Friday, November 2

The Black Crusade – Richard Harland

After writer Martin Smythe survived the horrors of Morbing Vyle[1] he’s hot on the trail of the evil vicar involved. Delving through the musty records of the Church of England he discovered a manuscript written by Hungarian bank clerk Basil Smorta. It is an account of how, through a freak combination of circumstances, wound up in club Zut-Alors on an October night in 1894, where he saw famed Australian Songbird Volusia and fell irrevocably in lust. And love. A consequence of which was his embroilment in the Black Crusade – a group of New Believers hell bent[2] on ushering in a new age of death, torment and destruction.
After Lynn’s amused review I was quite looking forward to reading The Black Crusade, but – even though I initially followed her advice and read it interspersed among other reading – it didn’t grab me at all. The style is interesting - a first person narrative annotated by a third party – and though we’ve seen it before (eg The Athenian Murders) this was the first comedic version. I did quite enjoy the proliferation of footnotes, ostensibly inserted by the publishers, but they were insufficient to compensate for the novel’s manifold flaws. The hero
[3] is turgid, the heroine both insane and uninteresting, the villains caricaturistic,[4] and the plot meandering and pointless. I finished the novel, and – reminded by having the book in front of me to write the review – I may even visit the website ( but even though my library has a Harland trilogy that I was previously considering borrowing, I think it’ll be a long while before I revisit Mr Harland’s writing. – Alex
[1] We never learn what happened at Morbing Vyle, which is irrelevant to the story of The Black Crusade. Similarly we hear no more from or about Martin Smythe after the preface.
[2] Yes, the pun there is intentional – we here at The Bookish believe that the occasional pun adds a layer of depth to what might otherwise be an uninteresting and possibly pallid review.
[3] As the footnotes repeatedly point out – a far better hero would have been the Imperial Cavalry officer
[4] A word I have just now created, which means “resembling but not actually being caricatures”
To read Lynn's review of this book, click here

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