Games Gazette Logo

 

Magz Wiseman's mini books follow and recall the misadventure snapshots and longshots of one all round loveable, likeable fool; Veto Lark, Scavenger of the Stars and his long suffering assistant and oft voix de la raison, Ember Mound.

The tales themselves are short comedic gourmet vignettes of semi salacious science & fantasy fiction, served on a platter of witty sarcasm and tongue in cheek reality amidst a demi-sec humour, mixed, moulded and tossed into a salad of puns & punishments.

Magz Wiseman is an excellent artist, and an author of note (high "E" I believe) and mixes her metaphors, puns and occasional double entendres (which are also sometimes just double entendres) among her character names, locations and environments to titillate and amuse without causing more than the desultory groans of the inflicted as yet another mental image nestles itself in the reader's subconscious and refuses to budge, even under the threat of no chocolate for a week.

When I was in my formative years, able to go to the shops (and the toilet) on my own as long as neither were more than a thrupenny (that's 3 pence pre decimal) bus-ride away, I used to, once a week, experience the joys of what we called "Saturday Morning Cinema". The flea-pits visited on these joyous occasions were the Radeon in Laindon (long since torn down and turned into a flea-pit style housing estate) and the Century at Pitsea (lived on as a Bingo Hall for years, then a bowling alley and I have no idea what it is now but the building is still just about standing) anyway I digress, so back to whatever it was I was about to say. Those cinemas, for yes that's what they were despite the unusual names - no Odeon, Essoldo or Gaumont for us - took children off their mother's hands, and laps, for about 3 hours every Saturday morning - hence "Saturday Morning Cinema" - see, logic! Well they used to show cartoons of the Looney Tunes variety, followed by a full 80-90 minute movie, some adverts and then the main event, which would be something like Buck Rogers, Superman (George Reeve as the Man of Steel) or the adventures of Flash Gordon. Every week we would see the hero rush in to tackle villains, save the world, save the girl (or the school bus teetering over the precipice of a broken bridge) and then he would get into an inextricable situation where it seemed there was no hope of survival for him. At this point the screen would freeze and a voice over would rage "Can Superman stop the train before it hits Smallville?" or "Will Flash save Dale before Ming the Merciless feeds her to his Venusian crocodiles?" "Return next week for the next installment of ...." and the lights would come on and we would all trudge out vowing to be back next week. 

Of course when the adventure continued the following week the horrific situation was never quite as bad as it had been painted and the hero easily saved the day, often during the week while we were at school so we never even got to see him do it or discover how he got out of the deathtrap etc. Well Veto Lark stories are somewhat similar. They are short, funny, very different adventures, lasting from a few to many pages each and titled either by the prefix of Snapshot, in the first volume, which is but 52 pages in total length (95p from Amazon for your Kindle), or Longshot, for volume two, which stretches to 133 pages and costs just £1.25p also from Amazon and also for the Kindle. I believe ePub or Moby versions are also available if you check around should you not have an actual Kindle.

Each tale usually begins with Veto agreeing to some very dodgy looking deal either without first consulting Ember or after consulting Ember, listening carefully to her reservations and logic, and then taking the job anyway. Once Veto and Ember are embedded into the story the situation alters slightly from the original deal and although Veto somehow stumbles his way, using thought and logic that Harry Worth would be proud of, through to where he emerges somewhat victorious, there is usually a cliffhanger finale with no happy ending in sight. Then the next tale begins and Veto and Ember are safe and well and off to do another deed of derring-do (or derring-don't) with little or no explanation of how they escaped the last cliffhanger, just like the "Saturday Morning Cinema" films. By the way, I mentioned a certain Harry Worth in there. If you haven't any idea of whom I am speaking take some time 20-30 minutes roughly and search YouTube for an episode or two of Harry Worth's tv show. It's grainy and black & white and the sound is more 1 point 5 than 5 point 1, but if you want to know what English humour was like in the 60's watch some Harry Worth, or indeed read some Veto Lark. Speaking of English humour, Magz has injected some pure Scottish jocoseness into the second book with an elongated parody of the Celebrity British Bake Off tv show. In this case all the contestants are also parodies of so-called celebrities, with the exception of Veto who has joined the show undercover to discover who has stolen a recipe, anyway the whole episode is to be taken with a pinch of salt, or perhaps sugar !

Veto Lark has the irresistible charm of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo mixed with the quirkiness of Deadpool, River Tam, Kilgrave and Cesar Romero's "Joker" with more than a touch of Del Boy. Wonderfully light and fluffy but intensely amusing writing, Magz Wiseman has started the tales of Veto & Ember in the same way that a certain J K Rowling began with Harry Potter. Hit the readers with a short but punchy first book that is thin by page number but not by content, then expand both the number of pages and the locations, characters, and adventures for book two. I expect Veto Lark III to be around 220 pages and by book VII Veto will be rivaling Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky for volume of pages and content.

If you are going to read a book today, make it a Veto Lark book, you won't regret it.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015