Boxer, Beetle

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Overview

Kevin "Fishy" Broom has his nickname for a reason-a rare genetic condition that makes his sweat and other bodily excretions smell markedly like rotting fish. Consequently, he rarely ventures out of the London apartment where he deals online in Nazi memorabilia. But when Fishy stumbles upon a crime scene, he finds himself on the long-cold trail of a pair of small-time players in interwar British history. First, there's Philip Erskine, a fascist gentleman entomologist who dreams of breeding an indomitable beetle as...

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Boxer, Beetle: A Novel

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Overview

Kevin "Fishy" Broom has his nickname for a reason-a rare genetic condition that makes his sweat and other bodily excretions smell markedly like rotting fish. Consequently, he rarely ventures out of the London apartment where he deals online in Nazi memorabilia. But when Fishy stumbles upon a crime scene, he finds himself on the long-cold trail of a pair of small-time players in interwar British history. First, there's Philip Erskine, a fascist gentleman entomologist who dreams of breeding an indomitable beetle as tribute to Reich Chancellor Hitler's glory, all the while aspiring to arguably more sinister projects in human eugenics. And then there's Seth "Sinner" Roach, a homosexual Jewish boxer, nine-toed, runtish, brutish-but perfect in his way-who becomes an object of obsession for Erskine, professionally and most decidedly otherwise. What became of the boxer? What became of the beetle? And what will become of anyone who dares to unearth the answers?

First-time novelist Ned Beauman spins out a dazzling narrative across decades and continents, weaving his manic fiction through the back alleys of history. Boxer, Beetle is a remarkably assured, wildly enjoyable debut.

Winner of the 2011 National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This 2010 Guardian First Book Award finalist uses current day London resident Kevin "Fishy" Broom, who collects rare Nazi paraphernalia (though is "not a secret Nazi" himself) and is distinguished by an unfortunate genetic defect that leaves him smelling strongly of rotting fish, as a frame through which to contain an ebullient and thrilling narrative. The heart of the story is the unlikely connection between a beetle-obsessed entomologist, eugenicist, repressed homosexual, and fascist Philip Erskine, and "Sinner" Roach, a nine-toed, 4-ft. 11-in., sadistic, alcoholic Jewish boxer. Doing a favor for a friend, Fishy discovers a murdered man and the prize he'd hidden for years: a note from Hitler thanking Dr. Erskine for his "kind tribute." This auspicious beginning plunges the novel into East London, mid 1930s, where it largely remains, save for a few brief returns to the present involving Fishy's kidnapping by a Welsh Nazi cultist and their investigation of Erskine's past. Though Beauman bites off a lot to convincingly chew and fumbles the odd simile, his novel is irreverent, profane, and very funny. Best of all, he writes prose that, like Chabon's, has the power to startle, no small feat in a debut. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

Shortlisted for the 2010 Guardian First Book Award

Shortlisted for the 2011 Desmond Elliott Prize

"A premise as wonderfully outlandish as any we’ve seen in a long while... oddball and rambunctious... funny, raw and stylish." – New York Times

 

"An ebulliant and thrilling narrative... Irreverent, profane, and very funny. Best of all, [Beauman] writes prose that, like Chabon's, has the power to startle, no small feat in a debut." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

"First-novelist Beauman, who is just 26 years old, has concocted a bizarre and funny mystery that is filled with eccentric scholarship... Those seeking something completely different will be amply rewarded." —Booklist, starred review

"The story wonderfully mocks eugenics and fascism, while the writing bursts with imaginative metaphors... Quirky, comical, brilliant." —Kirkus Reviews

"First novelist Beauman has created a romp across the decades, with quirky characters and a complex, darkly humorous story." —Library Journal

 

“Perhaps the most politically incorrect novel of the decade—as well as the funniest.” —Sunday Telegraph 

 

“Brilliant… I can only gape in admiration at a new writing force.”—Daily Mail

 

“Beauman strides where lesser writers wouldn’t dare tiptoe. Maintains a high wire balance between giddy vulgarity, metafiction, and the sadness of being alive.”—Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of After and Strange Fire

 

“Witty, erudite… articulate and original…often gobsmackingly smutty.” —Time Out London

 

“Frighteningly assured.” —Independent on Sunday

 

“Beauman writes with wit and verve.” —Financial Times

 

