Bobby Denise feels no guilt for what he did. So please, for the love of God, stop asking him about it.
In 1985, one of the best stage magicians in Las Vegas ended his career in front of a horrified paying audience. When Dusty, his prized white tiger, mauled and killed an audience member during a sold-out show, Bobby Denise did something awful that he’s been trying to live with ever since. Incensed, heartbroken, distraught and irrational, Bobby took vengeance on his manager, Leo, in the most brutal way possible.
31 years later, Bobby is back: out of jail, out of friends, out of everything. That is, until the machinations of an obsessive journalist, his strong-willed housekeeper, a neighbour in a heinous tracksuit, an eagle-obsessed former colleague down on his luck and a faux-Amazonian lizard-handler send Bobby hurtling back towards the terrifying glare of the limelight, totally unprepared to face all those people who ever wondered, what happened to that guy who shot his manager in the eye?
As his shocking actions in 1985 come to light once again and are mercilessly raked over by a modern audience he doesn't understand, Bobby must learn how to make a friend, how to honour the past and how to correctly assemble a cross-trainer. Only by reinventing himself can he truly lay the past to rest and maybe even regain some respect with his peers. Which he obviously doesn't want or need anyway, so don't even talk about that.
‘Bobby Denise is Reigning Rampant’ is a journey through the lower echelons of celebrity and the grim reality of falling from grace, with a cast of over-reaching has-been magicians and deluded hangers-on. There are themes of guilt, lust for attention, moments that define entire lives and, crucially, murderous white tigers in stage magic shows.
This novel and its belligerent narrator believe that showbiz is awful: showbiz makes you do the wrong thing, time and time again, and it turns good people bad. Bobby Denise's story is uncomfortably funny and takes place in a reality that's only very slightly heightened…
Here’s a thing I know for sure about white tigers: the vital absence of key chromosomes gives them a haunted look and a proclivity for unpredictable violence. Siblings for parents can do that to an animal. That gap where the key chromosomes should be doesn’t always give your tiger the placid personality you’d hope for, either. Your de-brained white tiger is nothing more than stampeding insecurity and instinct for self-preservation. In case you think I’m being overly dramatic, I can confirm this through experience. To me, a white tiger is like a disabled kid, by which I mean I don’t know what to do with one when they start acting up. You can train for it, you can plead with whatever spirituality you hold dear that it won’t ever come to this and why God why do I have to behave in this vital manner just to survive, but in the end they’re unexplainable animals. Sometimes animals just flip out and eat their babies.
I loved Dusty, but he was a mean old cat. At times when he wanted to make some fatuous point about commodities, my manager, Leo, called him Six, for no other reason than he was the sixth tiger we ever worked with after a succession of depressed, retired and destroyed forebears. For variety, sometimes he called him Half-Dozen. On the paperwork that accompanied his arrival, Dusty had a hybrid name that implied a pedigree rather than a personality, so we did away with it. Any information apart from that was pretty non-existent, a mix of red pen and typewritten script more like a ten-year-old’s homework than a document of anthropological or legal importance. One sheet definitely contained the words ‘indeterminate origin’, but I’m pretty sure ‘indeterminate’ was spelled incorrectly. We had a hunch the guy who sold him to us knew the origin was pretty damn determinate, but people didn’t ask a lot of questions in that business.
‘Another lump you can turn into an act.’ That’s what Leo said when we unloaded him for the first time. Even then, as he paced nervously in the pen I constructed for him myself, it was clear his stripes were unique. They weren’t quite as black as they were on our previous white tiger, so he looked all dusty to us, like he’d been rolled around in chalk or something. So that’s what I called him. He was meeker than the others, too. Real reticent when I first started training him, a hisser. But in quieter moments he and I could stare at each other and not worry about who blinked first. We communicated, in our way.
In the first couple of years we had him, Dusty was pushed to the limit in a way that I wouldn’t normally allow. Leo was an asshole about it, of course. He said the clicker wasn’t working, so we should scare him into doing the tricks, threaten him and withhold his food, amateur stuff that’ll get you killed. But I never did anything like that. I can safely say that Dusty never did anything he didn’t want to do. I know I can safely say that.
‘I’ve got a sell-out show!’ Leo kept saying to me. ‘We’re rich, like Colonel Tom fuckin’ Parker! The clicker ain’t workin’, Bobby. It’s time to get ferocious.’
We made it to 25% in about 2-and-a-bit weeks. YOU GUYS.
I feel like, now that there’s 45 of us in this weird little club, we can all be honest. So everyone grab a hand. Doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person sitting next to you. Don’t worry if your hand’s a bit clammy. No-one judges in the 45.
This is the first actual milestone: a quarter of the way to being fully funded, a quarter of the…
This is an update especially for you, cherished supporters. A brief glimpse behind the stage drapes, if you like.
So, we’re a week into pledging and, thanks to some unbelievably generous donations, we’re at a very healthy 21%. I think I read somewhere in the oodles of blurb that Unbound sent me that if a project gets to 30% within its first month, then chances are it’ll roll along to…
These people are helping to fund Bobby Denise Is Reigning Rampant.