Everything has to start somewhere. History has things starting all over the place. And it’s with no surprise that Robert Rankins Brentford Trilogy starts with the first novel The Antipope.
First Published in 1981 by Pan Books, Rankin takes you into a new genre in novel writing. The Tall Story. Although his books will always be found in the Sci-fi section of any book shop, you can’t really pin Rankin’s style down to that area of fiction. Although he writes about space ships and time travel from time to time, that is pretty much as scientific as it gets.
His books concentrate mainly on the London Borough of Brentford. Real places appear in the books giving them a sense of reality that is sometimes missing from other books. These are places you can actually go and see. You can drink in the pubs and find all the houses he mentions. Something I have done a few times now, and for me it brings the whole thing out of the books and my imagination and straight into real life.
Rankins Anti-hero’s Jim Pooley and John Omally have become as well known as Rankin himself and their attempts to put the world to rights, well the world that is Brentford anyway. Both work-shy layabouts who are always out to make a fast pound or two out of anyone who should pass their way. They would think it nothing to stitch each other up if they thought it would line their wallets. When not in the local betting shop. Or the Flying Swan public house. Or even a bedroom of some local lady who’s husband is away working at the rubber factory on night shift they can often be found trying to best any entity that comes within the boundary of The Brentford Triangle. A mystical phenomenon that seems to draw trouble to the area. They never mean to get involved, I mean who would? But their efforts to avoid work and get money any way they can seems to lead them straight to the door of disaster.
In the Antipope, there is trouble a foot. A tramp has moved into the borough and seems to be scaring everyone with his demeanour. Soon the tramp has worked his way into the local Seaman’s Mission before showing his true colours. For he is none other than Pope Alexander VI, the last of the Borgias. Can Pooley and Omally stop him from causing Hell on Earth? And will Archroy ever see his Morris Minor again?
Reviewed by David V.Baker