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In those days, everything in the town was controlled by the Druids. Sure the Bronzinis controlled the ice cream, the tailoring and the haircuts; and the Llywellyns controlled the crazy golf, the toffee apples and the bingo. But we all know who controlled the Bronzinis and the Llywellyns.

Many of you may well have wondered what would have been the result had Raymond Chandler decided to set his novels not in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, California but rather in the bustling metropolis of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. Well OK then perhaps the question hasn't quite been at the forefront of your mind, but it did occur to one Malcolm Pryce, once an advertising copywriter who quit that profession, purchased a berth onboard a cargo ship bound for South America and apparently finished writing Aberystwyth Mon Amour somewhere off the coast of Guyana.

Of course the Aberystwyth that is the setting of this novel is not exactly our Aberystwyth, but an Aberystwyth that exists in some strange parallel universe where Wales appears to have retained some kind of political independence. None of this 'backstory' is actually explained in the slightest; but one would guess that this imagined universe is one where Owain Glyndwr's rebellion actually succeeded or perhaps Edward I got a bad cold half way up a Welsh mountain and went home and took up religion instead. It exists not, I think, to make any kind of political point, but rather simply to provide a bare canvas on which the author can construct his imagined Wales.

The basic premise of the book is that Louis Knight (owner and sole employee of Knight Errant Investigations, unless you count Mrs Llantrisant the cleaner) is asked by Myfanwy Montez ("the legendary leek-scented lovespoon from Llanfihangel-y-Creduddyn") to find her missing cousin Evan the Boot. An assignment which he initially declines and then accepts and pursues with the determination that one expects from a private detective, as Louis Knight embarks on a quest that mixes elements of the Welsh folk tale of Cantref y Gwaelod together with some bizarre concepts such as the ESSJAT special commando unit of the Sweet Jesus League Against Turpitude .

As you might gather, Aberystwyth Mon Amour is a comic novel, a black comedy you might say, since it features a number of deaths, some more bizarre than others. It is very decidedly set in Wales, but English readers should not despair as there is very little linguistic Welsh in the novel and the Welsh elements serve mainly as a surreal counterpoint to the conventions of the now traditional genre of hard-boiled private detective novel, whilst generally taking the piss out of what sometime passes for Welsh culture.

You will have to read the book yourself to find out what goes on at the Moulin Goch ("Wales's most notorious nightclub") or what exactly was it that the Museum curator Iolo Davies got up to with the apricot satin camisole from the Combinations and Corsetry section that forced his resignation or indeed what is the dark shameful truth that Lovespoon, Grand Wizard of the Druids wishes to keep secret.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour it is a humorous entertaining read that contains no moral lessons of any kind or deep imaginative insights into the human condition. Whether the humour of the novel has the same appeal to people who aren't Welsh or know nothing of Wales it is hard to say but it appears to have been sufficiently successful to encourage the publication of a sequel entitled Last Tango in Aberystwyth.

See Malcolm Pryce, Aberystwyth Mon Amour (Bloomsbury, 2002) ISBN: 0747557861 and http://www.malcolmpryce.com/amac1.html

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