Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant
|Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant|
|Reviewer: Paul Harrop|
|Summary: An often hilarious extended leg-pull. Its deserving victims - email fraudsters - get their come-uppance at the hands of Bob Servant, a creation of comic genius.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: October 2010|
|Publisher: Birlinn Press Ltd|
The spoof letter-writer is not a new phenomenon. Henry Root notoriously kicked it all off in the 1960s and 70s. More recently, The Timewaster Letters of Robin Cooper continued the tradition in a more whimsical vein. Delete This at Your Peril carries the genre into the internet age.
As is customary, the ostensible writer of the letters, in this case Bob Servant (B[e] Observant - geddit?!?), is a pseudonym for the actual writer. Here it is Neil Forsyth, a freelance journalist from the Dundee suburb of Broughty Ferry (also the home of Bob).
In this guise, Forsyth hit upon the idea of engaging personally with the fraudulent spammers whose barely-literate missives clogged his inbox. The book reproduces these exchanges, in slightly edited form, along with some of the images sent to and fro, and footnotes which serve generally to contradict Bob's more libellous claims.
The result is amusing, occasionally hilarious. This is chiefly due to the character of Bob himself. A former cheeseburger magnate and semi-retired window cleaner, Bob is a delightfully deranged but likeable rogue. Drinking in and chasing 'skirt' around, the bars of Broughty Ferry with ne'er-do-well mates such as Frank Theplank, he is a late-middle-aged working-class eccentric in the vein of John Shuttleworth.
The humour is maybe not as edgy as Henry Root's exchanges with real celebrities. The butts of the joke here are crooks. Thus you feel safe to laugh at Bob's victims. But this is often tempered by a growing sympathy with the fraudsters, especially when they appear to enter into a relationship with Bob. One even seems to harbour romantic intentions when Bob slips into the role of 'Bobby', a seductive female alter-ego.
But generally the fraudsters' real motivation is transparent. You sense their growing impatience as their requests for banking details, and demands for deposits via Western Union, punctuate Bob's ever more surreal musings.
If such demands are common to to the spammers, their methods are ingeniously diverse. They range from the husband-seeking Russian woman, to the Chinese rubber belt makers looking for a local representative. What unites them is the degree to which they play along with Bob's digressions and teasing in the hope that he'll eventually cough up.
It's delightful to read Bob's responses as he deliberately evades their ever more desperate entreaties, gleefully missing the point and rambling irrelevantly about his seedy lifestyle and deluded schemes.
Although the book has no campaigning brief to expose the spammers, in a rare moment of candour, Bob does come clean. He asks one correspondent how many people fall for the scam. 'Of course, many people do,' comes the revealing reply. In the light of the poor spelling, grammar and risibly transparent scams, that fact is a testament to human greed and gullibility.
All of which makes Bob Servant even more believable: a living, breathing creation of comic genius. I'd like to read more of his exploits and can even envisage a glittering career on radio or maybe television if Forsyth sees fit. Today Broughty Ferry. Tomorrow, the world?
This is far funnier than Cyber Sign Offs by Hugh Murr and Sid Nigtures. For the further adventures of an earlier spoof letter-writer, you could try the rather less successful Timewaster Diaries by Robin Cooper.
Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant is in the Top Ten Funniest Books.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant at Amazon.com.
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