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Geoff Nicholson: Everything and More

If you are going to attack consumer society, Selfridges, the large London department store, is as good a place as any to start and Nicholson fairly sticks the boot in. Of course, he does not call it Selfridges – it’s Haden Brothers – but the jacket blurb tells us that he wrote much of the novel in the coffee bar of Selfridges.

The antihero, Charlie Mayhew, college graduate without any skills, is in London, looking for a job and the art form most suited to him. Vita Carlisle, who applies for a job with Haden Brothers the same day, is attractive, ambitious to succeed at Haden Brothers and armed with dynamite to blow up the last Haden brother and his store. Mayhew gets lumped with the furniture porters, a workshy, anarchic band of men, with whom Mayhew feels little in common, while Carlisle joins the Flying Squad, the mobile band of substitutes, considered the elite of the store. Arnold Haden, who lives in the store and whose main pleasure is sexual romps through the store at night with insipid blondes like Carlisle, vicious security chief Ray Chalmers, smooth-talking personnel director and procurer, Derek Snell, head furniture porter, Anton Heath, anarchist and philosopher, and last but not least, the ghost of Edward Zander who designed the store and much more, make up the main cast of characters.

Forget character development. All of Nicholson’s characters are stereotypes. It is the black humour and the satire that win us over to Nicholson’s novels. Haden’s sexual romps, Chalmers’ desire to recreate Vietnam in the store, the greed of both customers and management and poor little Charlie Mayhew who finally discovers his art form (but how pitiful it is) – no-one is safe from Nicholson’s savagery. Read it and join Charlie, Anton, Arnold Haden and Edward Zander in a trip through the bowels of consumer society.

Publishing history

First published 1994 by Victor Gollancz