Mid-Week MWiDP Review – Gerry McCullough on The Gatsby Game by Anne R. Allen

Now don’t laugh, but I’ve decided it’s time for some organization and structure on this blog.

Regulars will know I’ve been posting every Sunday over at WG2E and somehow haven’t missed a day yet, so it is possible for me to actual meet deadlines, despite appearances.

So starting today I’m commiting Wednesdays to MWiDP author book reviews, where a third party, not the author, can share their thoughts on a MWiDP title.

Kicking off is Gerry McCullough, who often joins us here at MWi with her personal take on books, as well as her own semi-regular reviews over on her own blog. Gerry’s approach is always very personal and totally unpretentious, which is a refreshing change from those professional reviewers where the book in question is often a secondary consideration.

For those unfamiliar, Gerry is the author of the highly-acclaimed Belfast Girls, which has had a great reception in the US and UK as well as Gerry’s homeland in Northern Ireland. Belfast Girls is available from amazon.com amd amazon.co.uk.

Gerry has a new book out (though the timing of this post is coincidental) called Danger Danger. On amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Gerry blogs regularly here.


The Gatsby Game – by Anne R. Allen.

Review by Gerry McCullough.


I’ve come across Anne’s name quite a few times in my Internet browsing, firstly as the writer of several interesting comments on Mark Williams’ blog, and then as a blogger in her own right, well worth following.  But it was comparatively recently that I actually read any of her books. And I wished I’d been a bit quicker off the mark, because Anne R. Allen is definitely someone whose books are very much my sort of thing.

I began with The Gatsby Game.  I always expect good things from a writer who enjoys the same books as me, and the fact that Scott Fitzgerald, one of the best modern American writers (streets ahead of Hemingway, in my view) is so central to the book was an immediate plus point.  Then I found Nicky, the heroine, reading Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, and later reading Josephine Tey, whose detective stories are among my most regularly re-read, and that settled it. I’d found someone well worth exploring.

The central male character, Alistair – it might not be appropriate to call him the hero – has based his life on Jay Gatsby, the character from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby who invented a background and life for himself and managed to convince most people that it was real until the very end of the book; typifying the American people and the American Dream. This is a classic detective story, with a crime whose solution is not clear until the last pages, but it is a lot more. The analysis of Alistair’s character, gradually revealed as Nicky understands him more and more, is subtly and successfully contrived.  Alistair is, I suppose, a con man, but like Nicky we can’t help liking him and feeling sorry for him. He is, in fact, a tragic figure, like Gatsby himself.

The actual plot of the book, based as it is on a real life scandal in Hollywood circles back in the seventies, with the names changed, is told with a realism which takes us right into the lives of its characters. The court scene, where Nicky finds herself accused of murder, is alarming and upsetting, and when Nicky only escapes being tried by calling for the intervention of her wealthy and powerful family, it seems a fair response to the unfair victimisation of her as, apparently, only the Nanny. (She is working as a nanny as a holiday job while at university.)  Wealth and power should not be able to interfere with the course of justice – but then the police should not try to pin a murder on someone because they seem poor and helpless. This scathing denouncement of American justice is presented with irony and wit, and is never heavy handed.

As Nicky escapes on the plane east, back to her real life, the solution of the mystery suddenly comes to her, as she thinks back to her first meeting with Alistair and the things which happened since then. And so Anne R. Allen takes us back through Nicky’s memories, keeping the solution quiet until the right moment. There are twists and turns in plenty in store for us even up until the last chapters, an added bonus in this very enjoyable and page turning book.

To me, a book needs two things to make me want to read it to the end, rather than deciding after a few chapters that life’s too short to waste time reading this.  The first is a main character or characters whom I can like, relate to, and get to know, just like Nicky. The second is an interesting plot.  Anne R. Allen provides both in abundance. I intend to read my way now through her other books, in the confidence that I’ve added another favourite writer to my list.


The Gatsby Game is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and will be in other ebook outlets shortly.

  1. Thanks for sharing the review. Sounds like a great book. I bought Anne’s Ghost Writers In The Sky and am dying to read it once I get done with the current round of (Ack!) edits.

    • You’ll love Ghost Writers, Shea, as it’s about writers and set at a writers’ convention.

      And the next one, Sherwood Ltd, which is in final edit now and will be out before Xmas, is a follow on to Ghostwriters.

  2. Terrific review, Gerry!

    • Al always, Tom. I love Gerry’s reviews even on those rare occasions she is covering a book I wouldn’t read.

      For everyone else, next week Tom’s The Last American Martyr will be under Gerry’s spotlight.

  3. Good review… Anne’s writing exhibits wry observation on life and all her works are eagerly awaited!

    • Given your work on the extremely eagerly awaited Gisborne, Prue, I know you’ll love Sherwood Ltd, even though it;s a modern day take on the theme.

  4. Anne R. Allen, I am going to hunt your books. Epictastic review, and now you’ve got me on the hunt. Call the hounds, I’m hunting literature!

    Good to see you’re still alive too, Mark xD

    • Charley, Anne actually asked me to send you a copy of Gatsby because of the link with your studies, but at that time we had a tech issue with the downloads. I’ll get that sorted for you later today. Promise!

      And yeah, I’m still about, though I should have been in the villages all today, but we had some tech issues there too. Had to cut short my baby visiting. 😦

  5. A book everyone should read – I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it.
    Tom, Prue, Charley, so glad you liked the review!

    • The great thing with your reviews, Gerry, is that they are so likeable.

      So many reviewers spend their time grandstanding and forget what a review should be about.

  6. My list of e-books I ought to buy and read is getting so long I should put it on the same Chrsitamas wish list as my e-reader.

    Though I do have one question… If all I remember of The Great Gatsby is the eyes on the cover, I’ll still be good at understanding this yes? *grin* (though it does put me in the mind to re-read that book.)

    Oh and my Mom has The Crystal Cave on her bookshelf somewhere. I cna’t remember if I ever read it or not though. :}

    • I had that problem too, Cathryn, wanting to re-read The Great Gatsby again, but as you”ll find when you get your ereader, life’s too short and there are too many great indie books to be read!

      • Yeah and I’ll have to squeze it all in betweeen writing, working and caring for the family. YIKE! Anyone have a time machine I can use to add about, oh five hours to my day? :}

  7. Well, this is me blushing. Thanks so much, Gerry. Not only a rave, but your reading is so sensitive. You really *got* this book. And your writing is brilliant.

    Let’s hope this will get the book going again after all those glitches stopped the sales momentum. (Amazon’s um, growing pains sure are causing a lot of pains for us!)

    Cathryn, I hear you about the problem with these pesky 24-hour days. But you don’t have to remember *The Great Gatsby* to enjoy my book. And you don’t have to remember the 1970s 🙂 But if you’ve ever been conned by a bad boyfriend or a manipulative “friend,” you’ll relate.

    Thanks again Gerry, this is a stupendous review. It made my day. No, my week!

      • Cathryn Leigh
      • November 17th, 2011

      Good, cause I don’t think I”ll remember the 70’s much at all, being um… born late in that decade; however, there was this manipulative boyfriend that my mom had… I remember him. 🙂

  8. Thanks for your very kind comments, Mark and Anne. I really appreciate them. I, too, hope The Gatsby Game will take off into the stratosphere and sell brilliantly – it certainly deserves to.

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