Review: The Vanity Game

“Take a pinch of TOWIE [The Only Way Is Essex], add a measure of vapid sleb culture, throw in a few dark temptations, lob the lot OTT, and you’ve got a recipe for a premier league winner.”

— Val McDermid

Blurb: “Ripping the lid off the world of celebrity culture, The Vanity Game is a satirical black comedy that’s as disturbing as it is hilarious. For professional soccer ace Beaumont Alexander, life couldn’t be better. He’s rich and famous and living a life of A-class luxury in his Essex mansion, The Love Palace, with his beautiful pop-star girlfriend, Krystal McQueen. Idolised and envied all over the planet, he’s an international megabrand; seemingly invincible, and every bit as vain as you might expect from a man who has the world at his fingertips as well as his feet. But a celebrity party kickstarts a chain of events that turns his dream lifestyle into a waking nightmare. It begins with too many drugs and an attractive waitress, and leads to an argument with Krystal that doesn’t end well. Then a shady cartel steps in and changes his life forever. Beaumont Alexander is about to discover that substitution is a fate worse than death.”

Review: H. J. Hampson’s The Vanity Game from Blasted Heath offers a slice of sleb culture with a lot of grit and blood. I hated Beaumont from the start: he’s everything I hate about the fame game. It’s an uphill battle getting your reader to follow the adventures of a character who is so often absolutely loathsome; it’s a battle Hampson wins. I despised the spoiled, pampered footballer but I was hooked into the story right away. Where is this going to go? That’s the question that keeps you reading. And I did! I almost — almost — developed sympathy for him as events unfolded. More importantly, I had to know how things would turn out. It’s a terrific examination of the seductiveness of fame, the manipulations it involves and the cocoon it develops around those who get raised so high — and how vulnerable that plush prison leaves them. But make no mistake: this isn’t a dissertation. It’s a cracking good read that will surprise you with all the twists and turns. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be famous and can’t understand the current mania for it. After you read this book, you will have second thoughts about the allure of the spotlight.

Reviewed by K. A. Laity

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