Dead Famous

Dead Famous

By (author) Ben Elton


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One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. Yet again the public gorges its voyeuristic appetite as another group of unknown and unremarkable people submit themselves to the brutal exposure of the televised real-life soap opera, House Arrest. Everybody knows the rules: total strangers are forced to live together while the rest of the country watches them do it. Who will crack first? Who will have sex with whom? Who will the public love and who will they hate? All the usual questions. And then, suddenly, there are some new ones. Who is the murderer? How did he or she manage to kill under the constant gaze of the thirty television cameras? Why did they do it? And who will be next?

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  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 129.54 x 193.04 x 27.94mm | 68.04g
  • 01 Sep 2005
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0552999458
  • 9780552999458
  • 85,043

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Author Information

Ben Elton is one of Britain's most provocative and entertaining writers. From celebrity to climate change, from the First World War to the end of the world, his books give his unique perspective on some of the most controversial topics of our time. He has written twelve major bestsellers, including Stark, Popcorn, Inconceivable (filmed as Maybe Baby, which he also directed), Dead Famous, High Society (WH Smith People's Choice Award 2003) and The First Casualty. He has also written some of television's most popular and incisive comedy, including The Young Ones, Blackadder and The Man From Auntie. His stage work includes three West End plays and the hit musicals The Beautiful Game and We Will Rock You. He is married with three children.

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Review quote

"Big up to Ben Elton and respect, big time. Top, top book" Mail on Sunday "Wry, fast and fiendishly clever" The Times "A book with pace and wit, real tension, a dark background theme and a big on-screen climax" Independent "The perfect modern-day whodunit. A cracking read full of hilarious insights into the Big Brother phenomenon" Mirror "One of the best whodunits I have ever read...a funny, gripping, hugely entertaining thriller, but also a persuasive, dyspeptic account of the way we live now, with our insane, inane cult of the celebrity" Sunday Telegraph

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Review text

It is series 3 of the reality television game show, House Arrest (Big Brother in all but name) and, contrary to industry predictions, the ratings are holding up well. From Day 27, however, the number of viewers skyrockets - because on that day one of the housemates is murdered. The killing has been captured on the cameras covering every corner of the house, but the police are a long way from solving the case. The show must go on, and the contestants' fears are calmed somewhat by the promise of huge payouts, but it does not alter the fact that one among them must be the killer. Will they live to enjoy their winnings? Would-be writers around the world will be horrified that they did not think of this first. The Big Brother concept is an ideal platform for a murder mystery, providing a varied cast of characters locked together in an unnatural environment for weeks on end, with new grudges emerging all the time, and the potential primary motive of 500,000 pounds prize money for the eventual winner. Elton handles the situation extremely well, not only unmasking the culprit with a flourish at the end, but also concealing the identity of the victim until beyond the halfway point; a neat touch to keep the reader guessing as tensions rise. Elton's early solo work was characterised by a manic, hectoring tone that worked well in short bursts of stand-up performance but could be exhausting across 300 or so pages of a book. However, this novel plays to the gallery without making readers feel guilty about the number of trees it took to produce the book they are holding. Occasionally, Elton introduces a thought-provoking point about, say, the environment or mental health, into the housemates' conversations, but these people are so shallow that it is difficult to take them seriously, and it suggests a welcome note of self-parody on the part of the author. The main theme at the heart of the novel appears to be the manipulative power of the media, especially television, packaging a person's life, condensing it from 24 hours to a viewer-friendly 'highlight' reel. Reality is what television says it is, and we believe it. New media, such as the Internet, is shown as less easy to tame - 47,000 people see the murder live on the webcast - but also as a haven for fools: the weirdest theories emanate from the chat rooms and are casually dismissed by the police. Elton is probably critic-proof these days, but happily his latest work offers little cause for complaint. Funny and cleverly constructed, Dead Famous relies heavily on surprise, something very difficult to sustain in this media-saturated world, so avoid indiscreet friends who may already have read it. After all, they might try to tell you that the murderer is (Kirkus UK)

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