Title: Scrudge & Barley, Inc.
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release: 7th December 2015
Genre: M/M (Christmas)
A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave.
When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next?
What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure.
And love too, believe it or not. Love that had been simmering all along at the heart of Scrudge’s miserable existence, although he was too selfish to see it—until a trio of holiday beasties pointed his sorry ass in the right direction.
Dickens’s A Christmas Carol must be one of those stories that has now been redone, rehashed and revamped a hundred times in all possible versions from the literary, to film, to stage plays and musicals. So I always think it is actually a very brave person who actually takes on a retelling of the classic Christmas tale of all time.
After reading the blurb for this book from John Inman I was actually intrigued as to what this author was going to make out of this story. First the three ghosts! I was amused to read what characters were about to play the famous ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Well, I was thoroughly entertained by this book from beginning to end. I loved the whole idea and laughed at numerous points in the book. However, as amusing and funny as this retelling is by John he certainly manages to work in all the other aspects magnificently. When Scrudges ex Barley and former partner of the Insurance Company now owned by Scrudge appears, the spooky feeling and suspense was just as riveting as in any horror book I have read. The moments of poignancy and emotion were beautifully balanced with the traditional message of Christmas being one of giving and good cheer. Last but not least E.B. (Ebbie) Scrudge at the beginning of the book is as unlikable, self-centred, cold-hearted and detestable as the original.
However, what Ebbie doesn’t acknowledge is the love that his assistant Willie has for him. Scrudge just uses him for a quickie every so often and then goes back to his egotistical self. But for some reason Willie can see something behind the facade, a tenderness that is there but so deeply buried that it has no chance of surfacing. The office quickies were also HOT and phew did they raise the temperature in the room for sure. The hard-nosed business man is all Scrudge knows alas to the extent he has totally lost himself and will take three ghosts to bring him back fromm the brink of his own self-constructed hell. So after using Willie for the physical gives him the cold shoulder after the act is complete as if nothing had ever actually happened.
The first ghost is a lesbian called Bill who takes him back in time and just like in the original this where Scrudge has to face his past. Here we see his first Christmas and I must admit to feeling an ache in my heart when we first get to read about what Scrudge had experienced in his childhood, especially about the fact of being gay. He was actually a loving kid full of joy but due to his experiences had his innocence and joy for life knocked out of him at an early age. No wonder he turned out so hard and uncaring in the end, it was almost understandable the wall he has built around himself for worry of not getting hurt again. But this has made him hard beyond all redemption and he has to first face up to these things.
The second ghost again I found actually hilarious who shows him the havoc, misery and torment that his actions are currently causing. The last and traditionally the most frightening of the ghosts is a drag queen!!! Oh my, at first I thought hilarious but she takes a sinister form and it isn’t all perfect hair, high-heels and makeup. Superb writing by John to actually give a figure that you would normally associate with a good time and a sassy quip for every situation but actually turn it into something seriously not nice and frightening. She of course shows Scrudge his possible future and what is in store if he doesn’t change.
This was a thoroughly entertaining, quirky and wonderful retelling of the great classic with its traditional message wrapped up for Christmas in John Inman style. I can thoroughly recommend this book and it should go on everyone’s Christmas reading list.
Meet John Inman
John Inman has been writing fiction since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He and his partner live in beautiful San Diego, California. Together, they share a passion for theater, books, hiking and biking along the trails and canyons of San Diego or, if the mood strikes, simply kicking back with a beer and a movie. John's advice for anyone who wishes to be a writer? "Set time aside to write every day and do it. Don't be afraid to share what you've written. Feedback is important. When a rejection slip comes in, just tear it up and try again. Keep mailing stuff out. Keep writing and rewriting and then rewrite one more time. Every minute of the struggle is worth it in the end, so don't give up. Ever. Remember that publishers are a lot like lovers. Sometimes you have to look a long time to find the one that's right for you.