From the "effervescent" (Washington Post) author of Madness is Better than Defeat and The Teleportation Accident, a rollicking novel about fascism, boxing, entomology, eugenics, and desire.
Kevin "Fishy" Broom has his nickname for a reason: he has a rare genetic condition that makes him smell markedly like rotting fish. Consequently, he rarely ventures out of the London apartment where he deals online in Nazi memorabilia. But when Fishy stumbles upon a crime scene, he finds himself on the long-cold trail of a pair of small-time players in interwar British history. First, there's Philip Erskine, a fascist gentleman entomologist who dreams of breeding an indomitable beetle as tribute to Reich Chancellor Hitler's glory, all the while aspiring to arguably more sinister projects in human eugenics. And then there's Seth "Sinner" Roach, a homosexual Jewish boxer, nine-toed, runtish, brutish--but perfect in his way--who becomes an object of obsession for Erskine, professionally and most decidedly otherwise. What became of the boxer? What became of the beetle? And what will become of anyone who dares to unearth the answers?
Ned Beauman spins out a dazzling narrative across decades and continents, weaving his manic fiction through the back alleys of history. Boxer, Beetle is a remarkably assured, wildly enjoyable debut.
This 2010 Guardian First Book Award finalist uses current day London resident Kevin "Fishy" Broom, who collects rare Nazi paraphernalia (though is "not a secret Nazi" himself) and is distinguished by an unfortunate genetic defect that leaves him smelling strongly of rotting fish, as a frame through which to contain an ebullient and thrilling narrative. The heart of the story is the unlikely connection between a beetle-obsessed entomologist, eugenicist, repressed homosexual, and fascist Philip Erskine, and "Sinner" Roach, a nine-toed, 4-ft. 11-in., sadistic, alcoholic Jewish boxer. Doing a favor for a friend, Fishy discovers a murdered man and the prize he'd hidden for years: a note from Hitler thanking Dr. Erskine for his "kind tribute." This auspicious beginning plunges the novel into East London, mid 1930s, where it largely remains, save for a few brief returns to the present involving Fishy's kidnapping by a Welsh Nazi cultist and their investigation of Erskine's past. Though Beauman bites off a lot to convincingly chew and fumbles the odd simile, his novel is irreverent, profane, and very funny. Best of all, he writes prose that, like Chabon's, has the power to startle, no small feat in a debut.