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Geoff Nicholson: Still Life with Volkswagens

If you are a Volkswagen fan, this is probably not the book for you. VWs keep exploding and the book is peopled with VW fanatics and those obsessed, for one reason or another, with VWs. We start off with Charles Lederer who has had a bad experience with VWs and who dreams of VWs exploding violently and picturesquely all across a dozen disturbed psyches. Lederer is in an institution. He has a scrapbook of various disasters – riots, floods, etc. – and in the photo of every one, there is a VW, clearly, in Lederer’s mind, to blame. Barry Osgathorpe, self-styled Zen Road Warrior, lives in a caravan but has a VW he calls Enlightenment. He rarely drives it, preferring to keep it under its covers. However, he is still critical of cars (they use up the earth’s precious resources). Carlton Bax is one of England’s, if not the world’s, foremost Volkswagen collectors. His girlfriend is Marilyn, daughter of Lederer, love object of Osgathorpe. Finally, there is Fat Les who has a successful VW garage. He has only one problem. He can’t stand the sight of VW Beetles. We have, of course, seen these characters before – Lederer, père and fille, Osgathorpe, Fat Les and others all appeared in Street Sleeper and their strange tale continues here.

The plot starts with Bax being kidnapped and one of his Beetles being blown up. Other Beetles start being blown up all over the country. Detective Inspector Cheryl Bronte is sent to investigate. The question, of course, is who is to blame for the explosions – one of these guys or someone else, such as the Nazi skinheads who ride through the book. Nicholson, of course, is making fun of VW fanatics, whatever the reason for their obsession. As in The Food Chain, Nicholson drops in all sort of real tidbits to drive his point home, namely that VW fanatics are nuts. The New Age vs. Bug fans vs. Nazis punch-up at the end sums it all up, particularly when Inspector Bronte rides to the rescue on her white charger – in the form of a white BMW.

Publishing history

First published 1994 by Hodder and Stoughton