45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2006
If you like Hugh Laurie on "House" you'll love him as a writer. This is a witty, satirical send up of the spy novel and Thomas Lang is as refreshing and interesting a character as any today. He's a world wise, and somewhat weary, hero whose biting insights and view of life reflect the best and funniest in all of us.
Laurie has a great gift for dialogue and a flowing, almost stream of consciousness narrative style. It's a Great Book first or otherwise. Did I mention Exciting?
227 of 264 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2003
I was trying to be pithy when I said to Jill that the difference between English and American comedians is that the English ones write their own material, for books by comedians are becoming quite common on both sides of the Atlantic. Their is a difference, however, and it is in the "type" of books that the two nationalities differ in: American comedians write up their monologues in a collected set of essays (Jerry Seinfield's Seinlanguage, Bill Cosby's books, Rita Rudner's I'm Naked Under My Clothes, Paul Reisner's book), whereas English comedians write novels (Python's Terry Jones and his books for children, Stephen Fry, and the case in point). I attribute the difference to education. Your typical American comedian skipped university to work through the comedy club circuit, hoping for that gig on the Tonight Show to make a break, get their own HBO special, then maybe movies or TV. British comedians typically begin in the comedy glee club of their universities (I believe it's the Cambridge "Footlights", or is that Oxford? As an American, I can't keep them straight, which is to Americans like saying I can't tell the difference between a Yankee and a Southerner), spend years as bit actors in off-West End productions, until finally they get picked up for a movie or a starring spot in their own West End revue. The British, thus, tend to be grounded in the literature of humor, rather than just the anecdotal type so favored by the Americans. Of course, I'm making this up out of whole cloth without bothering to do a spec of research, so I wouldn't base a thesis on it.
Hugh Laurie should be recognizable to you from his role as Bertie Wooster in "Wooster and Jeeves" (shown in American on Masterpiece Theater), as well as his supporting roles in the British comedy series "Blackadder" (a personal favorite), the Kenneth Branagh movie "Peter's Friends," the Ang Lee/Emma Thompsom collaboration of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," and the recent dreadful live-action remake of Disney's "101 Dalmatians." The Gun Seller is his first novel, and after the Disney movie, I think he should chuck the acting business and go into writing full time, because he shows extreme promise as an author. Imagine Wodehouse deciding that he wanted to write a James Bond novel, and you've got some idea of what The Gun Seller is like.
The plot, which is actually more important here than it is in most modern comic novels, concerns Thomas Lang, ex-officer of the Scots Guard, who finds himself approached in Holland and asked to murder a man for an obscene amount of money. His sense of honor not only has him turn down the offer, but when he returns to England, he sets off to warn the man that someone is offering money for his death. In the best tradition, complications ensue, including the British Secret Service, the young daughter of a wealthy American businessman, an art gallery, the military-industrial complex, a terrorist organization called "The Sword of Justice," and a "kick-ass" helicopter.
Laurie is extremely witty, and chuckling at the language in this book should be expected. Take, for example, the typical description of the attractive woman--every spy and detective book seems to have one, right?--and how Laurie makes it unique:
"She came towards me and stopped. She was shorter than she'd looked on the other side of the room. I smiled again, and she took a cigarette from the packet, but didn't light it. She just played with it slowly, and then pointed a pair of green eyes at me.
I say a pair. I mean her pair. She didn't get a pair of someone else's eyes out from a drawer and point them at me. She pointed her own pair of huge, pale, grey, pale, huge eyes at me. The sort of eyes that can make a grown man talk gibberish to himself. Get a grip, for Christ's sake."
I like the way he is able to be self-referential without breaking the flow of the paragraph.
This book also has one of the best last lines I've read in a long time, making an ironic point that is quite amusing and yet also draws up the story in a conclusion. I liked this book a lot, and hope to read more by Laurie in the future.
85 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2005
I discovered Hugh Laurie on the TV series "HOUSE". After I found out he had written a novel I had to read it. And I wasn't disappointed!! What a funny, witty, exciting novel!
Thomas Lang, a sort of bodyguard-for-hire, turns down a job to assassinate an American businessman, which leads to all sorts of trouble involving beautiful women, the CIA, helicopters, and terrorists. Wow!
Hugh Laurie has a great way with words. One tiny quibble--Laurie is British and the novel is of course full of British slang, some of which I don't understand. But hey, you can't win them all. I hope Hugh Laurie comes out with another book soon!
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2005
I was prompted to buy the book because of my huge admiration for P.G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster and Hugh Laurie. Having read a couple of Stephen Fry's books I was most curious! 'The Gun Seller' was well written, entertaining, intelligent and fun, although not terribly profound, which, if it were, would have not been all the fun it was! I hope Hugh Laurie writes again!!
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Thomas Lang may have the background for it--he's ex-military and peculiarly adept at hand-to-hand combat--but he's just too nice a guy to kill for money. Lang is in fact so good a citizen that, offered just such a job, he not only declines but endeavors to warn his would-be victim that there's a price on his head. This doesn't quite go according to plan. Unfortunately for Lang, nothing is as straightforward as it appears in this book. His initial job interview, as it were--an ostensibly simple offer of work delivered in an Amsterdam bar--winds up landing Lang in jail, in love, and in the thick of a terrorist group bent on, among other things, taking over an American consulate building in Casablanca.
