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‘The Voyage of the Golden Handshake’ by Terry Waite

I was going to dismiss this narrative of a calamitous cruise ship voyage as entirely silly and preposterous but after reading of the ‘Harmony of the Seas’ maiden voyage I’m not so sure. What one has here is a watered-down cross between Fawlty Towers, Doctor at Sea and Carry on Cruising, in which a converted cattle boat is sent on a world cruise, this providing a line from which to hang various (largely mis-) adventures.

The narrative is episodic because each time the author can’t think where to take the, largely disconnected but sometimes quite inventive, set pieces of which the book is composed he can conveniently, and does, bring the actors back on board and sail the ship off to the next port, and what has just happened has little bearing on what happens next. The continuity is provided by the caricatures that comprise the principals of the cruise ship and line, and a fistful of the alleged passengers. Unfortunately at this point the book fails what is for me the test of fiction which is whether I am sufficiently enticed by the characters to care what happens to them. I didn’t.

The style of writing reminded me of nothing so much as the Rupert Bear books I had as a child, except that occasionally the author went up a gear, almost to Leslie Thomas levels, and had me actually laughing out loud. The author has little idea of how such a ship is actually operated or indeed constructed and this leads to non sequitors on top of the odd continuity glitch.

I would not want to be accused of suggesting that anyone actually spends their own money on this book, but if one found a copy abandoned in an hotel room or on a train seat it might provide a slight diversion.
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