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- Publisher: VIKING
- Format: Hardback | 352 pages
- Dimensions: 162mm x 240mm x 33mm | 603g
- Publication date: 5 February 2009
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0670917818
- ISBN 13: 9780670917815
- Sales rank: 787,256
And out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us. When "The Hayseed Chronicles", an obscure series of children's books, become world-famous, millions of readers debate the significance of that enigmatic last line and the shadowy figure of Mr Toppit who dominates the books. The author, Arthur Hayman, an unsuccessful screenwriter mown down by a concrete truck in Soho, never reaps the benefits of the books' success. The legacy passes to his widow, Martha, and her children - the fragile Rachel, and Luke, reluctantly immortalised as Luke Hayseed, the central character of his father's books. But others want their share, particularly Laurie, the overweight stranger from California, who comforts Arthur as he lies dying, and has a mysterious aganda of her own that changes all their lives.For buried deep in the books lie secrets which threaten to be revealed as the family begins to crumble under the heavy burden of their inheritance. Spanning several decades, from the heyday of the British film industry after the war to the cut-throat world of show business in Los Angeles, "Mr Toppit" is a riveting tale of the unexpected effects of sudden fame and fortune. Not since Jonathan Coe's "What a Carve Up!" has a novel managed to capture a family and a society to such wonderfully funny and painful effect.
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Charles Elton worked as a designer and editor in publishing before becoming a director of the literary agency, Curtis Brown. Since 1991 he has worked in television and has been Executive Producer in drama at ITV since 2000. Among his productions are the Oscar-nominated short Syrup, The Railway Children, Andrew Davies' adaptation of Northanger Abbey and the recent series Time Of Your Life.
By Nadine Whitney 13 Mar 2010
Evoking nothing of the magic the cover notes promise, this book is about the pain of fame and obscurity. In the end a depressing tale of the secrets that are kept and the misapprehensions that people live under, Elton's novel simply fails to balance the banality with some kind of beauty.
The story is ostensibly about a series of children's books called 'The Hayseed Chronicles' - at first obscure and then a publishing sensation after the author's death. Luke Hayman has been cast as the hero of the stories Luke Hayseed and spends his adult life trying to avoid any kind of spotlight. Conversely his sister Rachel laments her absence from the books and tries for years to make them somehow her own, until her failures lead her to drugs and death.
Elton only allows scraps from the 'Hayseed' books, and even less from the 'golden age' of British film which Hayseed author Arthur was involved. The narrative instead introduces the reader to the rags-to-Hayseed-riches gauche American Laurie Clow, whose readings of the books on a hospital radio station catapults both Hayseed and Laurie into the spotlight. Luke and Rachel's sojourns in California with Laurie dominate much of the book, and eventually are dreary and mundane.
Elton had a wonderful opportunity to create a world within worlds with the Hayseed books, but instead concentrated on characters that are only passingly interesting, and events that are drawn out beyond their ability to move the reader.