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The Gun Seller

UK Publisher: Heinemann

If you’re selling double glazing, or cosmetics, or vacuum cleaners, then your job is a difficult, but straightforward one. You must ring bells and smile a lot.

If you’re lucky enough to get inside the door, life becomes a little easier: because everybody knows that vacuum cleaners are good, desirable things, and that sucking up dust and carpet fluff is much easier when you have a machine to do it for you. In that respect, vacuum cleaners are a cinch.

But when you have an entirely different kind of product on offer – when, for example, you’re trying to unload a prototype military helicopter, capable of five hundred miles and hour and a thousand corpses a minute – the technique is more complicated. First you must convince the housewife of the need for such a machine. You must persuade her that the ability to fly down a crowded city street and kill those ten thousand terrorists is a vital one, and something she would be foolish to try to do without. You must be able to respond, instantly, to her anxious questions about speed, and firepower, and radar signatures, and flight inertia, and whether or not the device will fit under the stairs; and if that weren’t hard enough, you must then quote a price of two and a half million dollars.

It is, in short, a difficult task, beyond the capabilities of most vacuum-cleaner salesmen. It is a task that calls for a penniless, unemployed, achingly simple ex-army officer – a thirty-five-year-old drifter with nothing to lose but his heart, who can be relied upon to do the right thing by everybody but himself. It is a task for The Gun Seller.

“A terrific debut. Thomas Lang is a James Bond for the 1990s, with the same ingredients but brought bang up to date, and with much better jokes” – Daily Telegraph.

“Clever and hilarious, with a story that is intricate, tense and well researched … and unstintingly joyous read.” – Time Out.

“A virtuoso performance… makes many another comic novel look slow-witted in comparison.” – Sunday Telegraph.

Hugh Laurie was educated at Eton and Cambridge University where, as well as rowing in the 1980 Oxford/Cambridge boat race,...