“Prodigiously clever and energetically entertaining.”—Guardian

 

“Many first novels are judged promising. Boxer, Beetle arrives fully formed: original, exhilarating, and hugely enjoyable.”—Sunday Times 

 

“Dazzling…As in P.G. Wodehouse and the early Martin Amis the tone is mischievous and impudent.” —Daily Express

 

“A heart-stoppingly creative debut. He snares you with a new hook every page.” —Simon Rich, author of Ant Farm

 

“His killer irony evokes early Evelyn Waugh…the funniest new book I’ve read in a year or two.” —Independent

 

“A rambunctious, deftly plotted delight.” —Observer

Library Journal
Kevin "Fishy" Broom, so nicknamed because he smells like rotting fish, deals online in Nazi memorabilia. He finds his job a bit more dangerous than he'd anticipated when he's kidnapped to help find the remains of a World War II-era Jewish, homosexual, nine-toed boxer. In the process, he uncovers a treasure trove of history and its artifacts and personages, including entomologist Philip Erskine, who hopes to breed a superbeetle in tribute to Reich Chancellor Hitler. Erskine, who has a darker interest in eugenics, became interested in the hapless boxer. First novelist Beauman has created a romp across the decades, with quirky characters and a complex, darkly humorous story. The one drawback: explicit sex scenes that seem gratuitous, not contributing much to moving the story to its conclusion. VERDICT Shortlisted for both the 2010 Guardian First Book Award and the 2011 Desmond Elliott Prize, this book will appeal to readers of offbeat fiction, especially those with an interest in the World War II era.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Kirkus Reviews

Many adjectives come to mind when describing Beauman's debut novel, but "strange" surely applies. Readers may feel compelled to shower after taking in this satiric tale (both funny and repellent) of fascism, eugenics, boxing, entomology, sex and murder.

Kevin Broom suffers from trimethylaminuria, a rare genetic condition that makes him smell like rotten fish, so he mostly spends his days in his London flat collecting Nazi memorabilia online. But he stumbles on a crime scene that takes the story back to the 1930s with Hitler in ascendance and some British holding him in awe. Broom learns about a five-foot-tall, nine-toed, hard-drinking Jewish homosexual boxer, appropriately named "Sinner" Roach, whose death in the 1930s is even uglier than his life. A eugenicist who wants to study him has previously focused on insects to learn whether he can breed undesirable traits out of them. (Think Aryan beetles.) The story wonderfully mocks eugenics and fascism, while the writing bursts with imaginative metaphors. For example: "Silkstone was a cheerful burly man whose laughter could have torn the stitches out of a straitjacket." Or: "Twelve-year-old Millicent had so many freckles that Erskine wondered if she had stolen some from other children."Unfortunately, the novel has no oases of sanity or likability, no character to care about or wish well. Millicent likes to burst into a room and breathlessly accuse people of perverse sex acts, but no one pays attention to her since she doesn't even understand her own words. Meanwhile, who cares whether Broom solves the mystery or whether Erskine unearths the secrets of racial purity or whether Sinner will become the flyweight boxing champion. Who cares who is buggering whom, and in what graphic detail?The only truly interesting question is how Sinner dies.

If Franz Kafka had a sense of humor, perhaps he would have written a book like this one: quirky, comical, brilliant and, somehow, ultimately disagreeable.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196807
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,399,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ned Beauman was born in 1985 and studied philosophy at Cambridge University. He has written for Dazed & Confused, AnOther Magazine, the Guardian, the Financial Times, and several other magazines and newspapers. He lives in London and is is at work on his second novel. Visit www.boxerbeetle.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Collage of Literary Style

    The synopsis of this story about sums it up and to add any more detail would surely ruin it for the reader. Imaginative and original, the Boxer Beetle is a collage of literary style, but not in a rip-off sort of way, but rather, cleverly interrogating classic greats paying homage to the boundary breakers who came before this generation. A pace-setting, genre-spanning tale that breeds Salinger, Kafka and Miller into a pretty specimen that can hold its own weight in any class or fight. Something about this dark tale gets under the skin and stews. I was thinking about it long after the back cover closed. It's a deeply thematic and morally provocative tale--definitely worth a read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    so funny, smart and awesome.

    so funny, smart and awesome.

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    Posted November 16, 2012

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    Posted January 19, 2012

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