Monday, July 25, 2011

In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose / Nick Griffiths

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Satire

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Dr. Who fan Nick Griffiths largely supports himself as a journalist. Griffiths has written for many magazines and newspapers in the UK. He has several books available, including two inspired by his love of Dr. Who and the sequel to this book, Looking for Mrs. Dextrose. For more, visit the author’s website.


This is the story of Alexander Grey, who, after a less than thrilling childhood, turns into a not-very-motivated young adult. This changes when the object of his teenage lust, Suzy Goodenough, promises fulfillment of his fantasies. The catch is that he first must repeat the trip made in his favorite book, Harrison Dextroxe’s The Lost Incompetent: A Bible for the Inept Traveller, and do this in less time than it took to complete Dextrose’s original journey.


In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose reminds me of William Goldman’s classic The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. This comparison might seem tenuous, especially for anyone only familiar with the movie. Both contain portions of an imaginary book interspersed with contemporary tales from the narrator. Each has a story that is larger-than-life, at least in the eyes of the narrator when imagining the main character of the make-believe book. Last, both have a sense of humor. Newsweek described The Princess Bride as “nutball funny.” The same goes for Harrison Dextrose.

Taken too far, my comparison falls apart. The Princess Bride is fantasy. Harrison Dextrose isn’t, although it does largely happen in countries and among cultures that don’t actually exist. Maybe it could be called fanciful instead. Although Harrison Dextrose’s original trip was purported to have happened in the 1970s and Alexander’s ten years later, both feel as though they are happening much earlier and satirize accounts of explorers from long ago.

The humor is sometimes subtle; what would you make of a boat named the “Unsmoked Haddock” or someone who counted the bullets from a machine gun? There are sly pop cultural references- for example, a dwarf who expects Alexander to know the next line in a quote from The Blues Brothers movie or describing a ship as “held together by barnacles; if they joined a barnacle cult and committed mass suicide, we’d be left clinging to planks.”

Overall, I found In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose a fun and entertaining read. The mix of action-adventure and “nutball” humor might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.


The author is from the UK and uses UK spelling and a ton (or maybe I should say tonne) of UK slang.

Despite using the word mink as the stand-in for many words, those easily offended by language should consider yourselves warned. (Given that Griffiths’ website has a Q&A where he answers that his favorite word is fuck, I would say he was very restrained in his book, although you’ll still find that word many times. I agree with his explanation- it is a very versatile word.)

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

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