Peter Stafford-Bow’s first novel, CORKSCREW: The Highly Improbable, But Occasionally True, Tale of a Professional Wine Buyer, follows Felix Hart as he rises comically from an ejected prep school student to a major player in the wine industry, narrating his account to a panel of mysterious investigators. Their identities and reasons for interrogating Felix are not revealed until the very end of the novel, in yet another appropriately wacky twist.
But CORKSCREW is more than just a string of eccentric and naughty anecdotes—it’s a chronicle of one man’s undeserving good fortune as he bounces around the world buying wine and climbing up the corporate ladder of retail.
One has to wonder whether Stafford-Bow, who claims decades of experience in the wine trade himself, has used a pseudonym because the laughable, sometimes jaw-dropping stories are based in fact, thus incriminating friends, colleagues, and himself. But no, that can’t be. The attack from a horny ostrich in South Africa is too ludicrous. A Turkish flame shave with a transvestite is too absurd. Anti-Zionists angrily protesting the Somalian refugees is too outrageous. Regardless, the wine trade must be far from boring to have inspired such fabled and preposterous characters.
From unreasonably snobby rivals in the workplace to goofy hippy squatter-roommates to Kalishnikov-bearing vineyard workers, Felix Hart seems to manipulate and scheme with the best of them. Despite his unconventional ascent and unsuitable wine pedigree, he matches their arrogance, comparing himself to God at least twice. In fact, his character is a bit of a scoundrel: vulgar, unfeeling, and egotistical, but yet he’s likable. Felix is good-natured and hard-working and his lighthearted, sarcastic descriptions—“horny as a Pamplona bull after a Viagra enema”—make the reader giggle before realizing how indecent he is.
The detailed sensory descriptions of the wines themselves seem wordy at times, but Stafford-Bow livens them up with farcical anecdotes usually involving a sexual escapade or otherwise illicit conduct that helps to build suspense. And much of the comedy lies within those finely chosen words—this is definitely not a book to skim. Stafford-Bow colorfully custom writes his double entendres specific to each country or grape region that Felix visits.
CORKSCREW will make the reader squirm, cringe, eye-roll and surely laugh out loud as he travels through the pages of this tale, negotiating, charming, escaping danger, and drinking wine with Felix.
~Erin Greenhalgh for IndieReader