MACK DUNSTANâ€™S INFERNO by Paul Collins IUniverse, pb, Â£7.60 www.iuniverse.com
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Mack Dunstan – Hollywood actor, president of the National Rifle Association, a barely disguised Charlton Heston – dies and gets taken on a tour of Hell by Virgil, in a twenty-first century retelling of Danteâ€™s Divine Comedy.Â Dunstan starts with the same arrogance and self-importance that he had in life, but gradually comes to realise that his right wing, pro-gun views were wrong.Â Thatâ€™s the story.
There are plenty of interesting ideas in this book, and Collins is not afraid of the big ones: he explores personal and collective responsibility, the nature of life of death, the origin of mankind.Â There is also some striking imagery and a supercharged version of the Gaia hypothesis.Â With all this going for it, Inferno should have been great.
Sadly, itâ€™s the writing that lets it down.Â Collinsâ€™s prose is clumsy and repetitive; his dialogue is unrealistic and most of the descriptive passages donâ€™t make any sense.Â There is no consistent voice, no connection with any characters, and fundamental mistakes on every page.Â I expect a published novelist to know about spelling, grammar and punctuation, but Collins writes like someone who hasnâ€™t read many books, not even this one.
Inferno could have been a strong, tight 10,000 word short story; as a 30,000 word novella itâ€™s rambling, monotonous and loses its impact.
Paul Collins seems like a man with things to say, and I hope that one day heâ€™ll learn to say them better.