Fritz : His Hinge And His Pips

Fritz : His Hinge And His Pips is the terrific new bestseller from Pebblehead. This time, the paperbackist gives us a thriller and, gosh, it certainly makes for an exciting read. The beginning of the book, though, is deceptively slow-moving, even dull. We learn that the eponymous hero is an emotional cripple who wallows in a stew of malignant Weltschmerz. He is an unattractive character, wearing unattractive clothing, giving off an unattractive pong, and living in an unattractive chalet in an unattractive seaside resort. We do not warm to him as we learn, in chapters one and two, of his grumbling and his scruffy dog and the bits of celery and spring onion forever stuck in his beard. We are repelled by his grimy bathtub and his many stains.

But then, in chapter three, Pebblehead pulls the rabbit out of the hat and we are off on a pell-mell rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills aplenty. What happens is that Fritz decides one morning to eat a piece of fruit. It is a pip-riddled fruit, and Fritz spits out the pips with such force that they lodge in the hinge of his door. The door is ajar at the time, because Fritz’s scruffy dog has lolloped into the chalet garden to piss on a briar patch. When the dog comes back in, Fritz goes to close the door, but cannot. It turns out that the pips Fritz spat across the room are of adamantine hardness, and, lodged in the hinge, prevent the door from shutting.

Thus begins a sequence of events that propels Fritz and his scruffy dog through a series of adventures that begins in an ironmonger’s shop and rapidly moves on to a coathanger factory, a sausage maker’s, the undersea headquarters of a madcap swordfish person, and a barn full of cows. All the while, the pips remain stuck in the hinge and the chalet door stays maddeningly ajar. Yet as the story progresses, Fritz’s Weltschmerz becomes less malignant and his dog less scruffy. By chapter forty-nine, when we find Fritz picking bits of celery and spring onion out of his beard and disposing of them down a hygenic chute, we are ready to forgive the griminess of his bathtub.

It must be said that the novel is not an unalloyed success. I could have done without the excessive use of exclamation marks, for example, and Pebblehead’s pip descriptions are deplorable. I suspect he may have copied them out of a cheap botanical gazetteer without first checking its accuracy. He has committed similar sins in the past, notably in the Wet Behind The Ears trilogy, vast chunks of which were plagiarised from a mistranslated Serbian birdseed catalogue.

These minor cavils aside, Fritz : His Hinge And His Pips is a tremendous addition to the Pebblehead canon. Read it with your feet up, on your balcony, if you have a balcony, with a bag of snacks at your side, the constant tweeting of chaffinches assailing your ears, freshly laundered socks on the washing line, sprites in the wainscot, and butchers’ drapes billowing in the balmy spring breeze.

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