Driving Jarvis Ham
a novel by Jim Bob
Published by The Friday Project.

Last year we saw and reviewed Carter USM who had played a great show at Beautiful Days Festival
This year Jim Bob from the band has a novel out…

Driving Jarvis Ham – a novel by Jim Bob

Oh yes, I’ve been down that same damn road as Jim Bob. I don’t claim to have enjoyed a similar indie-rocker life to the taller, thinner half of Carter USM, because I haven’t: I don’t even have as interesting a haircut. No – I’ve LITERALLY been down that same road. It’s called the A303.

This often-jammed A-road links South Devon to London (via Stone’enge), and both Jim Bob and I have experienced the weird misery and bleak sense of abandoned hope that is this two-lane blacktop’s character.

For a Devon-born boy like myself, it represents the yellow brick road to the riches of the Capital, some three or four hours away (as well as the quickest route back home to Mum’s for Christmas). It’s a slightly disappointing, unremarkable and very long country road punctuated by cow fields and sporadic rest stop cafes, all in various states of repair and disrepair. Through Jim Bob’s epic power of description, I recognised these red-and-white liveried restaurants straight away. I remember them as ‘Little Thiefs’, places to avoid buying curly sausages, bad eggs and weak tea. Jim Bob has rather sensibly given his own fictional name to these roadside relics (Mister Breakfast), but there’s no mistaking that special shade of arch rubbishness that I remember well from Sunday drives with Mum and Dad years and years ago, and which Jim Bob’s chosen narrator recalls through intolerably dull journeys with his mate, Jarvis Ham.

Such familiar scenes are bound to strike a chord with me – but you don’t have to be a country-lad turned Londoner to enjoy this comical and painfully accurate ride through a pathetic figure’s comings and goings.

In Jarvis Ham, Jim Bob has created a sad, fame-hungry lad whose blind ambition to escape the cream tea cafe dynasty of his parents cannot be dampened, in spite of an invincible string of disappointments.

Jim Bob’s narrator is a little more complicated: he is clearly fond of the hapless Jarvis and displays admirable devotion as he does the donkey work behind this quest for ever-elusive fame. But tolerant as he is of this interminable lift-cadger, the friendship does have its limits. How long could anyone be expected to endure such unreasonable behaviour of a secret alcoholic with an unhealthy fondness for Princess Di?

This is a cracking story, told brilliantly and easily, with oodles of entertaining detail from the cranky mid-1990s to mull over and savour: crucially without resorting to the ‘remember Bazooka Joe? It was brilliant!’ sentiment that too often permeates similar near-historical young-at-heart novels.

It’s fun, it’s thoughtful and it has a certain humanity to it. And murders.

One other thing: the ever-increasing gallery of ‘pets reading Driving Jarvis Ham’ is one of the best things on the internet.

Driving Jarvis Ham
a novel by Jim Bob
Published by The Friday Project.

Last year we saw and reviewed Carter USM who had played a great show at Beautiful Days Festival

This year Jim Bob from the band has a novel out…

Andy Barding

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