"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Cheesehead Revisited
Mackenzie Morris considers the literary career of a member of the English aristocracy who, in his late sixties, became a spy for the New Zealand Secret Service before commenting on the publication of the second volume of his wildly exaggerated autobiography 
The Ilchester File
by Sir Crispen Fotherington-Smythe
Possum Press, 376 pages, 45NZD

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Cheesehead Revisited, the first volume of Sir Crispen Fotherington-Smythe’s proposed autobiographical trilogy, covered the period from his aristocratic origins to his work with Frontiere, the cheese empire run by Everard Hinchcliffe that he claims was a front for the New Zealand Secret Service (Cheese Division).

This volume covers the period when (he claims) he became part of a task force known as The Unteachables, which, on the surface, was formed to close down the Triveasies (with force if necessary) that had sprung up throughout New Zealand following the nationwide ban on the game Trivial Pursuit. In reality (he claims) The Unteachables were formed to break a ruthless gang of cheese smugglers led by Martin Garré and his more intelligent wife, who were illegally bringing Australian Bitey into the country and passing it off as Cheddar.

The first volume of his so-called autobiography was difficult to swallow but The Ilchester File is just plain out there. What one must remember when reading this book is that Sir Crispen was ninety-seven years old when he wrote it and prone to exaggeration and make-believe.

Let’s face it, whoever heard of a nationwide ban on the game Trivial Pursuit in New Zealand, or any country for that matter, and no one on this planet could ever mistake Australian Bitey for any other cheese in existence.

Although originally from Britain, Sir Crispen moved to New Zealand in the early 1980s and it was there that this fantasy world of cheese guns, Babybombs, cheese smugglers and people with ridiculous names like Martin Garré and Everard Hinchcliffe and Jim Friteuse began. Let’s not forget that this is the same man who was responsible for the truly awful spy novels Chunderball and From Thrusher With Love, which were published to universal derision in 1984 and 1991 respectively.

In order to understand the fantasy world that Sir Crispen now inhabits one must first examine those early novels.

Chunderball followed the adventures of Bruce Bond, Australia’s drunkest secret agent. The first question one must ask oneself is why, if Bruce Bond was so drunk all the time, did the Australian Secret Service employ him in the first place? The second question is what was it all about? There seemed to be no plot, no identifiable characters and no suspense. The fact that he won A Golden Gouda for the book is testament to how bad it was.

Here is an extract from the book. Bruce Bond has been sent on a mission to assassinate Brandon Crowe, the head of the Australian Bitey Company.

Bruce had the gates of the factory in his sights. He had his weapon cocked and ready to fire. All he had to do was wait until Crowe showed up and then it was goodnight Vienna for him.

He lifted the top off the cool box by his side and reached for another Castlemaine XXXX. He tugged at the ring pull on the top of the can and smiled at the familiar Pssssttt sound – God he loved that sound; it was probably his favourite sound in the world. He liked it so much he had heard it probably twenty (or was it twenty-five) times already that day as he had lain in wait for his target.

He took a long glug from the can and slurred, to no one in particular, “Ah zhe am’er ne’tar is’o goo. . . ”

After an hour or so Bruce was finding it difficult to concentrate and he found it a struggle to keep more than one eye open at a time. When he did open both eyes everything around him started to spin and he felt like he was looking out at the world through a kaleidoscope. He seemed to have no control over the amount of saliva his body was producing and drool started running freely out of his mouth and he had to keep wiping it away with his sleeve.

A thought suddenly struck him. Had he been drugged? And if so, by whom?

His confused thoughts were interrupted by the sound of clanging metal. He peered over the ridge of the sand dune and saw that the factory gates were opening and Brandon Crowe was stepping outside to climb into a waiting limousine. Bruce immediately grabbed his rifle, but in his drunken state he pulled the trigger fired the weapon in the air.

“Bugger it!” he cried, as he watched Crowe dive into his armour-plated limo and drive away into the distance.

Bruce sat down despite the dampness in his shorts. He reached back into the cool box and took out another can of XXXX and a wedge of Ilchester.

“There’s always tomorrow,” he told himself.

Sir Crispen’s second novel From Thrusher With Love was about a female Soviet agent who disabled agents from the New Zealand Secret Service (NZSS) by passing sexually transmitted diseases onto them just before they were about to embark on a mission. With all of their agents either sick or delirious the NZSS have to call on retired super-agent Dirk Prick to assist them in their hour of need. The novel’s tagline – Love is . . . never having to report to the clinic – ensured that it was a bestseller in both Australia and Egypt.  Like Chunderball it was a crudely written exploitation novel. In a television interview for Channel One, Sir Crispen explained that:

“Whereas the first novel was about the perils of alcoholism, From Thusher With Love concerns itself with the pitfalls of rampant sexual behaviour amongst our modern day secret service agents.”

Personally I think it was just the wishful thinking of an incurable fantasist, but who am I to criticise – judge for yourself by reading this extract from that novel.

Olga Tossimov looked over the table at Prick and fluttered her eyebrows. She observed that he had recently been riding his motorcycle, as he had placed his helmet on the chair in between them.

“Miss Tossimov,” Prick said with a faint hint of a Scottish brogue, “if you think you can turn me with your feminine ways you are very much mistaken.”

“I zink you are ze most beautiful man I haff ever seen,” said Miss Tossimov, “and I vant you!”

“Like you wanted the other agents you put in the clinic.”

“No, you are different. You are English but you talk viz a Scottish accent. I haff vatched you closely, Mr Prick, and every disguise you take, vezzer it be Irish, Russian or American, you alvays use a Scottish accent.”

