Clovenhoof by Heide Goody & Iain Grant
Charged with gross incompetence, Satan is fired from his job as Prince of Hell and exiled to that most terrible of places: English suburbia. Forced to live as a human under the name of Jeremy Clovenhoof, the dark lord not only has to contend with the fact that no one recognises him or gives him the credit he deserves but also has to put up with the bookish wargamer next door and the voracious man-eater upstairs.
Heaven, Hell and the city of Birmingham collide in a story that features murder, heavy metal, cannibalism, armed robbers, devious old ladies, Satanists who live with their mums, gentlemen of limited stature, dead vicars, petty archangels, flamethrowers, sex dolls, a blood-soaked school assembly and way too much alcohol.
Jeremy Clovenhoof is new in town. He has a fondness for copious amounts of Lambrini and, excuse the pun, a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to other people’s money and possessions. Ok, so technically he’s the Angel of the Abyss but that doesn’t make him a bad guy does it? His various attempts to blend in and lead a quiet life in suburbia all tend to end in a spectacular fashion. He throws himself into every situation with such demented enthusiasm, it’s impossible not to warm to his particular brand of lunacy. Personally, I found his attempts to teach at a local school, and holding a dinner party, were particular highlights.
Clovenhoof’s bemused neighours often get dragged along for the ride when it comes to his wacky schemes. Ben, a shy bookseller, find himself in the unenviable situation of swiftly becoming Satan’s BFF. Meanwhile, Nerys is on the look out for the ideal man. Is her suave, slightly bonkers new acquaintance the man of her dreams?
Ben and Nerys watched him circulate around the room. “I swear he’s concussed,” said Nerys.
“I think he’s Swedish,” said Ben.
“His English is flawless.”
“That’s the Swedes for you. Natural linguists.”
I think that it’s fair to say that Clovenhoof has an undeniably silly premise, but the good news is that the plot absolutely revels in this silliness. The reader gets to meet a rather amiable version of Satan who is at odds with almost everything around him. The various culture clashes he experiences form the basis of most of the novel’s many humorous moments. I was impressed that the plot manages to get more and more outlandish with every passing chapter but still seems to maintain a weird sort of sense. For example, it’s only logical that if you were the personification of evil and you found yourself stranded in the Midlands, one of the first things you would do is start your own heavy metal band, I know I would.
The initial chapters have almost an episodic feel as they cover Jeremy’s attempts to blend into his new life. I liked this format, it works quite well and you’re never exactly sure where things are going to go next. Later chapters pull everything together as Clovenhoof and his friends take on the combined might of Heaven and Hell.
I have to admit a certain amount of curiosity regarding how this collaboration between the two authors worked. Part of me is keen to actually read something from each of them just to see if I can spot their individual contributions to Clovenhoof.
If you’re looking for a fun read with just a dash of evil in a similar vein to Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, or the works of Robert Rankin, then I would give Clovenhoof a try. This novel features stereotypically quirky British humour that swings from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again with flair. This is a fun farce that doesn’t get bogged down with taking itself too seriously. I always enjoy any writers who can genuinely make me laugh out loud.
Clovenhoof is published by Pigeon Park Press and is available as an ebook now.