Lion Heart: “a clumsy combination of genres”

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HAVE you read anything so bad, you just want to keep on reading until the end?

You are enjoying the time and consideration it took to make this novel so inherently awful, you just have to finish it.

Justin Cartwright’s Lion Heart is literature’s equivalent of Blackpool: it’s so bad, it’s good.

Perhaps Cartwright is feeling fatigued. This is his 15th novel, after all.

Richard Cathar, son of hippy historian Alaric (with a name like that, how could he not be?), has just finished a relationship with creative writing student, Emily, following an argument about Richard III.

As you do.

When you usually go on the rebound, it involves copious amounts of alcohol, tissues (for crying and fierce masturbation), and getting off with that girl called Stacey from Preston.

Richard is not a normal guy. Instead, he has a staring contest with a fox whilst cooking sausages and embarks on a journey to Jerusalem to find the True Cross.

Obviously.

Dan Brown is an influence. Whilst the Robert Langdon series hardly feature the most eloquent use of etymology, it is entertaining and thrilling.

E L James is a terrible writer. GCSE English examiners deal with bards, compared to her Twilight spin-off porn-fest. But it caters to sexually frustrated housewives.

And Game of Thrones does contain deviance ad nauseam, but it is cleverly crafted.

The problem with Lion Heart – well, one of the many problems – is that it has not quite decided what it wants to be yet.

At times, it is a romance novel. Richie is smitten with the jack-of-all-trades Noor. He goes into great detail about her breasts and buttocks.

I needed a cold shower after Chapter 5.

And then it turns into a spy thriller, with covert meetings with secret agents and aliases (a certain Mr. MacDonald).

Suddenly, we are immersed – or at least, attempted to be – in a historical thriller. We travel back in time to the Third Crusade where King Richard I is launching war on Saladin in the name of God.

Richard Cathar is obsessed with sex. He has awkward sex with his ex-girlfriend. He has a nervous breakdown and ends up having sex with his doctor. He meets a French widow, and guess what? They are duvet dancing before you can say, “I would have sold London if I could find a buyer”. If there is a film adaptation of this novel, I wonder if Lars Von Trier would be available.

And then he meets Noor.

A Canadian-Arab Christian journalist-cum-relief worker-cum-spy. After he has sex with her, involving dripping orange juice on her naked Canadian-Arab Christian journalist-cum-relief worker-cum-spy body, she gets kidnapped.

It’s terribly exciting.

Richard is so overcome with grief, he goes back to England and continues to look for the True Cross that tormented his medieval regal namesake. Whilst having sex with other women.

Thankfully, there are likeable characters along the way.

Noor’s guardian, her Auntie Haneen, feels like a Lancastrian Nan, inviting Richie in for a brew and a good old yarn. Yes, she is Palestinian, but it’s not hard to imagine she keeps the Gaza Strip’s version of a whippet in her backyard.

Although in today’s current state of affairs there probably wouldn’t be much of a whippet left…or a back yard.

There’s also the drunken, probably UKIP voting, yet still endearing Lord Huntingdon to whom Richie is employed as a speechwriter for a pointless but charming interlude. He serves absolutely no purpose to the story whatsoever; perhaps that’s why he is quite entertaining.

No matter how great the violinists were on the Titanic as it sank, you are always going to remember that’s there a bloomin’ big iceberg in the side of the ship. The double trills and excellent execution of pizzicato might distract you for a brief moment, but there is still no escaping the clumsy combination of genres and the obnoxiousness of the protagonists whom you are supposed to invest in.

 

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