Dave Bartok is not having the best of years. His mother has just died, he is an addicted poker player, and (hugely in debt), his real estate business is sinking, and he doesn't really like his longtime girlfriend. When he gets saddled with an abandoned dog, he doesn't think things can get worse. And then Reg the dog starts talking --and only Dave can hear him.
At first Dave thinks he's gone crazy, but he soon realizes he's found his soul mate. Dave and Reg start off on a madcap adventure that will find them tangled up with the mob, involved in an illegal real estate deal, cleaning up at the poker table, and stumbling toward true love.
The wisdom of Reg the dog:
On couches being chewable because they are actually sausages "It's got a skin, it's got stuffing, what am I not getting here?"
On entering a dangerous establishment "Actually, I've changed my mind. There's no atmosphere so menacing it can't be banished by a ham sandwich."
On Dave's awful girlfriend "She wants so to be pack leader. She acts as if she's in control when you're there, you defer to her all the time. Would it not be better if she were allowed to go and form her own pack?"
On neckties "Every time you put it on you end up going somewhere you don't want to. That's what I call a leash."
He grew up in Coventry and studied at the University of Sussex. He worked as a journalist and also as a stand-up comedian before he started writing his first novel, Girlfriend 44. He lives and writes in Brighton, England and South Cambridgeshire. Ron Howard secured the film rights for Girlfriend 44 and Infidelity for First Time Fathers is in development with 2929.
Barrowcliffe achieved early success in the late 1990s as part of the Lad Lit movement, although his writing has little in common with other writers who were bracketed under that heading. He is nearer to Terry Southern, Jonathan Coe and Martin Amis than he is to Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle.This is more than likely a matter of presentation, as most of the British versions of his novels have appeared in the candy-coloured covers favoured by lad and chick lit publishers.
Barrowcliffe's early work was noted for its cynicism and black humour, although Lucky Dog strikes a lighter tone, that of comedic magic realism.
At his best Barrowcliffe can be irreverent and very funny. Rugby, for instance, is described as 'a game invented by the English public schools in order to encourage homosexuality'. Of a woman who has had a tough time and put on weight, he says 'her life had hit the crash barriers and it looked as though an air bag had gone off inside her face'. He is also insightful. Lucky Dog, for instance, says a lot about how we cope with death, our own and those of the people we love.
Sometimes, though, particularly in his first novel Girlfriend 44, Barrowcliffe can be long winded in his comic diversions.
The Elfish Gene is a memoir of growing up uncool, confused, and obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.
Barrowcliffe is certainly one of Britain's more original and interesting new writers but it remains to be seen if he can survive being labelled as part of the Lad Lit fad.