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A White Merc with Fins
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A White Merc with Fins

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  315 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The dazzling debut of a new voice in fiction, this is the funny, unexpected story of a balding, thickening 28-year-old who, having spent the bulk of his twenties avoiding a career in the quasi-black market of London's temp agencies, now finds himself not only without a job, but seriously without prospects. How he solves this problem is the action that propels this witty, a ...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published 1996 by Jonathan Cape
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Community Reviews

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Aug 06, 2012 Neil rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned

I was honestly surprised at this. At the start I thought it was merely going to be a jolly romp; a comedic heist novel with an obvious film script in mind. No problem; that's why I bought it.
But the author's investigation of the hopes, fears, and deep psyche of the main character is insightful and fascinating.
Yes, it's a fairly funny movie/book. But it's not one I'm going to give away. Very nearly a four-star.
Before I start, I must declare an interest. Jim Hawes was my German tutor while I was at university and he's a great guy.

I also know that there's a humongous wadge of autobiography in this book, even down to some of my friends being featured.

However, that doesn't get away from the fact this is a brilliant slice of 90s lad lit, with a rollicking plot and Tarantino-style of writing.

He's never bettered it since.
Mark Speed
I'm amazed to read the blurb 'dazzling debut'. This was rammed full of two-dimensional characters thrown together in a pretty thin plot. Quite how it earned the (claimed) status of 'cult' is beyond me. In terms of characterisation, it looks like the author's attended a Creative Writing class on the matter and taken on board the basics but not realised that characters also have to be expanded from their defining characteristics. In the intervening years I keep thinking back to this one character ...more
Apr 25, 2007 Emma rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one over the age of 20
This was one of the first pieces of Brit-pop fiction to be published in the early nineties and I was totally evangelical about it - I think I must have bought about a dozen copies for friends and anyone I thought would enjoy it. I tried to re-read it recently and was disappointed by its predictability, but at the time I know it was ground-breaking, both in terms of style and content. And the description of Suzy rolling a joint on the steering wheel of her mini while driving like a maniac around ...more
James Hawes' 1996 debut novel, a story about a heist, set in London. I read it 10 years ago and it provided very little amusement and not many enduring memories. Highly derivative (it published 2 years after Pulp Fiction and 5 years after Reservoir Dogs and it tries to bring their action and mood to a grittier, grimmer London) and full of cliched, two-dimensional characters. I'd say there's also something of Hornby in there as well but, again, this is of a lower order.
Reasonable pulp fiction. Nothing extraordinary here - enjoyable in a bland sort of way. You can pretty much see where things are going. There's a few nice conversations spread throughout, but the heist plot is nothing new. It certainly doesn't live up to the Reservoir Dogs comparisons that the cover boasts about. That's not surprising though.

Additionally (and superficially) I hate the cover.
Andy: 3.6 Peaks: easy for me...
Jim: 3.6 Peaks and a very flat tummy.
Chad: 3 Peaks and sex with Suzy next to the garden weasel.
Noel: 3.3 Peaks: Girl with Scottish accent and a bank job--who could ask for more.
Scott: 3.4 Peaks: Lock, Stock and receding hairline.
Seamus: 3.4 Peaks: A smorgasbord: The IRA, the MC, the flat stomach and Tim Roth's bloodstained tie.
this is a fun read where pulp fiction meets reservoir dogs and is based around a heist in london . very contemporary and fast paced with many acidic digressions about people and life in general . i don't know whether it is any good and readers of this type of fiction may well find it old hat . to an old hat like me it was an exciting read .
Roel Torres
(Okay, I am glad to see the outstanding average rating this book has received from the goodreads community. It helps reaffirm my faith in the book and this site...)

A crisp caper novel. Very influential to my own personal writing style. I re-read it every couple of years just to refresh my appreciation for it. Highest recommendation.
Hmmm - this hasn't dated too well in my eyes. I remember reading it and enjoying it first time round. This time I felt the structure was unwieldy and the build up to "The Plan" was drawn out for what it actually turns out to be.

There are some good observations and humour interspersed, but it didn't make me turn the page as I'd like.
Tovah Aho
If there is a time and a place for every book, when a freind gave this to me that was the right time.. long ago in Boston, for some reason I needed it.. Now its no longer relevent.. but then.....
This is a smart, funny book. It is a British bank job book written with a lot of humor. Think kind of like the Italian job or Ocean's 11. The "plan" is worth the wait.
Aug 23, 2007 Summer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of english heist fiction
This is one of my most favorite books ever. It's a very snarky, pop, english crime heist. I love the rants and the game of leaving earth.
"Ees easy for you!"

Disappointment is funny and universal, and makes sane people do crazy things. LOVED this book.
Dec 14, 2010 Bw42 added it
The plot's not that hot - read it for the "lad lit." asides and observations. Well worth while.
A great fun read. The books he's done since don't quite reach the same level.
Andrew Thompson
Both a woefully inadequate story and terrible writing, I seem to recall.
This comic heist is very pop culture, very British, and very, very funny.
Kristine Nally
Hysterical, laugh out loud. I've read it a few times.
David Greenberg
David Greenberg marked it as to-read
Nov 06, 2015
Paalflod marked it as to-read
Nov 04, 2015
Pål Flodin
Pål Flodin marked it as to-read
Oct 25, 2015
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