Let's face it, the idea of a work of 'fiction' centred around an angling syndicate hardly stirs excitement in the loins now, does it?
I'd been fortunate enough to read a couple of articles by Mark, so I'd already experienced a slice of his humour and was actually quite looking forward to seeing if he could maintain it through a whole book. I've often been 'accused' of not taking life too seriously myself, but know for sure that maintaining more than ten pages of 'wit' at any one time is not easy. And let's face it, fishing can be boring at times, even if you're the best angler in the world.
The book itself is fairly lightweight, but the paper is of good quality. Why should I bother to tell you this? Well, Mark went the brave route of publishing The Syndicate himself, so you'd be forgiven for expecting a 'bargain basement' style reproduction of months, if not years, of Mark's work. Far from it, The Syndicate looks like it will take plenty of wear and tear!
The story itself follows our 'hero', Matt, through a season at his small private syndicate. Matt is pretty much a 'junior' member of the syndicate at the beginning and we see him develop into a 'name' through various immoral, illegal and downright devious means with the help of his rather strange friend, Rambo…anybody involved in a syndicate may well have seen a lot of what happens in The Syndicate in real life!
I'll be honest, my 'real' job involves a fair bit of reading and I can generally pick up a book and take it or leave it. However, The Syndicate had me reading at every available opportunity, as I had to know what happened next! As I hinted at before, the worrying thing is that a lot of what 'Matt' experiences seems a little too real at times and the reader is wondering just what tales would emerge if he could spend a night supping a few beers with Mark Cunnington, reminiscing over past fishing experiences.
The Syndicate flows quite nicely as you read it and it is easy to pick up where you left off. The only negative comment that I would have is that it could have done with a liberal spattering of punctuation here and there, but that's just coming from somebody who is involved with publishing daily and still gets it wrong himself! It will not detract from your enjoyment at all. Added later: The 2nd Edition has been amended accordingly - top marks to Mark for his attention to detail!
The Syndicate is available online at http://www.carpbooks.com and is realistically priced at £9.95. I, for one, hope that it sells well, as I'd love to see Mark follow it up with another book.
8th August, 1999