Lionel Savage has a problem – his marriage. Since this Victorian poet tied the knot, he’s been unable to write. The situation has grown dire and his solution is appropriately, so far as he is concerned, extreme. There’s just one last quite damnable party that he finds he must endure, and there he meets The Gentleman. we (think) we know the gentleman by many names, which is to say Legion. But as Lionel and the gentleman discuss matters at hand, they unexpectedly hit it off. And we as readers realize that this is not the Devil we think we know.
Forrest Leo’s The Gentleman partakes of many bits and pieces, yet feels quite whole in and of itself. Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and H. Rider Haggard are the mountainous peaks looming in the background. In the foreground, look for P. G. Wodehouse and a butler named Simmons who makes life possible and passable for the generally miserable and selfish Lionel. As Lionel’s fondest unspoken wish comes true, the adventure to undo that wish begins.
Prepare to laugh out loud, early and often as you read The Gentleman. Leo writes hilariously dyspeptic misanthropic prose as Lionel. And fortunately for the reader, one Hubert Lancaster was tasked with putting together the manuscript for The Gentleman. Hubert cannot leave well enough alone, and constantly comments in asterisked footnotes, generally discounting much of what Lionel has to say.
The Gentleman is sort of a satire of Victorian adventure novels, but it embraces them to the degree that it’s a ripping yarn full of almost- and misadventures. The amazing accomplishment is that Leo loves his characters, and he crafts a story that is not only funny as hell, and just as rude, but also strangely poignant. While the plot moves at a breakneck place, it never feels overstuffed. Leo has a great sense of balance in terms keeping tension alive along with emotional impact. The poignancy also derives power from and lends oomph to the whimsical aspects of the tale.
Along the way expect some short excerpts of bad poetry, and actual insights into the competitive nature of writing. And lots of laughs, as well as shout-outs to your favorite Victorian writers. You’ll finish it in a day or so and be on your guard for the alread0finished sequel. The book is choc-a-block with wonderful illustrations which add nicely to the effect. In The Gentleman, Forrest Leo gives readers a Dev’l they can make deal with.
When I spoke with Forrest Leo, it was clear that the reason readers have so much fun with the book is that he has so much with the book. I learned of the unusual beginnings, which one might never guess from simply reading the text. You can hear our lightning round interview by following this link to the MP3 audio file; or just settle into your winged chair and listen right here.