The plot of Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller is complex and can be hard to follow, in large part because Laurie leaves readers in the dark much of the time as to what Lang is up to. Having just finished it, with the book as fresh in my mind as it's going to get, I'd be hard-pressed to summarize the various machinations of the various principals. But you won't really be reading Laurie's send-up of spy novels for the plot so much as for the author's drollery: the man wields the English language very deftly indeed. Not laugh-out-loud funny, particularly in the last third of the book when the story becomes more serious (arms dealers are bad and people sometimes inconstant), but witty and playful. There's something to appreciate in virtually every sentence of the book, starting with the first: "Imagine that you have to break someone's arm."
It's impossible not to imagine the author himself in the lead role, should The Gun Seller ever be translated to screen, delivering Lang's lines with the same gruff sang-froid that characterizes his stubbled, sarcastic, oh-so-intelligent House (Bob Hoskins being my pick for Lang's "short and cheerful" friend David Solomon). Reader's who enjoy Laurie's Housian sarcasm and anyone who likes a bit of verbal play in their diet should give The Gun Seller a read.
Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2007
I will try to prevent my adoration of the brilliant Hugh Laurie affect my review of his first (and, to date, only) published novel, but I will admit that it was the only reason I was initially interested in reading The Gun Seller. While the book itself might not be expressly profound or lasting, it's great for some light reading (or airplane reading, as it was for me).
Overall, this spy-genre spoof is great fun. If you are familiar with Laurie's days before the successful show House, MD then you are aware that he knows a thing or two about comedy (that dry, weird Brit comedy). This book is dripping with humor of that sort. Know him as Dr. Greg House? There's a bit of that scathing sarcasm in The Gun Seller, too. You can't help but picture Laurie himself as Thomas Lang, the protagonist of the story. I think that only makes the book more enjoyable.
The plot itself is a little over-the-top with conspiracies, terrorists, arms dealers, a damsel in distress and, of course, motorcycles (again, if you know anything about Laurie). But then again, what spy/action plot isn't a bit far-fetched and fantastic (i.e., James Bond). Like the Bond character, I can envision the character of Tom Lang being serialized and continuing in a series past this book. We learn enough about the character's history and personality (and that of his quirky Jeeves-like colleague, Solomon), to make him a lasting character.
I can't say I'm an expert on spy novels (or their spoofs), but I do think this offering from Laurie is worthy of a read for fans of the genre, or for those appreciative of intelligent, dry humor.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 1999
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have never spent so much time laughing aloud as I have reading this novel. I don't like spy novels and I don't like thrillers, but I LOVED The Gun Seller. Thomas Lang is a wonderful character, a real anti-hero hero. The plot and the characters are well delineated and well thought out. But most of all, Laurie's sarcastic, biting, and extraordinarily playful sense of humor fill the story with humanity and great fun. A reader couldn't ask for more! But I will...more Hugh Laurie, please write more!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Hugh Laurie, TV's Dr. Gregory House, turns out to be a talented writer of fiction as well as a good actor. "The Gun Seller" is narrated in the often sardonic voice of its hero, Thomas Lang, late of the British Army's elite Scots Guards and the recent troubles in Northern Ireland, now an often unemployed knight errant. Our hero becomes entangled in a rather complicated plot that starts out as a murder for hire job that Lang turns down and then tries to stop, ands ends up as an international terrorist incident.
Lang himself is equal parts James Bond spy, hard boiled Mickey Spillane gumshoe, and reluctant, sometimes inept hero. At the same time, Lang has a conscience, and Laurie allows us to share his grappling with a series of genuine moral dilemmas. The supporting cast of characters are vividly drawn and run the gamut from femme fatales to honest cops to rogue CIA agents. The dialogue is sharp and drives the story. The plot itself is sometimes so complicated as to defy accurate desciption; wise readers will treat the twists and turns as part of the fun. Laurie is hughly entertaining and witty in an understated way; the book's 300+ pages go quickly.
This book is highly recommended as a very entertaining read, especially for those who don't mind a well-done spoof of the spy genre.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2006
If you thought Hugh Laurie was just an amazing actor, then you need to read his wonderful first (and hopefully not last) book. The Gun Seller is a suprisingly hilarious, fast-paced, page turner from beginning to end. While I am not normally one for spy novels, this book has changed my thinking on the genre. You'll immediately find yourself rooting for the main character, begging the book gods for a happy ending for this unlikely hero. Laurie's quick wit with words and insane plot twists are golden - I could not have asked for a better read.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2004
If you're a Jeeves & Wooster fanatic, as I am, then you can't help but love this book! It's really a comedy--a farce that clearly is meant to be respectful of the Wodehouse tradition--that keeps a spy thriller-type plot afloat while the main character pokes ironic fun at himself and at those who take themselves too seriously.
Hugh Laurie is so talented! As an actor, his delivery and sense of comic pacing are second to none--and here's a book that displays the same talents that Laurie has brought to television, movies, and the stage. You can easily see Bertie Wooster as the title character Thomas Lang, and his writing is sophisticated, full of variety, and funny as can be! Once you've discovered Hugh Laurie, you'll find his successes in other media and buy yourself years of prolonged life from so much laughter.