Review of Shakespeare is alive and well and living in Sun City


Dr Robert Kimber: Former Head of Drama, Adelaide University

This is the second novel of Allen Lyne's that I've read. I enjoyed it and admire his capacity to generate plenty of fun. It’s unpretentious and appealing… and should go down well with those who know their Shakespeare.

The topsy-turvy use of characters and actors playing roles, quite apart from trying to be themselves, could only be written by a theatre person.

The writer makes it happen so convincingly. His “Jeffrey” has the same quiet, self-effacing qualities of “Jonathan” in the previous book. He’s obviously Lyne's sort of man, the kind of person who is created to be a sop to all the manipulation that is happening around him. In the process of learning he suffers body blows and emotional assaults of all kinds–and we sympathise.

The use of ice cream wagons [and “Greensleeves”–-beautifully conceived!] as a front for drug distribution might keep it out of most school libraries. I reckon the mucking around with drugs is probably no more significant than cowboys and Indians murdering one another in Zane Grey Westerns. It’s a--moral, I recognise that, in the way it is done, though not all readers will necessarily see it that way because drug use and distribution–-especially among the young-- is a potent evil in contemporary society. I suspect the pervasiveness of drugs and drug usage in contemporary society is precisely the point the author is making.

Both of Lyne's books have great characters. They are vivid and they are strongly contrasted. In the current book Sally, Stella, Sister Sandy, Titania, the un-named lady in the bank, Moonflower, Jeffrey’s kids--all of them pop up as I type away. That’s good writing, I have a hunch the author has known them all personally.

Every Shakespeare lover should bubble with enthusiasm at what the writer has done with this story.

Title: Shakespeare is Alive and Well and Living in Sun City
Genre: humor

Author: Allen Lyne

Allen Lyne's Books & Plays www.bearly.net

ISBN: 978-0-646-47684-1

Available as eBook audio book and paperback

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended ….. 5 stars

The Review

The narrative opens with a broken down car, cryptic coded message ‘emus are cranky,’ ‘because they cannot fly,’ a boiling cauldron and three old women. Jeffrey Case a thirty-eight year old dis-inherited scion of a wealthy family, divorced, cabdriver longs to become an actor. He has dabbled in acting for years with little success. Following delivery of a mysterious passenger to 2 Glassie Jeffrey finds himself caught up in a series of strange happenings. In his attempt to return a package containing only a head Jeffrey returns to 2 Glassie where he finds a group of peculiar Shakespeare quoting individuals all dressed in 1950s garb. Unable to rid himself of the head Jeffrey attempts to throw it into the sea only to have the head snagged by a black falcon. Nightmares filled with images of himself bowling severed heads toward headless bodies and a horrifying torture chamber, ice cream vendors who play Greensleeves and offer more than icy treats, retired workers and young junkies all figure in the conundrum. The head on a book shelf, the head in the frig, and the head in the bushes, women who yodel at odd moments, and an ex wife called Moonflower are all a part of the enigma surrounding Jeffrey Case. A mesmerizing flutist, conversations with Shakespeare himself, Hecate’s hex and witches dust move the narrative forward. A night of great debauchery, The Bard’s Players, Jeffrey performs as a double act on a regular basis and Yorrick understudies everyone.

Shakespeare is Alive and Well and Living in Sun City is the second offering produced by writer Lyne and read by this reviewer. Well rounded, spiritedly portrayed characters, vividly painted settings and animated dialog all move the tale along at breakneck speed in this fast paced romp.

Writer Lyne skillfully weaves a fanciful, complex tale using the theater as his back drop, William Shakespeare in a ‘what if’ role and human foibles at their worst/best. Snappy dialog, betrayal, lust and puzzlement couple with fascinating settings and absorbing storyline to keep the reader moving along from chapter to chapter. Lyne has taken a well known theater figure, Shakespeare, placed him and his work in modern times to produce a highly entertaining work sure to please alike Shakespeare lovers and those who know little of the Bard.
Not for everyone; while language is not profane or vulgar there is some graphic sexual content.
For those who may not understand Aussie terms a small glossary might prove helpful to the US reader, but those few words only add to the fun for the reader.
Good book for a lazy summer afternoon, ages 13 and up.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.
Reviewed by: molly martin

