Bloody Instructions

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Philip Fletcher is offered the second-fiddle role of Banquo in a new British production of MACBETH, to be followed by the lead in TWELFTH NIGHT, he accepts the offer with some trepidation. Richard Calvi, the young British heart-throb, will have the much-desired lead in MACBETH, and Fletcher’s jealousy of Calvi is palpable. Calvi’s instant loathing of Fletcher, which is justifiably reciprocated, leads to a public fight. When Calvi turns up with a dagger in his back during the next stage break, Fletcher is the obvious suspect. Although he had previously managed to stage a murder and not be caught, Philip is innocent this time. But who could be more adept at discovering the culprit than someone who has accomplished murder himself? Since the police suspect Fletcher of the crime, he is all the more motivated to find the real killer.

Fletcher knows he is being set up when he finds in his hotel bathtub the dead body of a theater critic who had just trashed him in a review. His borrowing of a wheelchair, assuming a disguise, and wheeling the body out just under the eyes of the police is hilarious. His means of establishing an alibi for that time period is equally funny.

Fletcher’s actions are clever, his thinking ingenious, and his situation intriguing. At the same time he is a total blackguard, impervious to conscience and the conventions of morality. While the storyline is amusing, it is also utterly ludicrous. If you tend to root for the villain, and enjoy seeing him or her getting away with the crime, Philip Fletcher may be a character you’ll want to know better.