Tom Holt,
My Hero
(Orbit, 1996)

Ever notice how authors hate to be asked where they get their ideas? They'll go on and on about how they loathe that question, sometimes coming up with witty and sarcastic answers, but what they're really doing is trying to keep you from asking where they get their characters. In My Hero, author Tom Holt reveals the answer: Central Casting.

Little does Jane Armitage suspect that her hero, Regalian, exists with other book characters in a separate universe or that his job is to reenact her novels. But she becomes painfully aware of this when Albert Skinner, a writer trapped for 36 years in the Western he was writing, contacts her in her dreams and begs her to send him a hero. Regalian is wheedled into complying, and the book takes off into a literary rampage. Regalian finds Skinner and his talking gun, but when a bounty hunter shows up, they are forced to flee -- into another book ... and another ... and another....

Meanwhile, Jane has more problems. It seems that Hamlet is looking for a change, so he's been sent into a body in Reality -- a body created by one Norman Frankenbotham in his search to create the perfect Yorkshire cricket player. Now in a poorly-stitched body, Hamlet finds Jane, and asks her to help him get home to Elsinore. Jane finds that the only way to help everyone is to do what she does best -- write them in or out of their situations. But what happens when an author crosses the line and enters her work?

The riotous plot of this novel is too convoluted to describe any further, but Holt fans will certainly enjoy this literary romp. The various characters make their way through a range of books including some childhood favorites such as Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland at a breakneck pace, leaving laugh-aloud lines in their wake. The premise is bizarre and novel, and could easily have fallen flat, but Holt pulls it off in grand style. The characters are mostly appealing, although Jane is rather uninteresting, and one wonders whether Holt intended her to be so.

Like most of Holt's books, this title is not for sale in the United States, but it's well worth making a heroic effort to track it down.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]