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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Transmogrification of Toby Pickles by Wilf Tilley is a journey back in time to 1960s Britain where the swinging sixties, laced with post-war austerity and conservatism were very much on a headlong rush to culture clash. Mick is an Assistant Stage Manager for a small theater company based in Skipborough. Seen as important to the preservation of culture in a devastated post-war Britain, many of these small companies flourished, funded by local councils and putting on a collection of serious and humorous plays, plus, of course, the obligatory holiday pantomimes for the local hoi-polloi and summer tourists to the coastal regions. Mick wants to be part of the “players” but it seems he is forever destined to work behind the scenes. Life for Mick is simple, straightforward and humdrum; from rehearsals to drinks at the pub with his co-workers to regular dalliances at the pictures with the local lasses, Mick is young and ready for life. When his gay theater pal and man of mystery Toby Pickles is knocked out in a fight and hits his head on the concrete, putting him into a coma, Mick’s life begins to change as a new, weird and extremely colorful cast of characters comes into his life. Suddenly Mick and his cohorts are thrust into a world of the elite plus a mystery that takes them into the London criminal underworld inhabited by the likes of the Kray twins along with a good dose of international espionage. Coupled with Mick’s fall for a certain Jamaican nurse, life gets much more complicated.
As someone with a British heritage and television upbringing, I was able to fully enjoy the humor, innuendo, double-entendres and colloquial language of both the period and the place. The style that author Wilf Tilley has used in The Transmogrification of Toby Pickles is reminiscent of the extremely popular 60’s movie franchise “Carry On…” with even some references to those movies and actors in the text, with a dose of Benny Hill thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the clever double-entendres and the Cockney rhyming slang which lent authenticity to the time and place of the tale. The story is one long collection of “mishaps” which lead our characters to understand more about themselves. I liked Mick, especially, as the main character because he was, in many ways, naïve and innocent of the wicked ways of the world and yet he worked in an industry that was notorious for its gender misappropriation and its general sexual shenanigans. Don’t expect political correctness here; mid-60’s Britain was the polar opposite of political correctness, especially with the cultural clash between those who went to war and the new generation of baby-boomers. I did enjoy this book and can certainly recommend it.