Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mr. Toppit

When the 'Harry Potter' series took it's place in the pantheon of children's literature, I started wondering how such wild success changed the life of one J.K. Rowling.  She became richer than the Queen of England, she promoted children's reading programs, and, smart cookie that she is, made sure that she, and she alone, kept Harry's kingdom secure.  But those points are public knowledge.  What I really wanted to know was how the fame and money affected her personally.  I respect her privacy and know that when she wants to talk about it, she will.

So, I had to satisfy my curiosity with 'Mr. Toppit', a fantastic, funny novel by Charles Elton.  The story covers several decades; from the post-war British film industry, to the current era of 'success-at-any-cost' show business.

Arthur Hayman is an unsuccessful screenwriter and author of an obscure series of children's books, entitled 'The Hayseed Chronicles'.  But when he is hit by a truck and lay dying in the street, he is comforted by Laurie Clow, an American woman on vacation in London.  It is a chance meeting that changes the lives of Laurie and the Hayman family.  She worms her way into the family and by discovering, and then exploiting, his children's books, she sets into motion a chain of events that are not necessarily for the better.  When Laurie brings the world's attention to the series, she hits the big time with a talk show in Los Angeles, and it is there that lives unravel and secrets are unearthed.

Luke Hayman, Arthur's son and the inspiration for the main character of the series, Luke Hayseed, has his head on his shoulders, despite his sudden fame and hatred of being associated with the main character from his father's books.  His sister, Rachel, is in and out of rehab clinics, and their mother, Martha, is distant.

The story is clever, humorous, and mindful of the price one pays for fame.

I wonder if J.K. has read it yet...

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