Written by Bruce Dennill in The Citizen
Brendan Jack came to prominence as a comedian, developed an edgy television platform in Crazy Monkey and then took that concept to the big screen.
Recently, though, he’s added to his impressive list of entertainment achievements the publication of Empire: How To Succeed With Nothing But Passion, Great Ideas And A Wealthy Family, his first book.
It’s a complicated thing to describe – a pseudo-memoir that takes in Jack’s experience in the advertising world, while creating an obscenely bloated environment for in which his protagonist, Dunlop Fantasia, can exist and seek his purpose (he already has his fortune as a fabulously wealth rich kid).
Where – with all the creativity going on in Jack’s life – does being an author fit in?
“I’m not giving everything else up to write books,” says Jack.
“It takes time. It’s a very long and involved process. But it’s something I always wanted to do, and a goal I set for myself. I probably started taking notes for Empire about two years ago, but there came a point when I knew I had to put a deadline on it, otherwise I’d just be messing around with words.”
Empire is very funny indeed, and humour is Jack’s stock in trade. But writing a book means he’s being funny in a different way, able to develop a gag over – should he desire – an entire chapter.
“It was wonderful,” agrees Jack.
“There was no pressure to have something completed within a 90-minute film structure, for instance.”
Jack self-published Empire, so his freedom to go wherever the muse took him was complete. In that context, he’s actually shown a fair amount of restraint.
“If you don’t have a publisher giving you a deadline, you need to be committed,” he says.
And there are no preconceptions about demo-graphics and specific markets and all the rest.
“Well, essentially it’s a satirical memoir, and I don’t know how big that is relative to the young adult market or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” smiles Jack.
“I’m not going to write something just to check a marketing box. Although there’s a lot about marketing in the book…”
Empire is a sort of memoir, but it’s also a work of over-the-top fiction that offers you zero profound insights into who its author is. Matters are further complicated by the image of Jack on the cover. Are potential readers getting confused?
“People are generally confused by me,” says Jack.
“Hey, I’m confused about myself. But I guess I’m on the cover because Dunlop is a sort of character I play. It’s a character’s voice that I’ve written.
“There are touches of me in there, but everything is looked at from this skewed perspective – someone with huge amounts of money who is desperately trying to prove himself to his father.”
Jack’s adventures in filmmaking may have influenced the way he writes prose – perhaps he’s unable to turn off creating scenarios that can feasibly be converted into scripts.
If Empire ever makes it into cinemas, it would make sense to have quirky director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic) at the helm.
Readers may sense this early on in their reading – and then discover that Wes Anderson actually appears in the narrative.
“This is my first long-form, novel-type excursion, so it was quite different to the way I write scripts,” says Jack.
“I’d love to make it into a film, but the hovercraft budget alone may be prohibitive.
“Unless Wes Anderson gets involved. Wes, are you reading this?”
Another Empire review from The Citizen? Sure, here you go.
Or buy the eBook on Amazon.