Bobby Denise Is Reigning Rampant
By Daniel Ross
The darkly comic story of a retired Las Vegas stage magician and big cat enthusiast, dragged back into the spotlight by the consequences of one huge mistake.
Publication date: February 2019Buy
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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…
Daniel Ross is a music journalist and writer. During the day he’s the online managing editor for Classic FM. As a freelancer he’s written for BBC Music, The Quietus, The Fly, Rolling Stone and the Evening Standard. He’s the author of Classic FM Handy Guides: Video Game Music and the co-author of Charting The Classics: Classical Music in Diagrams. He’s also worked as a music researcher for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Something Understood’.
His first short story was published in the F(r)iction literary journal in 2015. Bobby Denise is Reigning Rampant was expanded from this short story, and is his first novel.
He lives in South-East London with his wife and their cat, Wilson.
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.’
- 6th May 2018 We did it!
First of all, apologies for how long it’s taken for me to pen an update - you see, I wasn’t expecting us to beat the April 30th deadline by TWO WHOLE DAYS. Two days, you bunch of chancers!
Perhaps this is extraneous and obvious by now, but it’s right that I extend a huge, voluminous thank you to everyone - from tentative digital patrons all the way up to you extravagant sack-swinging top-end…17th April 2018 SO. CLOSE.
Since announcing that the funding period for the book is ending at the end of April, the response has been wonderful. And practical! Loads more people have put their names down, snapped up paperbacks and mixtapes and digital copies, so much so that we now find ourselves at 84% funded. That’s a bit close to 100%, isn’t it?
But that final chunk needs to come from somewhere. The last 16% is just as…13th March 2018 THE END
Please forgive the overdramatic headline.
I’m going to cut to the chase on this one: I’m imposing a deadline to get Bobby Denise funded. It's not a decision I've taken lightly, so let's get into it!
Why are you doing that?
There are three reasons:
- Because we’re CLOSE. 68%. I mean, that’s not far to go, is it? If you want the monetary specifics, that’s about £1,200 or so which, when you…30th January 2018 Listen to me talking on a podcast
Happy New Year! I know it is late-January, but I hope the festive period was good for you. It was for me, I got a coffee bean grinder.
So, a quick update on where we are with Bobby. We’re over halfway, and we’ve got about 100 people on board when you factor in the handful of ‘here’s a tenner for the book’ people in pubs. I mean, that’s quite a thing, isn’t it? New people: welcome, and please tell…26th November 2017 Christmas is coming and YOU CAN MAKE IT EVEN BETTER
I know, I know: it has been a while since my last update. I’ve missed all you existing pledgends, and I throw open my arms to new supporters that have joined us recently. Then I back away, worried that I was too forward when I threw open my arms just a few seconds ago, then I apologise and you’re basically fine with it, then I just analyse it internally for few days.
Where are we?
I…14th August 2017 We pitched live in a pub!
First things first - let’s welcome in the new recruits, shall we? I estimate that there’s now around 85 of you wonderful connoisseurs in our little gang, a touch more than the 80 listed on the site (this is down to pub encounters and in-person donations, mostly). That’s quite a lot of people, really, isn’t it? I think you could conceivably hold an event in the Buffalo Bar in Highbury with 85 people…22nd July 2017 Here is an extract from the book
I've decided for no particular reason (not because pledging has slowed down, nothing like that...), to post an extract from BDIRR.
All you need to know is that Bobby is addressing a large convention of the American Guild of Variety Artists, at the invitation of his old friend and colleague Volker Kinsale. Everyone in the AGVA hates Bobby, so this is a tricky speech for him. And Bobby…13th July 2017 Are we nearly there yet?
Let’s take stock, shall we? Last time I sent a message out, we were at 25%. I’m delighted to say that we’ve now sailed past that milestone and, in fact, past the 1/3 milestone too. Milestones are crumbling in our wake and causing a right royal mess for the local trawlers, I can tell you. We are sitting pretty at 35%. The next milestone, however, is a little way off. 50% seems like the…12th June 2017 We’re at 25%!
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…30th May 2017 Week One
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.
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