THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT THE SUSHING PRIZE [2019], by Denis Shaughnessy

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R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 8/10

What a wonderful surprise of a book! After self-publishing my own books and hoping to find some readers packing positive reviews, I’m doing my own part in reading works by other Indie Authors.

The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize by Denis Shaughnessy is an absurd, irreverent, 4th-wall-breaking crime thriller.

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):

Writer Marco Ocram has a secret superpower—whatever he writes actually happens, there and then. Hoping to win the million-dollar Sushing Prize, he uses his powers to write a true-crime thriller, quickly discovering a freakish murder. But Marco has a major problem—he’s a total idiot who can’t see beyond his next sentence. Losing control of his plot and his characters, and breaking all the rules of fiction, Marco writes himself into every kind of trouble, until only the world’s most incredible ending can save his bacon.

There’s a good mix of zaniness and police procedure here, though I can see how this novel might get on a reader’s nerves, with the constant reminders that out protagonist is literally making this story up as he goes along. Some readers, maybe. But this all just worked for me. I found it totally original.

A left-field comparison might be that of The Big Lebowski, with an protagonist who has no clue and is aimlessly following leads all over town.

The book becomes noticeably less funny in some chapters around the half-way and 3/4 points, but its memorable moments quickly make you forget about any lulls. Moments like the CERN backstory development (where the MC makes up a backstory for himself on-the-spot in order to solve a current dilemma), the Pope scene (yes, he knows the Pope of course!), and the Tom Cruise bit (so good!) were genius.

The novel reads very British. I know it takes place in America, by way of which I’m assuming the MC is also American, but there are just enough British-isms (tyres, manoeuvered, lavvy, S’s instead of Z’s, etc) to make it feel….off.

Overall, this is an impressive debut; one where I sometimes forgot this was Shaughnessy’s first novel, and that the book was not already a best-selling hit.

Some memorable quotes:

“If you had to do a re-write every time you found a flaw in a plot, you’d never get a book finished.”

“I wasn’t sure that we needed subpoenas to question people, but I’d always wanted to write the word since I’d heard it in Hawaii Five-O, so I pretended we did.”

“It struck me that protagonists in books never seemed to pee. I wondered if I was breaking new ground by mentioning it, or committing some enormous literary gaffe.”

“What have we got?” said Como. He started all our investigative scenes that way, and I wondered whether my readers would consider it laziness on my part or adopt it as a catchphrase that would go viral.”

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