TOBIN GOES CUCKOO
RUSS CAME BACK!!
Copies still seem to be available via Amazon here, although they do appear to be out of print on the Publisher's website
Well, we had a right old time trying to settle on a cover design for the new book, and there were many mock-ups, styles and ideas tried out, and in the end the cover you see was chosen. Stan knew that he wanted to hark back to the earliest Tobins and feature Russ himself, and 26 years later it wasn't really thought acceptable to feature any of the kind of saucy imagery that graced some of the later books. So the model was chosen (David Fortescue) and photographed by Rikki Gullick. The cartoons were drawn by John Featherstone of Cartoons4U.co.uk and away we went. I advocated for reproducing some of the original fonts and designs a little more closely, but in the end I think the publishers were a little wary of infringing anyone's copyright (even though we have absolutely no idea who owns the rights to any of the Mayflower books now!) and they were keen to establish a look of their own. I wasn't about to argue - I was just amazed and thrilled to have Russ back in print at all. 10/10
TOBIN IS BACK! RUSS TOBIN, the phenomenon created by Stanley Morgan, is back in his nineteenth hilarious escapade. When the JobCentre suggest they have just the thing for Russ - co-managing CUCKOO COURT, a five-star retirement home - he is sceptical. Why? Because Russ has never managed anything in his life - including himself! Enter the gung-ho American manager Pete O'Shea with a list of tantalising rewards - including the nurses next door - and Russ plunges headlong into a world of genteel chaos. In Tobin Goes Cuckoo, Stanley Morgan give Russ a run for his hard-earned money - with a parade of weird and wonderful characters hot on his heels.
We find our intrepid hero back in England, hanging round in his old pal Buzz Malone's vacant pad in Brighton. Buzz is off getting ready for Wimbledon, so we can date the action to mid-June. But what year? Aah! Therein lies the question...When the new book was first mooted, the big problem was "how do you carry on a story about a guy who was in his 20s in the last book that came out in 1979?". Simple said Stan. I just ignore the timeline and carry on as if the intervening years didn't exist. It seemed a crazy idea, but it works. Maybe Russ found a wormhole, but here he is in 2005, not having aged a day! The events immediately following Tobin Among The Stars also get skirted around very quickly, with just a "having recently returned from the States...". So he finds himself in Brighton, short of work and desperate to try anything. And that 'anything' turns out to be working in a Retirement Home. It's not just old people though - luckily for Russ there are nurses in the Castella Nursing Home next door! It's a matter of public record that at the time of the book's publication Stan himself was working in a Retirement Home on the south coast (not Brighton), but ended up being dismissed when the company owners read the book and claimed that he brought their good name into disrepute (there is a subplot where Russ wonders if the complex is owned by a shady mafia-like corporation!) However, they found themselves on dodgy ground as a) the book has the usual disclaimer in the front about any resemblance to real people being coincidental b) their actual company name was not mentioned in the book and c) Stan had copies of original draft manuscripts that pre-dated him ever even working there! But we digress. Russ's accomodation problems are solved (Buzz returns prematurely from Wimbledon with a broken leg and reclaims the flat!) and he soon moves in to Cuckoo Court, where almost all of the action is set. Not a great deal happens beyond the usual antics, and the story is certainly left open for future adventures before the final "tarra".
One other point to note is the similarity between Cuckoo and the non-Tobin book "The Rise of Randy Comfort". Both start with the hero in the job centre, surrounded by a group of likely lads (one of whom is a compulsive gambler and one who has a stutter) - then being offered a job by the Clerk. And guess what? It's the same Clerk - Mimsie Hardwater! We can only assume that she moved from the Kensington office (in Randy Comfort) and got herself a transfer to the south coast where she deals with Mr Tobin himself in the Brighton office. A nice little easter egg for us all.
Page 1. The story literally opens with Russ mid-way through relations with a girl (who he thinks is) named Emily Ponssford-Blink. I often wondered if this was Stan's little nod to the Tobin reviews on this here site, knowing that this was one of the categories in our game of Tobin Trumps. No Tobin book had ever cut to the action so promptly
The immediacy of the start means that Russ's one-man observation tower does not come into effect until later. He describes Mimsie the JobCentre Clerk on Page 7, and it's very sweet as although she's a big girl and not his normal type, he clearly quite fancies her.
On Page 13, Pete O'Shea asks Russ what he likes to drink and he replies "Vodka...usually", but it wasn't an offer, and the drink goes undrunk. He then fantasises about drinking a vodka on Page 25 when Buzz returns and plies him with tall green cocktails, but still none passes his lips throughout the whole book.Stan claimed, when asked, that he just couldn't find a natural place in the story for the VT to be quaffed, but again I wonder if he was just teasing us on purpose?
Page 8. Mimsie's offer of a job at the Retirement Home leads Russ to immediately recall his elderly charges Elsie Harbottle, Doris Tuttle and the Randalls from his time at Ardmont Holidays in The Courier. A more detailed precis occurs on Page 27 & 28
The basic moral is to take opportunities, don't be afraid of the unknown, if you don't try something you'll never know what is around the corner. Also that old-age is no excuse for not having fun, and we're all beautiful no matter what our differences.
It's a joyous read, and not just because of the length of time we had to wait for it. When the Tobins were coming twice a year in the 1970s, you might have felt like the idea was running it's course, but clearly Stan had a long time to think about this one, and it's packed with wonderful one-liners, set-pieces, characterisation and of course, the usual dreadful puns in the cast names. I have to give it a 10/10