No. 579: Ghost wanted
A recent advertisement in the Personal Columns of the Times ran as follows : 'onogr urgently required for period of Plymouth '70 Mayflower celebrations. Comfortable dungeons and sole haunting rights offered on historic Drake's Island. All Spooks, Phantoms and Spectres of mild disposition who are used to children but able to give holiday visitors the "willies" will be considered . . . Head-under-arm ex- ponents, Ghouls and Ex-politicians need not apply.'
Competitors are invited to submit a letter applying for this interesting job, in an appropriate, 41,3fle. -on: behalf of any ghost or spirit from English literature or drama. Maximum 100 words; entries, marked 'Competition No. 579', by 28 November.
No. 576: The winners
Trevor Grove reports: A recent issue of the Radio Times had the following definitive summary of The Canterbury Tales on its cover: 'They met in a pub. Got very merry. They started telling tales. Lechery, treachery, that sort of thing. Free nosh for the best story.' Competitors were invited to provide an equally terse trailer for the next book the sac might choose to summarise. In fairness this week's first prize should go to the anonymous copywriter who master- minded this original approach to plugging the classics: in point of brevity, delivery and consistency of tone he was unmatched as a vulgariser by any of this week's entries. Brian Allgar though (who wins a guinea) had a nice way with a mot juste: 'A few of the lads were fed up with the boss. Thought he owned the world or some- thing. They decided to retire him. There was a bit of a massacre. The boss won. Bosses always do.'
There were any number of similar synop- ses of Paradise Lost—and Genesis—and Edward Samson wins a guinea for his: 'INFERNO. Hell's horrors in seven terrify- ing episodes, featuring DAN ALIGHIERI. Frightful possibilities of life after living. Guilt trauma out-Freuding Freud. Sinners suffering in salutary detail. Inconceivable monsters brilliantly conceived in hideous colour. Conscience-stirring damnation amid filth, slime and blood. The Listener said of the book: " . damned worrying."
The briefest version was W. J. Webster's, which also wins a guinea : 'Young couple. Unmarried. Evicted for petty theft. Kids get into trouble. The old story. Only it doesn't stop there.'
On a quite different theme B. L. Howarth wins a quick guinea with his Madame Bovary: 'Emma bored — Charles floored — Lover adored — Hopes soared — Whored — Implored — Peace Restored — Lover adored — Hopes soared — Whored — Dis- cord—Just reward.'
One guinea to Eiben Haggitt for an original view of Hobt,itland: 'You've watched the Forsyte Saga, now watch this. Thrills and spills with the Flower People v The Eye and his spectral crew. Peace-loving Strider gets the Bird and the Bauble. Hobbits and a long-haired wizard on the most dangerous mission in Middle Earth meet monsters that would puzzle even Dr Who.'
N. J. Rock and an engagingly curt evaluation of John Dos Passos's Three Soldiers win two guineas : 'They meet on call-up. Their legs become the same length. One learns to crawl, one to stand up, and one to run. All fall down.'
Two guineas to W. F. N. Watson—a tempting trailer for his forthcoming serialisation of The Thousand arid One Nights: 'Witty Sultana's crafty ruse to avoid getting the chop. Tyrant-husband's nightly ration of cliff-hangers for three years. Oriental wizardry, mystery, porn, forn, and fantasy. Vengeful Sultan enthralled. You too. Ideal for audience participation. Pull up a divan.'
Tom Brewer's Tristram Shandy wins tue guineas: 'Eighteenth century anti-hero's uproarioue misadventures, Comical circumstances of conception, birth, christening and accidental circumcision. His uncle's unmentionable pubic war-wound. Sexy widow's efforts to ascertain precise extent and position of the injury. The original cock and bull story.'
And a final four guineas to Lance Haward and Macbeth: 'Galloping ambition, insomnia, haemorrhag and a quick detergent ad. Triple Croun winner cuts his best friend dead, can't stick the kids. Murdered: one king, one baron, Sleep and a boy or two. A reafforestatiol scheme, Caesarean complications, and th queer birds stirring it up.'