Monday 16 October 2017

Review by Lee Wright of "Taffin on Balance" by Lyndon Mallet

The 1988 action thriller Taffin featured a pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan in the title role as the freelance debt-collector Mark Taffin, hired to defend a small Irish community against a group of evil developers and their band of ruthless heavies. It was Robin Hood, only with shotguns and Brylcreem.  

A few years ago, I came across a copy of the original novel on which the film was based. Rumour has it that Taffin’s author, Lyndon Mallet, was not best pleased with the casting of Brosnan. The tough County Meath man with Hollywood good looks was a far cry from the large framed, expressionless Teddy Boy on the cover of the novel. 

The novel explores vigilante justice and how far people are willing to go to protect what is dear to them. But there is a flipside to that coin. How far is too far? Taffin understands this only too well. In the novel he warns someone who comes to him for help: “If I took this job, you’d be begging me to stop within a week.” Probably the finest line from the film is when Taffin confronts those who want to hire him to rid them of the developers with no questions asked: “My help has consequences,” he says. “When you turn against me, as you surely will, you remember, I am only your weapon.”

A follow-up sequel to the first novel was commissioned by the publisher, New English Library, and Mallet wrote Taffin’s First Law within four months of the first book being published. A third instalment followed, and Ask Taffin Nicely seemed to be a fitting end to the trilogy. 

Now, after a decade away, Mallet has returned to the town of Lasherham in Taffin On Balance, where Mark Taffin has settled down and runs a business restoring and selling classic cars. All is well until someone with money and a personal grudge tries to put him out of business. Along the way he discovers a web of large-scale corruption causing issues for the locals of the town, and we find that Taffin is still very much the modern-day Robin Hood.     
As ever with Mallet, the action is punchy and realistic but not too heavy. The author also dips into meta-fiction territory as references to the Pierce Brosnan film are made throughout the book. One character asks Taffin: “That film. Fact or fantasy? Is it about you and if so, is it a true story?”

When I asked Mallet why he did this, he replied, “It’s called playing the cards you’re dealt.” 
There is nothing slow paced about Mallet’s writing. Like his main protagonist, Mallet gets on with the job at hand. It’s a technique which has shown results. Not only did he sell the film rights for Taffin, he also had success with his epistolary novel, The Hare Lane Diaries, which was later adapted for radio and broadcast in six episodes on BBC Radio 4.  
But the Taffin novels are not as well-known as they could be. Copies of the first two novels are now out of print (though some second-hand copies can still be picked up and all of Mallet’s novels are available in e-book form). So, to have Taffin On Balance available in paperback is a treat for both old fans, and those discovering the character for the first time.
Taffin On Balance is published by Matador Fiction and is available now.

About the reviewer

Lee Wright was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire in 1980 and has been writing both fiction and non-fiction since 2008. He is taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.

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