When Ruth Dudley Edwards has a book launch, she certainly does it in style. For the launch of Killing the Emperors, she chose the Cartoon Museum in London's Bloomsbury area. Despite London being in the grip of a winter freeze the place was filled with friends and celebs alike.
|Ruth Dudley Edwards
I spotted Celia Imrie and Henry Kelly amongst the crowd. The crime world was well represented by Shelia Mitchell (Mrs HRF Keating); Denise Danks, Mike Ripley, Simon Brett, Ann Granger, Deryn Lake, NJ Cooper and Len Tyler to name but a few.
In her speech (she says she is always petrified when giving one but it doesn't come through), she told her audience how much the public was paying for some artwork which are literally pieces of shit. I kid you not, and her words. I think that is the most politest version I can give.
And here, I hand over to Mike Ripley - well a cut and paste job from his Getting Away With Murder column - because he does it better.
|Susie Dunlop and Chiara of Allison & Busby flank Ruth
I Don’t Know If It’s Art, But…For many years my old chum Ruth Dudley Edwards has used her comic ensemble cast (headed by Baroness Ida ‘Jack’ Troutbeck, Robert Amiss and the cat Plutarch) in a series of crime novels which put the satirical boot into, among other things: the House of Lords, the Northern Ireland peace talks, academic life (and death) in a Cambridge college and, of course, Americans.
Now, in Killing The Emperors, published by Allison & Busby, Ruth takes a chain saw to the world of ‘conceptual art’ allowing the wonderfully politically incorrect Baroness Troutbeck (a truly great comic character in danger of becoming a National Treasure) to spew bile and opprobrium on the heads and bank balances of just about every contemporary artist with the exception of David Hockney, who passes muster because ‘he does landscapes’ now.
Coming in for particular stick are conceptual artists who have displayed sharks in tanks, pickled lambs, unmade beds, neon signs and millions of sunflower seeds (no name; no libel suits), plus the gallery owners and rich patrons who encourage and finance the entire circus.
Baroness Troutbeck could be a gold medalist if putting both feet in the mouth whilst speaking was an Olympic sport and in Killing the Emperors she has to call on every ounce of natural invective energy in order to save herself and nine other movers-and-shakers of the modern art world kidnapped by a bankrupt Russian oligarch gone totally bonkers who is out for revenge on those who have sold him ‘art’.
The plot moves seamlessly from the sublime to the ridiculously sublime when it becomes clear that the kidnap victims are being held in a Big Brother style house and are forced to produce increasingly ridiculous pieces of modern ‘art’. Any hostage who fails to make the grade is quietly ‘evicted’, murdered and their bodies discovered in a suitably ‘artistic’ setting.There are some great jokes in this book and even if the targets are not that difficult to hit for a satirist of Ruth’ s standing, one is left in no doubt that this is a subject close to her heart and one she has been seething about for several years.
So what next for the formidable Baroness Troutbeck? (Spoiler Alert: she survives – of course she does). How about the use of Sock Puppets, dodgy reviews and slagging-off fellow crime-writers on the internet and Twitter (whatever that is) and all the palaver of making public apologies afterwards? Surely that incestuous world must be a suitable target for Ruth’s barbed wit.
In fact I will suggest it to her the next time she takes me for a sumptuous luncheon at one of the many fine London clubs where she is a member. In fact, if memory serves, which it rarely does these days, it is coming up to twenty years since I first met Ruth Dudley Edwards in, I think, the Reform Club, where the late Sarah Caudwell introduced us and a jolly luncheon ensued.
Thankfully, there was no CCTV in those days; and surely the staff will have forgotten by now….