William F. Deeck

KYRIL BONFIGLIOLI – Don’t Point That Thing At Me. Charlie Mortdecai #1. Weidenfield & Nicolson, UK, hardcover, 1972. Published in the US by Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1973, as Mortdecai’s Endgame. Later published in the US under the British title by International Polygonics, paperback, 1990. Reprinted several times in various editions. Film: Mortdecai (2015), with Johnny Depp.

   For the many who may have spent sleepless nights wondering what sort of novel P.G. Wodehouse might have produced had he tried his hand at a depraved, unwholesome, im- or amoral tale — that is to say, a novel wholly about aunts of the vilest antecedents — Don’t Point That Thing At Me will give you a good idea what the master might have written.

   Describing the Hon. Charlie Mortdecai, sometime art dealer, is a difficult task, but there can be no doubt that he is one of the great antiheroes of the literature. Perhaps if you were to remove most of his good points from Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy — including his sexual drive, if that’s a good point — and make Frank McAuliffe’s Augustus Mandrell a coward and a sybarite, and then merge the two characters, you might have Mortdecai, or then again you might not.

   In this, Mortdecai’s first recorded adventure, he and his thug Jock, a sort of reverse Jeeves whose surname Mortdecai doesn’t recall but thinks it is probably Jock’s mother’s, have in their possession Goya’s “Duquesa de Wellington” and a scheme to smuggle it from England to the United States. The scheme involves a bit of blackmail, which gives rise to all sorts of nasty goings-on, or going-ons , if you prefer.

   Everyone, with the exception of a few minor characters, is thoroughly despicable, with Mortdecai and Jock having a few redeeming virtues, if one could only think of them. Mortdecai himself says that he has, like the Woosters, a code, but he doesn’t tell us what it is.

   Much mayhem, some torture, and as little sex as is possible — Mortdecai seems to lead a celibate life, although he is capable of indulging with a female, reluctantly — are contained herein, as well as some Lovejoyian asides on art. Torture, of course, isn’t funny, but somehow it produces laughs in Bonfiglioli’s hands.

   (This novel won the John Creasey Memorial Award in 1974.)

— Reprinted from CADS 9, July 1988. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.

      The Charlie Mortdecai series —

         by Kyril Bonfiglioli:

Don’t Point That Thing at Me (1972)
Something Nasty in the Woodshed (1976)
After You with the Pistol (1979)

         by Kyril Bonfiglioli & Craig Brown:

The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery (1996)