Okay, before we begin, Nomad isn’t the best literary book you’ll ever read, or even the standout performer of 2016. But it is Alan Partridge, on his best form. That alone deserves all the accolades thrown at it. It’s the best humorous book since I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan.
Alan Partridge has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Steve Coogan is no longer trying to distance himself from the character to gain validation for his talent. Perhaps we can thank the critical success of Philomena for this? Since then he has fully embraced Partridge in a feature film, more Mid Morning Matters, Welcome to the Places of My Life, and Scissored Isle.
Throughout these its clear the character still works and he understands how to keep it relevant. It’s been a long time since I’m Alan Partridge but the essence of what made that show works still exists but the Partridge Universe has grown since then. Alan has become the thing of comedy folklore.
Nomad is Alan’s tale of recounting his father’s unfulfilled footsteps. He constantly reminds you, it isn’t for a TV show or exposure. The reason he decides to go on a walk is to connect with his deceased father. They were never close, as he explained in his autobiography, but when he discovers an old box of possessions in his loft it plants a seed.
His father, it appears, should have attended an interview at Dungeness Power Station but got a letter confirming his non-attendance. In the same box were receipts from the day of the journey, signposting his stops at petrol stations (one with a blot of blood). This allows Alan to plot a route. He decides to embark on the same journey.
Why it has to be on foot has nothing to do with a new TV show. The chasing up of a TV producer is more coincidence and ensuring the British public get to experience the pilgrimage.
Interspersed between the main narrative are chapters that further expand on Partridge myths featuring real life celebs, meaning a few new stories come to life. The fictional accounts range from the reoccurring Eammon Holmes and Bill Oddie, to a random David Essex footnote, and a rant aimed at Noel Edmonds.
The gaps between movie and recent TV shows are filled in. We get to know what happened (to a degree) with Geordie Michael. His recent love life, which was a subplot in Mid Morning Matters, gets a further mention. Lynn is here, though he never says her name. Forbes McAllister’s death (Knowing Me, Knowing You) is even addressed in a footnote.
His version of events we’ve seen on screen are retold. Through the eyes of Alan, Alpha Papa is a completely different story.
Annabel Swanswim even gets a mention for the keen-eyed fan. Along with Fernando, Sidekick Simon and the trio of Julia Bradbury, Clare Balding and Michael Portillo have supporting (if very small) roles. It all adds colour to the life of a man that is now embedded in the public consciousness.
One liners come think and fast, too many to list and it’d be unfair to rob them for those that are yet to read the book. But you know you’re onto something special when lines like: So you’ll forgive me if my gast wasn’t exactly flabbered, are accredited to Paul Ross from 1990.
And the grammatically challenging: People were letting their hair down. But the only thing Partridge was letting down was ‘not his guard’.
Similes are especially good throughout, like: throbbing like a frog’s neck. And the fear that a ‘welly on’ is pensioner slang for an erection. The quirks and observations litter the pages. He takes aim at all classes and pokes derision at things that are so not Partridge (The Great British Bake Off).
Needless to say (…I had the last laugh), it doesn’t run as planned, Partridge’s personality requiring the sort of nourishment destined to always evade an honest run at success. His failures somehow further the character. It’s like when Del Boy and Rodney became millionaires, the magic of the comedy left them. Alan is the perineal loser, it’s what makes him endure and become endearing.
Book of the Year? Alan would probably say, “It’s the best book since Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab.”