Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! Is the latest literary offering from the force of nature that is Duncan P Bradshaw. This is the man who in the past has brought us his own interpretations of the classic horror tropes of extra-terrestrial cannibal nuns and serial killer vacuum cleaners. For this book, the author has put aside the literary style and allegory of those earlier works and is definitely playing this one for laughs.
So, Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! – where do I begin? The ending maybe? Blimey, I didn’t see that coming.
In all honesty, there was much of this book I didn’t see coming. (OK, all of it). Anyone searching Wikipedia to find useful bits of information to use in a review to make themselves look clever will discover that works of surrealism contain the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non—sequitur. All of these things are present in Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! – so it definitely is surreal. For those who read the whole Wikipedia article rather than just finding interesting sound-bitey snippets, there’s the discovery to be made that surrealism is regarded by many as an expression of the author’s unconscious mind.
If this is true, then the picture Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! paints of Duncan P Bradshaw is a deeply disturbing one. Then again, it is only Wikipedia so it’s probably wrong.
So: Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! What’s it about then? It’s about a couple of hundred pages in total, each one of which contains images and ideas that will disturb or entertain you depending on your personal genetic makeup. The title’s a giveaway really so if you don’t want to spoil the story I’d recommend not looking at the cover or the first few pages.
In truth, it’s probably best not to dwell too much on the plot as , although it’s there, its main function is to provide a framework on which to hang a smorgasbord of surreal concepts, those concepts given flesh (and bones natch) by an array of eccentric characters. Among those characters is the narrator himself, a cunning, fourth-wall breaking malcontent who make this book more meta than meta-meta-man, meta-king of metaworld.
Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! bombards the reader with madness. Reading tip number two is to remove the idea that “that couldn’t possibly happen” from your repertoire of thoughts before you start. If you cling to a realistic, pragmatic approach to your enjoyment and evaluation of Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! then you’re going to be in real trouble. Go with the flow is my advice.
Those familiar with Mr Bradshaw’s oeuvre will be aware of his penchant for appropriating cultural references and twisting and corrupting them into something terrible (yet entertaining). There are the occasional nods within Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! – most notably Jason and the Argonauts and Alien, but this is a book that relies less heavily on them, making it all the more worrying that the scenes and set-pieces which make up the book are based on original thoughts. I was actually impressed by this change in tack, saw it as evidence of an author growing and maturing, finding their real voice, coming into full bloom as it were. And then the narrator made exactly the same point and opened up a vortex into another dimension. (Possibly). In truth, that was my favourite meta-moment in a book full of them. Indeed, the book is so metafictional, it’s quite possible that it’s actually a reinterpretation of The French Lieutenant’s Woman – though one done in a more literary style.
Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! is the weirdest book I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the most entertaining. There’s always a risk that a book quite this bizarre can alienate a reader, of tipping over into self-indulgence. Luckily, that’s a trap Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! doesn’t fall into. (If it did, it wouldn’t be a real trap anyway, merely some kind of device for harvesting the nectar of wildebeest). Each random image and idea somehow fits into the overarching theme and narrative, and all are written with a finely judged sense of comedy timing. I will admit to laughing out loud on a number of occasions. Here you’ll find a Speedo-clad policeman with concealed trebuchets and mysterious gentlemen dispatching clues via the medium of biscuit. There’s some really silly stuff in here too.
Don’t Smell the Flowers! They Want to Steal Your Bones! (copy and paste is such a useful tool) is less a novel, more an experience. It’s an experience I recommend you should definitely, err, experience. Bizarre, surreal but most of all hugely entertaining. As is the case with all of EyeCue's output, the production values are superb with as much care and attention lavished on the presentation as the madness of the narrative. I suggest you buy it. Now.