The Crocodile Princess – Ian Gregson
Set in Phnom Penh in 1962, amongst the diplomatic community (British, American and Russian) with its tensions, friendships, intrigues and affairs and against the background of the Cold War and Cuban missile, The Crocodile Princess takes historical figures, from Prince Sihanouk to Peter Cook, from Dudley Moore to Kenneth Allsop, and Lenny Bruce, constructing an alternative history in a slightly parallel world in which Cook has suffered a crisis which has led to his dropping out of comedy and into diplomacy (his father was a diplomat and his public school specialized in preparing its pupils to work for the Foreign Office).
The use of real characters in a fictionalised world has some affinity with recent novels such as The Damned United and Alma Cogan, but Gregson brings a unique voice and perspective. This is a world in which David Frost drowns – Cook famously saved Frost’s life, but in this parallel world wasn’t there to save him – a world in which Phnom Penh and the strange story within the story of The Crocodile Princess provide an alternative comedy for Cook to speak. Cook’s crisis is linked to the novel’s exploration of the boundaries of comedy and satire, and the alternativeness of the history. Fast-paced, witty, full of intrigue, misdirection and set in the heat of Phnom Penh in an extraordinary moment of history, The Crocodile Princess is a gripping read from the accomplished author of Not Tonight Neil.
Ian Gregson is an award-winning poet whose latest book of poems is How We Met (Salt, 2008); Call Centre Love Song (Salt, 2006) was shortlisted for a Forward prize. He has published five books of criticism on contemporary writing. Contemporary Poetry and Postmodernism: Dialogue and Estrangement (Macmillan, 1996) applies Bakhtininian theories of the dialogic, and Shklovskian theories of estrangement, to contemporary poetry. The Male Image: Representations of Masculinity in Postwar Poetry (Macmillian, 2002) uses gender theory to talk about the masculinity of poets such as Robert Lowell, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott. Character and Satire in Postwar Fiction (Continuum, 2004) explores the widespread use of caricatural techniques in the contemporary novel. Postmodern Literature (Hodder Arnold, 2006) is a reappraisal of theorisings of postmodernism and indicates the presence of realist writings, and concerns about Nature, which oppose the official line on the postmodern. The New Poetry in Wales (University of Wales Press, 2006) celebrates the strength of recent poetry in Wales and discusses it in terms of questions of national identity.
He took early retirement from teaching literature and creative writing in the English Department at Bangor University, where he was Professor and was nominated for Professor of Poetry at Oxford, receiving the largest number of nominations.
You can find Ian’s latest poetry collection, The Slasher and the Vampire as Role Models, here