Monday, 13 November 2000

Compton Mackenzie: The Rival Monster (1952)

Edition: Penguin, 1983
Review number: 681

When a flying saucer is seen to crash into the Loch Ness Monster, the worst is feared for one of Scotland's greatest treasures. But soon a new monster is seen in the Hebridean Todday Islands, and this causes a great stir - has Nessie abandoned its home in disgust at being the target of extraterrestrial attacks? Or is it a rival taking advantage of Nessie's disappearance?

This ludicrous premise lies behind Compton Mackenzie's funniest novel (at least of those I have read), which is a sequel to both Monarch of the Glen and Whisky Galore. Many characters from both these novels re-appear here, unchanged in the least. This includes the incredibly self important Paul Wagget, who naturally doesn't believe in anything so unlikely as any kind of monster and seeks to persuade eye witnesses that they were mistaken, to their great annoyance.

Wagget's twin daughters make an entrance here, having been away serving in an anti-aircraft battery in Whisky Galore, and they provide the romantic subplot. Their rivalry mimics that between the Todday monster and the Loch Ness monster, though both of these are fairly low key contests; as far as Elsie and Muriel are concerned, it consists mainly of confusing their suitors, who cannot tell them apart. They also provide more evidence of Wagget's awfulness; I'm not sure what the best word is to describe any father who encourages his grown up children to call their parents "daddo" and "mumsy".

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