Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis’s funniest and most satisfying novel in years, opens on a typically edgy note. Desmond Pepperdine, aged fifteen, is having an incestuous affair with his grandmother. The offence is mitigated, slightly, by the consideration that she is only thirty-nine. Desmond lives in the bleak London borough of Diston, where people breed early and die young – “a world of italics and exclamation marks.” He is the son of a black father he never knew, and a white mother who died when he was twelve. He lives in a council high-rise with his mother’s brother, a fearsome career thug named Lionel Asbo.
Asbo is the latest in a long line of Amis yobs, and he might be the scariest of the lot. An ASBO, in real British life, is an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Lionel Asbo (né Pepperdine) is served his first ASBO at the age of three – a national record. At eighteen he legally changes his surname to Asbo. Why? Because Lionel goes out of his way to do stupid things. He is also capable, when roused, of committing unspeakable acts of violence ... [read more]