by Rupert Smith
No decent, clean-living, heterosexual man or woman should allow his or herself to be seen reading SERVICE WASH. A brown paper dust cover is recommended to those fallible or prurient enough to riffle its pages. So obscene and scatological is the humour of this novel that to be seen giggling at it would be to wantonly shred one’s reputation as if with a long and dirty fingernail. Rupert Smith’s vaunted genius for comic satire relies on the lustful weakness of human nature to snoop or peep at the seamy underside of life and then scream with laughter.
Eileen Weathers, the ‘heroine’ of SERVICE WASH, if you could call ‘her’ that, is an ageless popular soap-opera star. As Maggie Parrot, the Clean Queen, manageress of TV’s most famous laundrette, she grips the affection of the menopausal millions. She embarks on her ‘autobiography’, a phoney romance worthy of the confessional. In so doing, she deceives herself and her ghost-writer (and the public?) into forgetting her (transsexual?) early life on the game as showgirl Kiki de Londres, travesty toast of Soho and Pigalle. So deceitful is everyone in this novel that the reader doesn’t know what or who to believe. Can the rumours possibly be true?
The hero could hardly be less heroic. A balding, masochistic gay man in early middle age, Paul Mackrell’s aspiration towards critical intellectual esteem are as flotsam on the floodtide of celebrity adrenalin. His misfortunes - his predicament; his predilection for rough trade; his addiction to virtual excitement available in cyberspace, enjoyed in the bleak privacy of his Waterloo flatlet – are quite forgotten when he is hired to ghost-write Eileen Weathers’ autobiography. Suddenly, he is swirling in the unfamiliar waters of riches and stardom and bobbing about on currents he cannot see or understand. But there be dragons, and he is prey to predators that lick and caress him before they gobble him up.
Rupert Smith is author of two previous novels and numerous TV tie-ins. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Radio Times and Gay Times and lives in London. His website (for those wishing to complain) is www.rupertsmith.org.uk