Thursday, June 30

Delete This At your Peril - Neil Forsyth

Bob Servant, something of a ne’er-do-well in Dundee, is an unlikely hero – in his sixties, with a somewhat shady past, a self-proclaimed lover of skirt and jazz mags, he is nonetheless a champion of the people.
Or at least a champion of those of us (which is almost everyone) who have received unsolicited emails promising us a percentage of a fortune, exotic friendship, or offers of highly-paid work.
Forsyth presents Bob’s emails with only a brief introduction (giving a little of Bob’s background as a window cleaner with a decreasing clientele, preceded by his position as head cheeseburger creator in the period leading up to Broughton Ferry’s renown Cheeseburger Wars) and the occasional annotating footnote (“This is entirely untrue. Dundee’s Evening Telegraph newspaper carries a precise reflection of the day’s exchange rates.”).
Bob’s work is otherwise allowed to stand on its’ own, in a series of exchanges between Bob and eleven spammers.
For those unfamiliar with the world of spam-baiting, it’s the practice of wasting the time, effort and occasionally money of spammers. Though the phrase isn’t used in Delete This At Your Peril, that is unquestionably what the series of emails do.
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you clicked ‘reply’ to requests for the transitory use of your bank account to launder hidden riches, check out ‘Lions, Gold and Confusion,’ ‘Uncle Bob’s African Adventure,’ ‘Bobby and Benjamin are New Friends’ and my favourite, ‘The Hunt for Jerren Jimjams,’ in which Bob has the spammer tracking down and apprehending a fictitious rip-off merchant.
What about offers of friendship by beautiful women from far off lands? See ‘Alexandra, Bob and Champion,’ ‘Olga, Sasha and the Jamaican Lakers’ and ‘Natalia and her grandmother’ – my favourite part of this last exchange is when ‘Natalia’ begins working her grandmother into her emails and Bob responds:
I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope she doesn’t get ill in such a way that would mean you’d have to ask me for a few quid. Though I’m sure that won’t happen...
which is immediately followed by a tale of woe, imminent surgery and medical expense, and poor Natalia is alone in the world apart from Bob and her grandmother.
This is terrible, terrible news. Who could have seen this coming? It’s a bolt from the blue Natalia, no doubt about it. Your Grandmother is a fantastic little chap. Tell her to be strong and, for all out sakes, hang on. Because...........I’M COMING TO SAVE YOU That’s right Natalia, I’m coming to Russia!
Natalia protests that Russia is entirely too dangerous, and that sending the $450US would be far less expensive. Bob is undaunted by danger, until h bangs into Cruncher McKenzie (“yes, that Cruncher McKenzie”) who is also concerned about the risks of peril in Russia. Sadly Bob is compelled to rescind his offer of aid but, in consolation, includes the lyrics of Billy Oceans’ hit “When the going gets tough.” Natalia now believes Bob is not serious, and the exchange ends:
From: Bob Servant

Subject: re: Can we save Natalia’s grandmother? No we can’t
I share your suspicions
The fun of the book is watching the increasing lengths to which the spammers will go, the outrageousness of Bob’s emails, and the increasing frustration of the spammers before they decide to call it a day. In ‘The hunt for Jerren Jimjams’ the initial enquiry from Dr Mammadou Kouassi offers Bob 30% of $US25 million, but Bob doesn’t trust anyone from Senegal. Though he initially claims this is because it sounds so similar to ‘seagull’ he agrees, when the insightful Dr Mammadou suggests it, that this is because a Senegalese man previously did him wrong. Keep to redress this harm, Dr Mammadou offers to track down the offender, armed only with his name (Jerren Jimjams) and the vital information that he lives by the sea and has long hair. Mammadou also gives Bob the contact information of Youssou Ba, a gendarmerie, who is keen to apprehend the assailant. Not only do they manage to find him, they also identify another victim, Randy Whytyng, an American from Westbrook who lost $72,000 and has offered Youssou $12,500 for the apprehension of Jimjams. Bob is so impressed by the herculean efforts of the gendarmerie that he decides to fly out to Dakar with money, but his attached itinerary shows his end destination as Dhaka (Bangladesh instead of Senegal), which causes to end of hysterical, capitalised emails, to which Bob responds:
I have just landed in Dhaka and, quite frankly, I’m absolutely furious with you. Why the hell did you tell me you lived in Dhaka if you wanted me to come to Senegal? I’ve wound up in Bangladesh.
There’s a happy ending after all, though – Bob doesn’t respond to Mammadou’s requests for “just £500” but does find love, with a bouncer named Kazi in Dhaka. They send a wedding announcement to Mammadou, Youssou and Randy, hoping
that you can get time off from the hospital and the police station and Randy can extend his trip. It won’t be the same without the three of you, because you are such distinctive, completely separate characters.
I did enjoy Delete This at Your Peril, a book I’ve had on my to read list for a while (and that I bought at the airport instead of reading any of the three books I brought with me from my very high to be read pile). However, though the character of Bob is engaging, there isn’t anything here that you couldn’t read for free online, at any of the dozens (or more) of 419 spam baiting websites. My very favourite of these is here. – Alex

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