The Brentford Chainstore Massacre is the fifth novel in Robert Rankin’s
Brentford Trilogy, of which The Antipope, The Brentford Triangle,
East of Ealing and The Sprouts of Wrath precede. They are all set
in Brentford, and centre around the lives of Jim Pooley and John Omally:
a pair of happy-go-lucky men who always seem to get involved in the fight
of Good against Evil.
Jim and John are Rankin’s most loved characters, and this book has become
the long awaited ‘Holy Grail’ among his fans. When I first started to read
it, I was slightly worried that it would not live up to expectations,
however this book is a return to form. It contains all the original
characters: Neville the part time barman, Professor
Slocombe, Small Dave the ‘vindictive grudge-bearing wee bastard’ Postman, Old
Pete, the Woman with the Straw Hat, and many others. Oh, and there are the
running gags as well.
The book revolves around the central theme that Brentford can host the Millennium
two years early thanks to a Papal writ. This means that the Millennium will coincide
with the real date of the birth of Christ. From this premise much is drawn,
including mental time travel, a search for the Brentford Scrolls, a couple
of fights and parties and even a quick soujourn into Penge by an all too direct
descendant of Christ who also takes part in the sub-plot of the book.
Towards the end of the book, the reader is left in suspense as to how Rankin
is going to tie up all of the plots, something he does in a typical (and spectacular)
Deus Ex Machina manner that does not disappoint.
Rankin somehow manages to pack into all of this Jim and John getting older
than they would like, and some of the earlier parts find even John’s
uncrushable spirit wondering if he was getting too old:
“Omally came to a sudden halt. Why had THAT thought entered his head?
Getting on in years? He and Jim were the same age. And they were only
— Omally stroked his chin. It was hardly only any more, was it? It was,
well, as much as.”
All the way through the book this is a recurring theme, with many references,
especially by Jim, to the fact that they should stop trying to make money in
foolish ways. Jim even goes as far as saying that he would like
to settle down and get married, which comes as quite a surprise to all and
sundry. This adds to the book, and makes the reader feel that time
has moved on since the last Brentford novel. Which, as Rankin’s fans will
tell you, was released too long ago. It also encourages the reader to feel
even more involved in the lives of Jim and John, as they have stopped
appearing to be so invincible.
So, a book full of the traditional Rankin ingredients: suspense, humour
(both pub and dark), magic, twists in the plot, Dimac, and the number 23.
A wonderful read, proving that the Brentford magic is still there.
Reviewed by Toby Bryans