The French Exchange Whale by Cal King

Review published on September 14, 2017.

Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year in the UK alone, but there are many many more that aren’t. Just ask Cal King, an enthusiastic aspiring writer, who pitched dozens of books to publishers to no avail, until finally this year he got his breakthrough, albeit not quite what he had in mind. Far from the Man Booker- or Pulitzer Prize-winning title Cal had dreamt of, what in fact transpired for his debut book is ‘a collection of his many rejected ideas’. But regardless, Cal King now has his name to a published book, and a fine and witty one it certainly is.

Pitched as a light-hearted gift book, the book contains over fifty of Cal’s undeniably creative ideas, complete with titles, taglines, genres and synopses, with illustrations from Sean Bright. And there’s no doubt that Cal’s creativity knows no bounds, as he’s clearly got all bases covered here. Indeed, not only does he have ideas for fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, but for all of those heretofore neglected genres: the papal revenge thriller, the biblical horror, the crustacean revenge thriller, the reptilian fantasy drama and canine piracy, to name but a few. And there are some absolutely ingenious titles too, including ‘Nun Taken’ for his papal revenge thriller and ‘It’s all Meme Me Me’ for his story of a viral hit gone wrong. There’s a chartered surveyor adventure thriller series, naturally, and a crime-fighting mother-in-law novel. There are also several titles that borrow from popular culture, including a calorific thriller, ‘Breakfast. Breakfurious’. And the synopses are as fun as the titles, in particular those for ‘The Wrestle Room’ and ‘The Hercules Parrott Mysteries’.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the publishing houses as they contemplated Cal’s pitches but you certainly can’t accuse him of being narrow-minded or unimaginative. And to my mind, there are a few seeds of potential in here, especially when it comes to the children’s book market. I’d snap up ‘Henry v The World’, ‘The French Exchange Whale’, ‘100m Sloth’ and ‘The Time-Gran’ series, and who knows I may not be the only one. Just a note that the book is rather insubstantial in length, at just 170-odd pages, many of which contain illustrations, so this really is a book that you’ll whizz through in an hour or two. But what an hour or so it is of pure mirth. Indeed, this book may not make King the next J.K. Rowling or Paula Hawkins, but it proves there’s hope for us all (sort of). And on the strength of this outing, I’m sure there’s plenty more to come from King, if not the Nobel-Prize winning literature he’s aiming for at least another fun flight of fancy, perhaps a book of the rejected book ideas rejected for inclusion in this first collection? But surely there’s a children’s novel to be snapped out of this, let’s watch this space.

Jade Craddock 4/-

The French Exchange Whale by Cal King
Hodder Paperbacks 9781473661127 pbk Sep 2017

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