Extract from Chapter One
Benjamin Sniddlegrass was having fun. A vacation was just what he needed, after the events of the previous school year. So there he sat, soaking up the beautiful Isle of Man air and sipping a margarita.
‘Aren’t you a little young to be drinkin’ margaritas?’ the bartender had asked him.
Thankfully, Ben managed to convince the man that he was not a twelve year old boy, but in fact, famed character actor Peter Dinklage.
‘What fresh adventures will await me at Fairport Academy this year?’ Ben wondered to himself.
‘What indeed?’ asked Pentangle, striding purposefully out of a public toilet. His moustache had grown since they’d last seen each other. It was now so big it had gained sentience – and was fed up with Pentangle only ever reading the bloody Guardian. Many heated arguments had ensued.
‘I told you before, Pentangle,’ complained Ben, ‘Stop reading my mind. It’s very- ’
‘Annoying?’ he said, finishing Ben’s sentence. ‘Yes, I suppose it would be.’
The boy glared up at his de facto mentor. ‘What are you doing here Pentangle? I thought wittertainers were only allowed in muggle-land on Friday afternoons.’
The older man nodded grimly, running a hand through his mullet. ‘Normally, that is so. But a special exception has been made. I’m here to take you back to Warthog Island, Ben.’
Sniddlegrass gurned petulantly and rose from the recliner chair he’d been sitting in. ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘It’s a week til end of holidays. I just rented four Planet of the Apes movies!’
‘Sorry, young Benjamin, nothing doing. The new headmaster needs to see you before the annual staff get-together.’
Ben furrowed his brow. ‘But I thought the Fairport Assembly was first day of school term?’
‘It is,’ Pentangle explained, ‘but six days before that, there’s a private staff-only meeting. It’s called… Fairport Conference.’
Extract from Chapter Three
Ben finished upacking his suitcase and stowed it under his bead. Little had changed about his assigned boarding room, except the plaid wallpaper had been replaced by tartan. He slipped on his ceremonial gumboots and strode off towards the main hall.
The hall was one of the smaller rooms at Fairport Academy – roughly the size of the Royal Albert. The dining tables were laid out in the shape of an opossum (as was the custom), all set for the staff dinner that evening.
Perched on the throne at the far side of the room was the new headmaster – a sturdy, middle-aged Bavarian wittertainer with late-period Elvis sideburns and a pair of national health service spectacles. Ben entered through the main doors, and seven minutes later, he’d reached the throne at the other end of the room.
‘Good… good afternoon, sir,’ Ben said, out of breath.
‘Aaah, Sniddlegrass,’ greeted the heavily-accented teacher. ‘It voss very goot of you to come at such shawt notiss.’
Ben winced at the headmaster’s spelling. ‘Not at all, sir. Why did you need to see me?’
‘There uh theengs afutt yerng Sneedullgrarse-‘ he began. He paused, cleared this throat and continued.
‘As I was saying, there are things afoot, Sniddlegrass. Terrible things. Things that could lead the death of narrative cinema!’
Benjamin was stunned. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but the headmaster cut him off.
‘But that’s enough about that for the time being,’ he declared, as he stepped off his throne and began moonwalking down the middle aisle.
‘Before I came here,’ he continued, ‘I was chief political advisor to the Conservative Party.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘You look into the eyes of a Tory and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. They are like a great metaphor for me... I kind of love Tories, but they frighten me more than any other animal.’
As they travelled, the headmaster slowly increased in speed, until he was spinning along with the speed of a drummer being blown off a concert stage by a giant wind machine. Ben was struggling to keep up.
Extract from Chapter Five
After the main course – boiled piranha – had been consumed, Headmaster Herzog stood up before the assembled mass of teachers, administrators and janitors.
‘I have big changes in store at Fairport Academy!’ he announced. ‘My Fairport Academy is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, fo those who are willing to learn about lockpicking. In short: for those who have a sense for poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.’
Shocked murmuring and gesticulations spread throughout the cavernous* hall, many of the janitors’ heads spinning round a full 360 degrees as they projectile vomited chunks of piranha. For his own part, Ben hadn’t been so shocked since his mother was struck by lighting and he was committed to mental asylum.
‘Censorship will be enforced,’ the headmaster continued. ‘There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.’
*Really, really big. Like super-large and stuff.
Extract from Chapter Fourteen
Sniddlegrass surveyed the wreckage in front of him. What remained of Fairport Academy after the events of the previous eight chapters was little more than a pile of rubble – dank, ugly and inhabitable. It reminded him of Peckham.
He walked over to the headmaster’s office, which was oddly intact in the middle of the destruction. The headmaster himself was crouched on top of his desk, listening intently to an Ian Dury cassette on his walkman. Ben tapped him on the shoulder.
‘Aah, young Sniddlegrass,’ the Bavarian said, observantly. ‘You must be congratulated on your efforts in the previous chapter. You behaved in a manner both engrossing and metatextually very interesting.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ Ben replied. ‘I have to say that thing you did in Chapter Nine was the most astounding – and deep – thing I’ve seen in all my days.’
Ben noticed a trickle of liquid begin to… trickle from the headmaster’s crotch.
‘Sir, if you’d like to be alone…’ Ben began, trailing off suggestively.
The older man looked at him questioningly, then looked down at his trousers.
‘Oh, don’t worry about that!’ the headmaster chuckled. ‘I am not incontinent. I was shot on my way to work this morning! But it was not a significant bullet.’
Benjamin looked concerned. ‘What is the history between you and Lord Emmerich, sir? I believe you knew him – from the old days?’
The headmaster turned to him, in a dramatic medium close up. ‘Rolly and I go back a long way. We were once friends. We fought side-by-side in the terrible Bride Wars of ’09, which almost brought about my destruction. I managed to survive the experience with my sanity intact. He was not so lucky – it… turned him.’
The silver-haired schoolmaster looked down, introspectively.
‘People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other's murder.’
Extract from Chapter Forty-Seven
‘What a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure, Ben!’ proclaimed Richard Gere.
‘Indeed,’ concurred the ghost of Colonel Tom Parker. ‘People will be talkin’ bout this for all the goshdarn days to come, yessiree!’
They were all assembled together in Los Angeles International Airport, which looked vaguely like a 30s Sci-Fi film, but in colour. Sniddlegrass had promised to reveal the answers to all their unanswered questions. Questions like: Would they be getting in a proper director to handle the next book? What happened to the characters from the previous book that the fans didn’t like? Stray Cats v. Polecats?
Benjamin Sniddlerass stood at the end of the carriage, dressed in jeans and rockabilly shoes, with Tom Ford glasses and an oversized cowboy hat. His jacket was buttoned up, save for the lower button*.
‘Thank you all for coming,’ he began. ‘Before we get started, I’d like to say this. Hello to Jason Isaacs.’
‘Hello,’ said Jason, from his seat, stroking his moustache suggestively.
‘Hello to Dave Morrisey.’
‘I'm not the one on trial for murder,’ replied David Morrisey.
‘Not yet,’ clarified Ben.
‘How very Lacanian of you,’ yelled Meg Ryan, from a helicopter above them.
*The Bill Nighy Law of Sartorial Elegance.