The Gun Seller is a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up if I weren’t so over-the-top in love with Hugh Laurie. Even then, I might not have picked it up, because the idea of a novel written by an actor does kind of have that ring of, “Well, I’m famous so I might as well get that novel that’s been sitting in a shoebox under my bed all these years published, since they’ll print anything with my name on it.” Not that that’s how I think Laurie got The Gun Seller published, it’s just that when I see a famous actor’s name attached to a book, I tend to have fairly low expectations.
But The Gun Seller was selected as a book club choice over at my favourite online hangout, Ship of Fools, so I decided to give it a whirl. It’s a spy novel that is also a sort of spoof on the spy novel — Jason thinks it sounds like a spy novel would sound if P.G. Wodehouse had written it. Which makes sense, as Hugh Laurie says that Wodehouse is, for him, the be-all and end-all of funny writers.
Hugh Laurie himself is not far behind. Never mind the fact that he’s a famous actor; he’s also a very talented and very funny writer. I don’t normally read spy novels and thrillers, and indeed the plot of The Gun Seller left me far behind, struggling to figure out what was going on and who was allied with who. But the witty writing, surprising turns of phrase, and hapless-but-likable main character (a fellow who you could easy imagine the young Hugh Laurie playing in a movie) kept me turning pages to the end. Amid the thrills and the laughs, Laurie also manages to sneak in some very thoughtful points about the arms trade, modern warfare, and what it means to be “a good man.”
If you like Hugh Laurie and humour, you’ll enjoy this. If you like Hugh Laurie, humour, and spy novels, it’ll be a winner!