Prick stiffened. “I can’t help it,” he said sadly, “I’m Scottish on my father’s side. Although we lived in England he insisted that I spoke in a Scottish accent. He made me read the Sunday Post every week. As a child, while all the other kids were reading Desperate Dan in The Dandy and Denace the Menace in The Beano, I was forced to read The Broons and Oor Wullie. It’s no wonder all my friends at school thought I was a weirdo. And at New Year I had to suffer Andy Stewart on the telly. It was hell, I tell you, hell.”

“Oh, you poor zing,” said Miss Tossimov, gently stroking Prick's helmet with her fingers, “haffing to endure hours off a man in a skirt singing A Scottish Soldier and Donald, Wheers Yer Troosers must haff damaged you psychologically.”

“Of course it has. Why do you think I smoke sixty fags a day and drink stupid cocktails that are gone in one gulp?”

“Oh my darlink, it sounds like you need to be consoled. You are not like all ze other agents. In fact I zink I love you, Prick. Maybe ve should book a room.”


“Do you haff any condoms?”


“I know for a fact zat zere is a machine in ze toilets zat dispenses zem in packets of zree and it takes von pound coins.”

“Have you got any change?”

From Thrusher With Love was Fotheringon-Smythe’s last novel. After that he concentrated his attention on writing his memoirs, the first volume of which, Cheesehead Revisited, appeared in 2003.

The following extract from the final chapter of Cheesehead Revisited is Fotherington-Smythe’s reaction to the news that his favourite agent, John Smith, has been exposed as a ruthless Egyptian double agent Abdullah Fahad Achmed Al Mohammed bin Abdul Faisal Muhammed Fuad Abdullah Aziz Smith - otherwise known as Cheesefinger.

When Big C informed me that John Smith was in fact Cheesefinger and his real name was  Abdullah Fahad Achmed Al Mohammed bin Abdul Faisal Muhammed Fuad Abdullah Aziz Smith and that he was Egyptian I was flabbergasted. John was my hero; he was the agent that I would have aspired to if ever I was given the opportunity to work in the field. Although this was highly unlikely given my advancing years, I still held onto that glimmer of hope.
Once the news had sunk in I went home to my mansion and got Johnson, my butler, to burn all my John Smith memorabilia, including the two albums he recorded for Possum Records, Land Of The Pharoahs and I Talk To The Pyramids.

It was such a shock discovering that John was an Egyptian agent. There was nothing in his records that suggested any such thing.

The Big Top became a hive of industry as witch hunts were carried out throughout each department. No witches were found but a number of Egyptian agents were discovered. John Smith, it seemed was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Big Top was depleted once all the Egyptian double agents had been transported to Australia. There were no other agents capable of carrying out missions.

And then one day Big C breezed into G Division. 

“Big C,” I said, “what brings you down to this neck of the woods?”

“Well, G,” said Big C, “do you remember last year when you told me that you really envied the lifestyle of the agents you sent out into the field?”
I do."
"Well the police are putting together a special six-man team to break the Trivial Pursuit rings and to try and put a stop to the import of Bitey. They're calling themselves The Unteachables. You interested in joining them as literary advisor?"
"I say, top hole!" I yelped. "When do I start?"

Volume Two of his memoirs, The Ilchester File, follows directly on from where Cheesehead Revisited left off. This extract is from the first chapter, where he is introduced to the team members of The Unteachables.

During the Prohibition of Trivial Pursuit, Martin Garré and his more intelligent wife had nearly the whole city of Orangatanga under their control. Bureau of Prohibition agent Eric ‘Loch’ Ness was so hindered by a largely corrupt police force that he formed his own unit which he called The Unteachables. This team consisted of an incorruptible Irish Kiwi private detective with a Scottish accent called Shamus O’Flaherty McBond, a young marksman called George Bailey, who had a terrible squint and who often wished he’d never been born. There was Reginald Molehusband who was a consulting detective and pigeon fancier (unfortunately Reginald was not with us for very long as he really did fancy pigeons) and then there was Buster Duran, Shamus O'Flaherty McBond's former partner in the PI business, who was recruited for his propensity for ultra-violence. And, of course, there was myself, who was hired as the literary consultant.

When I first met O’Flaherty McBond he asked me if I was really committed to bringing down Garré and his more intelligent wife.

“Yes,” I told him. “I’m totally committed.”

“But what are you prepared to do about it?” he countered.

“Anything,” I replied, “as long as it’s within the law.”

“And then what would you be prepared to do? If you open this jar of cheese you have to be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not going to give up until one of you has conceded the game.”

“I want to get the Garré’s. I just don’t know how to do it.”

“You want to know how to get the Garré’s? They ask a Sport & Liesure Question, you ask a Literature Question. They pull a cheese knife, you pull a grater. They send one of ours to the dairy, you send one of theirs to the abbatoir. That’s the Orangatanga way. And that’s how you get the Garré’s. Do you want that?”

“We have all sworn to capture Garré and his more intelligent wife with all the powers at our disposal and that’s what we will do.”

“Well, Mr Fotherington-Smythe, shake on it.” He extended his hand and I took it. His grip was firm and rather painful. “Do you know what a blood oath is?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Good,” he said, stabbing my hand with a cheese knife, “because you’ve just taken one.”

I think it was at that moment that I realised that Shamus O’Flaherty McBond was totally insane.

Unlike his novels, and despite it reading like the plot of a cheap Hollywood gangster movie, The Ilchester File is an entertaining, although unreliable account of life in the business of espionage and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who loves to have their non-fiction accompanied by a large pinch of salt.

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Mackenzie Morris is the literary consultant to the Computer Games Division of Scotland Yard. He is also the world’s leading authority on spigots. As well as creating the popular series of computer games Spigot Wars, his books include The Maltese Spigot, The Spigot Always Rings Twice and Farewell My Spigot

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