Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant and Neil Forsyth

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Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant and Neil Forsyth

Category: Humour
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Paul Harrop
Reviewed by Paul Harrop
Summary: Cheeseburger magnate and former window cleaning king Bob Servant returns with comic tales of his many failures and occasional successes, revealing along the way why he is not Hero of Dundee.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Birlinn
ISBN: 978-1841589206

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After bursting into public consciousness as the scourge of email spammers, Broughty Ferry's resident polymath Bob Servant has returned. This time, he expands upon the colourful life only hinted at in his previous oeuvre, Delete this at Your Peril. And what a life it has been. He steers us from his humble beginnings, his broken family and traumatic schooldays, through the rise and fall of his window cleaning empire, and his role in Dundee's brutal cheeseburger wars. Along the way, we witness his struggles with, respectively, women ('skirt'), his simpleton sidekick Frank, and the demon drink.

As before, Bob's amanuensis Neil Forsyth had the task of turning Bob's rambling, malapropistic and often downright libellous recollections into a readable form. Despite what he describes as a 'minor breakdown', Forsyth has done a remarkable job. The resulting book, though episodic and relatively brief, gives a privileged insight into the many faces of Bob.

Those faces include Bob the educational reformer, the tyro novelist, the entrepreneur, the joker, the lover, friend, would-be diplomat and aspirant football manager. Who would have thought that one could pack so much into a mere 64 years? It's all the more edifying because of Bob's unflinching willingness to treat those impostors triumph and failure just the same.

Admittedly, there's more of the latter than the former. And spectacular failure it is. Despite his relentless pursuit of skirt, it would appear that Bob's romantic successes have been few. An early relationship ended after Bob resorted to ever more elaborate ways of hiding to resist his girlfriend's not unreasonable expectation that they should spend time together. Similarly, his attempts to write a racy novel, enter the merchant navy, apply to be soccer coach for a range of national teams, and broker improved diplomatic relations with Fife, all turn to ashes.

Bob's knockbacks culminate in the Gin Crisis - less a lost weekend than a mislaid nine months. Despite a lifetime of daily attendance at Stewpot's Bar, Bob's alcoholic nadir almost destroys him. Only through the ministrations of his long-time cohabitee Frank, does he emerge from the trauma.

Frank is the abiding presence in this book. Despite being the butt of Bob's jokes and the Achilles heel of many of their schemes, he remains inexplicably loyal to Bob. Although we never see the faces of either man, Frank is rarely far from his side in the many pictures which illustrate the book, whether slumped over a pub table or trapped under any number of window cleaners' ladders.

Bob's window cleaning business, along with his fleet of cheeseburger vans, are the qualified triumphs of Bob's business career. In the episodes describing these ventures, we get a real flavour of the dark underbelly of commerce. It is maybe these enterprises that will stand as Bob's greatest legacy. His revealing insights into management techniques, and some of his more dubious dealings with councillors and the Inland Revenue will provide both inspiration and warnings to would-be entrepreneurs.

Even if you (wisely) choose not to emulate Bob's business practices, there is still plenty to enjoy here. Much humour arises from the discrepancies between Bob's perception and reality (often revealed in Forsyth's footnotes culled from the Dundee Courier). Elsewhere you can savour Servant's habitual name confusion, his admiration for Terry Wogan, and his unique way with the English language. I did feel that this book lacked the originality and focus of Delete This at Your Peril, and that Bob's character did not quite come to life as I hoped it might. However, fans of such other confused or deluded characters as Count Arthur Strong, Giles Wemmbley Hogg and Ed Reardon, will find in Bob Servant a worthy addition to the comic pantheon.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

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Buy Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant and Neil Forsyth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant and Neil Forsyth at


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