Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words
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Originally from northern England, HJ Hampson now lives in London and drinks gin. She writes screenplays and novels – The Vanity Game is her debut novel.
You can learn more about H.J. Hampson on her website.
Beaumont Alexander, superstar mega-rich footballer, has the life some people will kill for. He seems to have everything – fast cars, a mansion, beautiful pop star girlfriend, Krystal McQueen, the adulation of his football team’s fans and parties with a multitude of famous friends. He can have what he wants, when he wants.
But Beaumont is a man on the edge and, after a sordid encounter with a hostess at a celebrity party, his life spins out of control and he turns to his manager, Serge, to help him. Enter a shady crime mob, The Substitutors, and Beaumont is going to have to fight to keep the life he so easily achieved.
This is an impressive debut novel. It is fast-paced, topical and darkly witty. Beaumont lives in a money-no-object world many would aspire to but probably wouldn’t want once they had it. The Vanity Game cleverly shows both sides of the fame game where egos are large and life is ultimately the cheapest thing on offer.
Beaumont himself was initially vain, selfish, and seedy, very much like many of the football (or soccer depending which side of the pond you live on) stars of today. He has a couple of unhealthy quirks, a fear of germs and an obsession with George Michael. However, during the story Beaumont’s character develops into someone much more palatable – although I still wouldn’t like him as a friend, he never quite shakes the football mud off his boots.
In fact very few of the characters are likeable (which was the point). Celebrity, either gained or wished for, seems to have skewed them all. The wannabes are just as bad, they’ll do anything to be with Beaumont and his friends. The character’s names read like something out of the celebrity magazines that Beaumont regularly appears in.
The action is constant, except for a brief pause in the middle when Beaumont thinks he’s got away with his crime. There are many unexpected twists and turns that keep you guessing right through to the end.
H.J. Hampson poses some interesting questions about the society of today’s obsession with celebrity via The Substitutors mob. Without spoiling the read, Hampson brings about a physical change in Krystal which at first I questioned. Then, however it made me think – how much do we truly know about celebrities? Only what we read in the papers or see on the TV and how much of that is real?
Well worth a read and highly recommended.
Frequent strong language.
Rating: **** Four Stars