John: Colin, isn’t it about time you did that review?
Me: Review? What review?
John: You know, the one for The Sheerglam Conspiracy novel. The one you said I would get before Christmas. I never realised I had to ask which Christmas!
Me: On it John. You know me. I’ll turn up to the opening of a letter for a comic freebie.
Cue John muttering as he walks away!
Actually, John has been more than patient with me as this review of The Sheerglam Conspiracy has been on my to do list since October last year! Some may wonder why it has taken me so long to do the review. Some may wonder if I found the book not up to scratch (Couldn’t be further from the truth).Others may wonder if I could be bothered. (Oh, I certainly could!).
Well, the plain truth was that the novel went MIAL (Missing In A Library) and I had been hunting for it for a few months so that I could do the review. Now, if we’re all sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.
Steve MacManus has followed the tried and tested format of write what you know about and in his case, it’s the minutiae of office politics, writ large on a publishing house. If any of you are thinking The Office but set in Fleetway, disabuse yourself of that notion. The Sheerglam Conspiracy is actually funny.
This is A Tale of Two Publishers, where both are at each other’s throat to fight an uncompromising battle of one-upmanship. You might say it was the best of The Times. It was the worst of The Times!
Basing his two publishers on a pair of companies we could all probably name, but will not do so as it’s safer, we are gifted with a front row seat as Goodenough Publications vie with Tartan Editions for the minds and the pocket-money of the youth of 1973.
Much of the book centres around the launch of a Top Secret Grand New Project at Goodenough Publications code named GNP 13. This is where we have two young Turks creating a revolution in comic publishing, in 32 pages. We also see the shenanigans as Tartan Editions use the maxim that all’s fair in love and publishing as they seek to find just out what GNP 13 will be.
(Many British comic fans will recognise the scenario as a fictionalised version of the race to produce Battle Picture Weekly).
The characters are larger than life and are most assuredly composites of people Steve has worked with over the years. I know I recognised a few traits of people I have worked with during my own 30 plus years as a working adult, ranging all the way from introverted wall flower to the raging extrovert that is the centre of every event they attended. Fans of British comics will have fun guessing which character is based on a real life individual.
The story rattles along at a fair old pace and Steve’s narrative certainly evokes the spirit of the 1970s. From teasmaids to Green Shield stamps, all we are missing is a forecourt with two star and four star petrol pumps to be back in the decade that was a golden age for innovation in British comics.
The story builds to a climax at the annual Hallowe’en party. To say more would ruin the finale for anyone who has yet to pick up a copy. The only downside is that I felt that Steve had spent a lot of time setting everything up for it all to come to a crescendo all too quickly leaving the reader wanting to know if there was more.
After speaking to Steve, he assured me that this was deliberate, as The Sheerglam Conspiracy is the first book in a series of several.
For those of us that are British comic fans, we are very fortunate than many of the contributors to some of our best known comics of the 1970s – both boys and girls – are being recognised, and that some (Steve, Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill) are sharing their experiences with us in these fictionalised formats.
Some braver souls (or those less likely to be sued!) are getting their memoirs published, so if you haven’t got The Sheerglam Conspiracy yet, I suggest that it would be a great hint to drop on your partner for them to get you this book as a birthday or anniversary present.
This will be a great primer to have you ready to pick up King’s Reach: John Sanders’ Twenty-Five Years at the Top of Comics when it comes out in July 2020.
One final bonus to this novel is that Steve has included the dummy scripts for GNP 13 and if these don’t have you laughing, then it’s too late for you – and I’ll inform Mek-Quake that there are some squishy jobs on their way to him…
Colin Noble (who has not been fed to Mek-Quake)
• The Sheerglam Conspiracy by Steve MacManus is available now from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | If you enjoy this novel, be sure to join The Sheerglam Conspiracy Facebook Group, for more on the book and forthcoming sequels