If you'd told me nine years ago that I'd be sitting here, writing a review of Mark Cunnington's latest 'Syndicate' book, I probably wouldn't have believed you. I'd have wanted to believe you, but years of reading fishing forums made me think that many anglers would rather buy a few magazines a month and moan about them, than buy one decent book every two years and enjoy it.
Fortunately, I was wrong. Mark launched his first book and sales were astronomical. Okay, that isn't quite true, but they were good enough to encourage him to write a follow up...and then another...and things progressed from there to the stage we're at now – The RANSOM and The Syndicate: Part VI.
I'm pleased that I was there from the start, so to speak, as I've been able to keep in touch with Mark and see his writing 'mature' over the years. I enjoyed his first novels immensely, but the latest one is a lot slicker than the early ones, both in writing style and in the way the plot seems to gel together.
It's always hard to write a book review without giving away too much of the plot, but the amateur detectives among you will have worked out already that a ransom could be involved in this latest novel (for those who haven't sussed it, the clue is in the title!). Just when our 'heroes', Matt and Rambo, think that life is settling down, their whole world is rocked by a mystery bait baron and his sinister ways. Life's never dull in the world of carp fishing!
As the plot unravels, you can't help but chuckle at some of the extreme carp-related situations that evolve. The scary thing is, although they do seem extreme in one book together, taken individually they are actually quite believable. I remember thinking that the first book seemed that way, and then found out that some of it was based on a venue that I'd fished a fair bit! With that in mind, I had to ring Mark up and ask who 'The Carper' was based on in this latest book. He told me that it wasn't based on one specific person, but who knows if he'd tell me the truth? Certainly, his dedication in the line of fire seems about right for a hardcore carper (all will make sense when you read the book!). I'd lay money on many of the other new characters being based on people Mark has met on the bank. They just seem way too familiar! It gets to the point where you start to wonder if he's talking about you.
And as for the extreme lengths that a bait company will go to in order to be number one in the market, well, Mark may now be guilty of giving them some new ideas to adopt!
To fully enjoy The RANSOM and The Syndicate: Part VI, the reader needs to understand some of the background to the plot i.e. if you haven't read any of the earlier books, you'd be advised to do so before picking up this one. Fortunately, Mark keeps a supply of the older books and you can order them from http://www.carpbooks.com/
I should point out, as I have done in the past, that The Syndicate books are not really suitable for children, or those offended by swear words, as Mark has tried to make his characters as real as possible and put them in some stressful situations, so the language does get a bit colourful from time-to-time.
I was surprised when Mark published his first Syndicate book, as carp fishing fiction was unheard of at the time (if you don't count exaggerated weights published in some magazines and the claims of certain bait companies), but I must admit that I'm even more surprised that we haven't seen more of it since, from other authors. Could it be that The Syndicate books have set too high a benchmark for others to want to try? If that's the case, then well done to Mark, who not only took the plunge with the original book, but continues to self-publish his work.
Priced at £10.95 plus shipping, The RANSOM and The Syndicate: Part VI is available to order online at http://www.carpbooks.com, or you can order by phone from the UK on 01424-202848 (44-1424-202848 from outside the UK). When you consider that a monthly magazine is somewhere between £3-£4, that's not a lot of money to pay for a book that will give you hours of enjoyment, especially when you think that your purchase will help go towards funding the next book.
If you missed any of my previous Syndicate reviews, please follow the links below:
The Syndicate - Part I
The Syndicate (R.I.P.) - Part II
Return Of The Syndicate - Part III
Running The Syndicate Part - IV
Revenge Of The Syndicate - Part V