some root vegetable or other had come about accidentally and the result looked like a very large, very hard and very knobbly pea; the kind of evil giant pea that would be discovered pulling levers behind a curtain at the end of a film in which vegetables were rising up against their human masters.

Mad Uncle Jack had decided to give a name to this extraordinary new vegetable, which didn't taste too bad if boiled long enough and was served with plenty of salt, ground black pepper and butter. Eventually, he settled on 'Lance Peevance' because, as he later explained in the local court, 'Peevance incorporates the pea element of my triumphant vegetable-child, and it is also the name of that man there,' he paused to point at the schoolteacher who was also in court that day because he he'd brought the legal action against Eddie's great-uncle, 'who bears more than a passing resemblance to it.'

Lance Peevance -- the man not the vegetable -- had, by now, had quite enought of Mad Mr Dickens and tried to make a lunge at him, screaming: 'I'll get you yet, Dickens!' which didn't please the judge.

The judge was already on Mad Uncle Jack's side, as it happened. Although schoolteachers were well-respected members of society and seen as better than scullery maids, for example, they still had to /work/ for a living. Mad Uncle Jack, on the other hand, was a true gentleman /and/ lived up at the big house, which meant that, in the judge's opinion, he should really be allowed to do what he liked and that included calling ugly vegetables after Mr Peevance.

Having said that, both Mad Uncle Jack's and Mr Peevance's lawyers wanted to make as much money from the case as possible, so kept raising very complicated legal objections on both sides
and sending eachother very expensive letters (which their respective clients would, of course, eventually have to pay for).

After three and a half years, judgement was finally passed in Mad Uncle Jack's favour and Lance Peevance was ruined. As a result, he owed his lawyer and the courts so much money that he fled the country disguised as a bag of coal.

On a matter of principal, Mad Uncle Jack paid for WANTED posters to be printed at his own expense. On them was an artist's impression of his own new variety of vegetable, under which were the words:

HAVE YOU SEEN A MISSING SCHOOLTEACHER,
WITH MORE THAN A PASSING RESEMBLANCE
TO THIS VEGETABLE?

As a direct result of seeing a copy of the poster, a Briton holidaying in France later recognized Lance Peevance and had him arrested. Mad Uncle Jack felt that this was proof, if proof were needed, that calling his vegetable child "Lance Peevance" in the first place had been completely and utterly justified.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

That book is absolute genius! Bwahahaha

Thanks for sharing!

Simply Victoria said...

have you read griffin and sabine. I just finished it, and thought about you. I think it's the kind of book you'd like.

Simply Victoria said...

done dirt cheap. (er, dubious deeds, get it? ah, nevermind...)