Reviews of A Handicap for the Devil

Interesting read & Recommended & 5 stars

The Review

Jonathan Goodfellow, accountant nearing retirement lives a humdrum life, and works at a humdrum job. Landlady O'Reilly tells him what to do. Overweight Miss Bloomingdale, company receptionist is a real pain in the neck. His fellow workers, Jones P senior THE boss, and Jones P junior the head of the accounting department all are vexatious and, perhaps even more. Jones P, the P stands for Percival, is a devilish member of an occult Black Circle Club whose members practice trances, and all become lawyers. The world's attorneys, led by the obese Jones P. senior, have formed a strange alliance with Satan. In exchange for particular compensations he will give them the world. Hell has been transformed into a golf course where the Devil wants to left alone to play golf and hopefully break 100.
The dwarf, Earnest Jamieson, Marijuana, an odd assortment of roomers, Cowley, Sampson, The Crone a handgun and a five iron all figure in Goodfellow's strange move toward death and return to earth to act as a Messiah. Jonathan wakes up in heaven facing a hippie god, who is moved to give humankind one more chance. God charges Jonathan, who has to be the mildest man on earth, to serve as his Messiah to bring back the directive that we mortals are to revise our behaviour. If we falter, God vows that he will disregard his plan to end the world when it becomes due. Jonathan, and the astonishing bedlam he creates while on his mission from God, is a most extraordinary jaunt and a most startling aftermath. Taking bunnies, a star over his boarding house, life is getting strange.

Writer Lyne has composed a whimsical, jocose work heavy in perceptive understanding about the human animal. A Handicap for the Devil? is an animated exploit filled with an extravagance of energy that strings together smoothly and grasps the fascination of the reader from the opening lines. Professional playwright Lyne's inaugural novel draws on his many years of stage experience to produce a premium and exceedingly engaging work.

Lyne's plentiful list of intriguing characters, including even Jonathan's talking bunnies, are vivid and creditable. The band of often obsessed disciples, are as richly drawn as the at times preoccupied, psychedelic hippie god, both Jones P. Senior and Junior, the toughs, the dwarf and the balance of the often motley but always entertaining coterie gracing A Handicap for the Devil?

On the pages of A Handicap for the Devil? writer Lyne presents his tenets with respect to many of today's social ills including the growing disparity between haves and have-nots, inhumanity, war, and famine. His notions are sure to agree with those held by many readers.

Not for everyone: some graphic language included, and for the super religious some notions presented are sure to cause consternation.

A good tongue in cheek type work for reading on a rainy afternoon. Happy to recommend for those who enjoy the genre.

Reviewed by: molly martin

Review by David Scheel
This is a Reader Review!

The southern Australian city of Adelaide may boast a population of a
million, but it still retains a sleepy, village atmosphere, and its
sobriquet of "The City of Churches". Therefore what better place for
local author, Allen Lyne, to use as a setting for an epic - and
hilarious - struggle between the ultimate forces of good and evil.

"A Handicap for the Devil" is Lyne's first novel, and it draws on
his many years of experience as a professional playwright, for "A
Handicap..." is in reality a morality play, and the author makes the
transition from the active mode of the stage play to the more
discursive novel format with ease.

The lynchpin of the plot is a humble accounts clerk by the name of
Jonathan Goodfellow. Approaching retirement, after 40 humdrum years
working in the same capacity for the same law firm, Jones P. Senior,
Goodfellow suddenly has a bizarre confrontation with God, who has
decided to give mankind one last chance at redemption, and has
appointed Jonathan as his messenger.

Unbeknowst to Jonathan, however, is the double-life enjoyed by his
boss, Jones P. Senior. For if the meek clerk is to be the conduit of
God, Jones P is head of a secret coven of lawyers, all of them sworn
disciples of the Devil.

Jonathan's problem is that he has to convince the masses that he is
not a crackpot, which means preaching (at which he is no good), and
performing a mandatory miracle (which he does, more by accident than

He is aided and abetted by a cast of characters, many of them
picaresque, and all reminiscent of Goya's freaks. Criminals, drug
addicts, a dwarf, and various other dysfunctional individuals become
his apostles, not to mention two talking rabbits.

The reader also gets to meet both God and the Devil in the course of
the narrative, and these two are richly-drawn comic characters. God
is an ultra-cool smoothie with a penchant for rap-style speech,
whilst the Devil is a foul-mouthed, foul-smelling, foul-witted piece
of grotesquerie, whose sole passion is playing golf, despite the
fact that he cannot break a score of 120. His addiction to the
Scottish game is one of the driving forces of the story.

Ultimately the evil lawyers, and their politician cohorts, come into
direct confrontation with Jonathan and his well-intentioned gaggle
of misfits, the result a delightfully inventive and funny

Underlying the comedy "A Handicap..." works on another plane, as
Lyne voices his opinions on war, famine, the growing disparity
between haves and have-nots, and many other of today's social ills.
His views will strike a chord with many readers.

All in all "A Handicap for the Devil" is an excellent and highly
entertaining work, which captures the interest from the first
paragraph and holds it until the last.

A Handicap for the Devil
By Allen Lyne
Review by Dr. Robert Kimber

Allen Lyne has written a book and it works. Its funny, it's witty, it's perceptive about human beings, a whole range of human beings. It's a lively achievement with plenty of action that threads neatly together and which holds the interest of the reader. It certainly held mine. He tells a good story using a colourful bunch of recognisable characters. There are a ton of beaut things to chuckle about and to think about.

