Rogue Malory

Written by Helen Maskew
Review by Misty Urban

The writing of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur as if told by Monty Python. From his cell in Newgate Prison in 1469, Malory hires impoverished scribe Montmorency Pickle to help him edit the manuscript he’s spent his fifteen years in jail writing. As Monty dives into the work, he finds himself ensnared by Malory’s sly machinations along with a host of other amusing characters, including stationer Jack Worms, loyal knight Sir Anthony Tanner, and saucy harlot Plump Poll. While haggling with Sir Tom over sections of Le Morte and their parallels to contemporary life, and learning Malory’s eventful history from loyal servant Pom, poor Monty gets caught up to his neck in the fomenting rebellion of the Earl of Warwick and Duke of Clarence against Yorkist King Edward IV.

Lewis delights in portraying her hero as an unrepentant rascal, and most of the scenes, over-salted with strong language, exist mainly to illustrate what a colorful character Sir Tom is. As background to Sir Tom’s antics, the book offers lively detail about life in 15th-century London and the murky politics of the Wars of the Roses. The comedy ranges from the ribald to the absurd, as instanced in a frame narrative in which St. Peter grills Sir Tom before the gates of heaven with an account of just how many Deadly Sins he committed. Readers who don’t mind lengthy stretches of dialogue, caricatured characters, tangled plots, or ubiquitous expletives will enjoy this exuberant and often entertaining account of how one of the most popular and enduring pieces of English literature came to be.