Written by HJ Hampson — Released today, and coinciding with England’s first outing in Euro 2012, The Vanity Game is a debut novel of rare originality and dark wit. Half crime novel, half satire, it is set in the familiar but cosseted world of Premier League footballers and their hangers-on. The WAGs and wannabes, gangsters and dealers, provide territory that’s ripe for authors but is rarely explored with this level of gleeful vitriol.
Beaumont Alexander has the world at his feet – contracted to a premiership club, dating model Krystal McQueen, and living it large in his Essex mansion The Love Palace. He has a slew of endorsements, photo shoots in the glossies, and a his ’n’ hers fragrance. He’s living every poor boy’s dream and exploiting his fame to the maximum.
But, as we know from the tabloids, men like Beaumont have an unerring ability to self-destruct and after a celebrity house party which ends in the coke-fuelled rape of a waitress, Beaumont’s world comes crashing down around his ears. An argument with Krystal escalates into a fatal stabbing in their Hello!-friendly kitchen and Beaumont calls his agent Serge, who’s well versed in the dirty business of making bodies disappear. After all Beaumont is worth too much money to let a little thing like murder derail his career.
Famous models just don’t go missing, though. Soon the media circus descends on Beaumont, right when the police start to suspect him, putting him in a situation he’s really not equipped for. The holes in his story are picked up and before he knows it he’s on the front page of every rag in the country, then sweating it out in an interview room with a Mancunian copper who wants to know why there’s a blood stained knife in the garden of the Love Palace. Things look hopeless for Beaumont. But then something miraculous happens, Krystal comes back, and the book swerves into dark, demented territory which will have you whipping through the pages.
Hampson has created a thoroughly vile protagonist in Beaumont Alexander. He’s obnoxious and yet completely credible. You will hate him but he’s such a terrible spectacle you won’t be able to stop reading, just to see if he gets a much-deserved comeuppance. He’s like a chav Patrick Bateman, all braggadocio and designer labels. Hampson is a must for fans of Brett Easton Ellis, whose sly wit and iconoclastic tendencies she shares.
The Vanity Game is a cracking book – one for football fans and detractors alike – and an ideal holiday read. Just watch those Beaumont and Krystal wannabes around the pool! It works perfectly as a thriller, full of shady characters and, written in lean, pacy prose, this could be the beginning of a whole new genre, Sleb-noir. As a satire on the cult of celebrity it is relentless and Hampson goes in high with studs showing, mercilessly gouging her targets with a delight which borders on the sadistic.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars