Book Review | The Amateurs by John Niven
While on my search for a new book to read I came across an oldie but goodie that I’ve read countless times – The Amateurs by John Niven. If I was to make a list of the all-time funniest books I’ve ever read, this’d be very high on the list.
I bought this way back in 2009 (I think?) after reading the blurb and knowing it was for me. This was back when I still bought paperbacks, so I even imported it from the UK because I couldn’t wait for shops in Australia to carry it.
I’m not a golfer, but you don’t have to be to enjoy this story. Yes, the main character is obsessed with it but mainly because how bad he is at it. Until one fateful day he cops a golf ball to the head and his whole life changes. Sort of for the better, but a lot for the worse…
GARY is a sweet and decent man. Only two things would improve his life – having children with his gorgeous wife Pauline, and a lower golf handicap. Both are unlikely.
PAULINE is wondering how she ended up living in an ugly little house, driving a second-hand car and making a living dressing up as Tinkerbell. She’s planning to leave Gary for a self-made carpet millionaire.
FINDLAY, the Carpet King of Scotland, wants to trade in his obese wife for a younger model. But if he goes for a divorce she’ll take him to the cleaners. If only there was some way she could be made to disappear…
LEE, Gary’s luckless brother, has botched one too many drug deals. Local crime overlord Ranta Campbell gives him one more job – one last chance to get it right. Lee’s done some bad things – but murder?
When Gary gets smashed on the head by a golf ball and miraculously develops an absolutely perfect swing, everyone finds their fates rest on the final day of the Open Championship…
This book isn’t for the easily offended. After our hero Gary catches a golf ball in the side of his head, he wakes up a little changed from who he used to be. The change for the better is that he’s suddenly no longer the worlds worst golfer. The blow to the head has rendered it impossible for Gary to make a bad shot. He quickly climbs the ranks of his local club and even makes it through to the British Open where he gets to play alongside his golfing idol.
The downside is he’s also woken up with a Tourette’s syndrome and… well, an insatiable need to pleasure himself whenever he’s stressed.
The secondary plotline involves his wife who is cheating on him with the carpet king of Scotland, his useless brother Lee and local crime boss Ranta, all of which plays out a story reminiscent of say Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
There’s a lot of heavy Scottish-ness in the story which doesn’t bog it down too much even if I did have to read a sentence once or twice the first time to understand what they meant. Again, if you’re easily offended please look away now, otherwise:
‘Aye,’ Gary smiled bashfully, extending a hand, ‘pleased to meet -‘
‘The same Gary Irvine that started wanking himself aff oan the eighteenth green?’
Gary’s face began to burn.
‘HO! KEVIN! DAVY!’ the kid shouted across the lobby while pointing at Gary. ‘Check it oot! This is that guy who wiz pulling the heed aff it in front of every cunt at Ravenscroft!’
‘No way, man!’ Kevin or Davy shouted.
Everyone looking now, laughter and pointing as the kid produced a mobile phone. ‘Here, big man, let us get a photo wi ye, eh? You’re a fucking legend so ye ur!’
Stevie caught his wrist as he brought the phone up. The kid was easily a Foot taller than Stevie, so when he went to pull his arm free he was surprised to ﬁnd he couldn’t budge it an inch. Stevie leaned in close. ‘Ho, listen, ya wee fud — gie the guy a fucking break, eh? Brain injury. Medical condition an aw that. Ye wouldnae like it if you suffered some kind of accident, ye know, something that prevented ye from playing yer best…’ Stevie tightened his grip, his sausage thumb digging deep into the inside of the kid’s forearm.
‘Iya! Fuck sake -‘
‘Noo pit that fucking phone away before ah stuff it up yer jap’s eye and take a fotay o’ the inside o’ yer fucken baws.’
Stevie released his grip and the kid walked away rubbing his arm.
So if you read that bit and survived, then you’ll have no problems with the rest.
Plenty of laughs for you money. Well worth a read. Check out a sample on Amazon.