The book has a great sense of the interaction of groups of characters pensioners, for instance, and lawyers, the premier's round table, the police, the members of the legal workplace, the players on the devil's golf course, the occupants of Heaven including God and Peter, the travellers in the railway carriage and then on the railway platform resisting pamphlets. The groups work well and establish place, action and atmosphere. The writer has a knack of weaving these groups into his book along with the individual characters who take us through the story.

Characters: These are the strength of the book. They are rich and crazily believable. The toughs, the dwarf and the band of disciples are a motley and interesting crew. Lyne makes them loveable in spite of the fact that they are dealing with drugs and violence, matters that appal me as much as I am sure they offend the author. He treads a narrow line here. I like what he has done. Other readers might not be so tolerant. Perhaps it is the bunnies who are richly drawn that provide a counter-balance. They are maybe richer than any other character with the exception of Jonathon himself.

At a serious level the book appeals to the feelings of the reader and to one's awareness and opinion about social issues in our world today. As a reader I felt close to the writer, and enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes, at times whimsical at times highly critical. These serious things are clearly important to the message of the text while not overloading it in philosophy and rhetoric. He has achieved a nice balance in that regard.

My afterthought is that the knuckling and the marijuana smoking fits into the cartoon of the total work and passes muster as the extension of a funny bunch of biffos and smokers; as such it's all a metaphor for what is going on around us in so many subtle and not so subtle ways.

The author has real flair. He has a knack of suggesting much with a few comments.

I look forward to his next book.

A Handicap for the Devil

By Allen Lyne

Review by Sandra Duggan

This is the funniest book I have read for a long time. If you can imagine a writer who is a cross between Douglas Adams and Spike Milligan, you will have an idea of what I mean.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, because readers need to come on the journey with the author. And what a journey it is!

Imagine what happens when the most humble and self-effacing man in the world gets a mission from God to tell us all to sort ourselves out and stop the violence and mayhem here on Earth? If we fail, God neglects the little chore of winding up the world next time it comes due.

Add to this scenario the fact that all lawyers are in league with Satan to take over the world in the name of evil. Satan is not all that interested; he's become hooked on golf and has turned Hades into one giant golf course. The Devil is determined to break the magical 100 for 18 holes and wants to do nothing else until he does. As far as he is concerned, the lawyers can inherit the world and to hell with it. The lawyers, who are led by the corpulent Jones P. senior, set about their task at the same time as the protagonist, the wonderfully named Jonathan Goodfellow, sets about his.

What follows is a classic clash between good and evil, all carried out in a frantically funny way. The final battle between good and evil on Earth is between unlikely combatants, and this makes the climax of the book even funnier. I can't tell you more about this in a review, because it would tend to spoil the comic surprises that take place in the book.

Allen Lyne has the gift of quick character studies, but unlike some writers who don't probe too deeply into their characters, we are always interested in the incredible collection of people who ricochet through this book. The people Jonathan collects as disciples are all damaged in some way, physically or intellectually and sometimes both. It is the halt, the lame and the crazies who come to believe in Jonathan's task, not the "ordinary" people who inhabit Jonathan's usual world. His disciples include a dwarf who happens to be a champion golfer, a large black youth with no nose or mouth, a legless intellectually challenged older woman, a hunchbacked woman and two dim criminals who become hooked after they think they experience a miracle. I will say nothing much about the two white miniature rabbits, Bugs and Thumper, except to say that if you don't understand the thought processes of rabbits when you start "A Handicap for the Devil?" you certainly will when you finish. The rabbits and the way they operate are a simply wonderful plot device.

The characters also include Marcie Mablegrove--chief investigative journalist for The daily Bugle, a flatulent secretary and detective, the domineering Mrs O'Reilly who runs the boarding house Jonathan lives in, various boarders, workmates, politicians, media barons, etc.

Mr Lyne has the knack of building a world in his book that is slightly crazy and off-centre, yet there is logic to the characters, their actions and their world that compels you to read until the last word.

There are great comic chapters where Jonathan tries to convince his workmates, housemates, people on trains and in malls, journalists, politicians and the general public, that God really has ordained him to be the new Messiah. It may be instructive that Mr. Lyne has violence explode on nearly every occasion when a message of peace is offered.

There are times in this book where the writing is a little uneven. I would have preferred to see a more gradual shift in Jonathan Goodfellow's personality. As it is, he seems to shift a little too quickly from the bumbling, self-effacing, chronically shy personality, to someone who begins to wield power. This is a minor quibble and it may be just my perception after one read.

There is a late-in-life love story which unfolds gradually as the book progresses. This is not laboured or overdone. It is a gradual realization by Jonathan and Marcie--she is the leading female character in the book--that they are attracted to one another. Marcie is a well-wrought character, and much of the strength Jonathan gains to follow through with his God-appointed task flows from her.

"A Handicap for the Devil?" is a good read, and I impatiently await this writer's next book.