By R. Leonard Bartholomew
Thursday, March 29, 2012.
There is always a startlingly dark element to the best fairytales: sinister step parents, man-eating giants, strange and terrifying landscapes populated by mythical beasts. These timeless, heart jolting fears are the backdrops for which moral lessons are taught: friends are golden, relatives can be treacherous, innocence is dangerous and only good has a handle on evil.
Brian Moyo’s fiendishly entertaining Father Christmas and The Epping Forest Twins has evil in spades. Here, our red-suited hero, napping in London’s Epping Forest on Christmas Eve night, is kidnapped by malevolent gangster Pablo Skutura – a monosyllabic brute who must surely be considered for the pantheon of fairy tale monsters.
Skutura relieves Santa of presents, sleigh and Rudolph- the latter whom he dispatches to a local abattoir for dismemberment. “Perhaps we can keep one of the reindeer’s hind quarters for our Christmas dinner, Ricky,” he intones to his astonished accomplice, for whom the meaning of Christmas is still sacrosanct. “Can you think of a better Christmas treat than that?”
Deliverance comes when Ricky who is accompanying the hapless Rudolph to the abattoir raises the alarm. He lobs a scribbled message to a young passerby who with his twin sister, mounts a night time rescue of Santa, Rudolf and Christmas.
There is a lot about this book that young readers would love - not least the dark humour which livens up exchanges. Santa Claus complains about his failing eyesight and mixing up his schedule. He arrives in London four hours too early and before realising it, worries that no one will go to sleep in time for him to deliver his presents. Moyo’s London is also a pulsating multicultural city, but happily the villains are squalidly Dickensian, with names like Three Eyes, Squint Eye, and dreaded abattoir master Old Charlie, “a loathsome old crook who...coughed a lot, smoked a lot and drunk too much.”
If anyone understands the nature of real life evil it must be the writer himself. Born in Zimbabwe, Brian Moyo lived through the degradation of pre-independence Rhodesia and experienced the steady decline of his country's economy under Robert Mugabe’s rule. He has already written a scathing anti- corruption satire Comrade Vs Mister which is set in Zimbabwe during the period of economic meltdown. This latest book is, however, pure fantasy - a light-hearted, funny and heart-warming read.
The book is available at www.lulu.com
R. Leonard Bartholomew is a public relations expert and journalist. He has been published in the Post, The Independent, The Observer, Time Out and the Daily Mirror. He can be reached at Bartholomew1@blueyonder.co.uk