Ben Elton is an English writer, director and comedian who co-wrote Black Adder
(from its second season onward) with Richard Curtis. He also co-wrote The Young Ones
with Rik Mayall
and Lise Meyer, and was solo writer on Filthy, Rich and Catflap
and the now largely-forgotten sketch show Alfresco
He has also written three West End plays, several "jukebox" musicals including We Will Rock You
, and 11 novels.
His published books to date are:
- Stark (1989)
- Gridlock (1991)
- This Other Eden (1993)
- Popcorn (1996)
- Blast From the Past (1998)
- Inconceivable (1999) - Later adapted into the film Maybe Baby, also written by Elton
- Dead Famous (2001)
- High Society (2002)
- Past Mortem (2004)
- The First Casualty (2005)
- Chart Throb (2006)
- Blind Faith (2007)
- Meltdown (2009) - Probably his best known novel in America due to One Direction.
- Two Brothers (2012)
- Time and Time Again (2014)
He also had a short-lived comedy show in 1998 on The BBC
. The opening
of each show spoofed BBC 1's hot air balloon ident of the time.
In America, he's probably best known for one line from his 2009 novel Meltdown.
"'No!' Jimmy protested." The reason the quote became so popular
is because One Direction
's Louis Tomlinson read it out of a copy of the book on one of the band's web diaries, and it has become a popular joke with Directioners ever since.
As well as his clever use of tropes in the TV series Black Adder and The Thin Blue Line, they can also be found in his novels:
- Animal Wrongs Group - Woggle in Dead Famous is a one-man example.
- Asshole Victim - Many of the murder victims in Past Mortem though Christine, while an Alpha Bitch as a teen and a shallow ditz as an adult is sympathetic and her murder comes across as a Moral Event Horizon for the killer.
- Bedlam House - Subverted in Dead Famous when a contestant on a reality TV show pretends to have been abused in a mental institution, in order to boost her appeal with the public. The producer knows this is a lie because both of her own parents were institutionalized, and decides not to broadcast the footage.
- Betty and Veronica - In Past Mortem, where Newson had relationships with Helen (Betty - albeit a rather warped version) and Christine (Veronica), who later reappear in his life as an adult in the run-up to a school reunion. Over the events of the book Christine is murdered by the serial killer, Newson discovers that Helen is chronically depressed and mentally ill, and the story ends with him asking out the Third-Option Love Interest: Natasha, the woman he believes he loved all along.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing - Sandra Dee in Blind Faith.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Blind Faith: Trafford is burned as a heretic by the Temple, but he tricks Sandra Dee into triggering an auto-system that will send Humanist emails to thousands of homes. As he shouts "EV LOVE!" ("evolve", backwards - a code word used by the Humanists) he sees people in the crowd nodding and trying to catch his eye, indicating that they received his emails. This gives him hope that the Temple will one day be overthrown.
- High Society: Peter is convicted, sent to jail, and Angela divorces him. His disillusioned kids are suggested to be on the first steps towards drug abuse. As a result of the media outcry, the King of Thailand refuses to release Sonia, whose lawyers continue to petition for her to be deported on mental health grounds. Tommy finds Jessie (who has just been released from prison) and takes her on the holiday she dreamed of.
- Blast From the Past: There is a huge scandal over Jack's death and the details of his involvement with Polly, just as he feared; and Polly is left with nothing. Harry contacts her, wanting to know more about her and her relationship with his brother. At the end of the story he comes to visit Polly, and she notices how much he looks like Jack, only that his voice is "kinder, somehow"
- Brainless Beauty - several, often used to deliver an Aesop about shallowness or vanity. A more sympathetic example is Kelly in Dead Famous, but the character type probably explains why she was the murder victim. Christine Copperfield in Past Mortem is similarly somewhat sympathetic and likewise ends up murdered.
- British Accents
- Broken Bird - Helen in Past Mortem, Jessie in High Society, to some extent Sally in Dead Famous.
- Butch Lesbian - Subverted in Dead Famous: Sally, although outwardly the textbook example of this trope, is one of the most sympathetic characters in the book. Also subverted with Trish, who is in the closet and resents people assuming she is heterosexual simply because she's not butch.
- Butt Monkey - Robbo in Meltdown. After he is killed while drink driving, the protagonist Jimmy reflects on how the joke doesn't seem so funny any more ...
- Camping a Crapper - The whole plot of Dead Famous turns out to be based around this. Geraldine realised that at least one of the girls would have to go to the bathroom and planned for the murder to take place there.
- Coitus Ensues - In several books, to the point where The First Casualty earned Elton a nomination for the Bad Sex Awards (an annual prize given to the author of the worst sex scene in fiction that year.)
- Crapsack World - Blind Faith and This Other Eden are set in this.
- Depraved Kids' Show Host - Chloe in High Society. Tommy mentions that almost every children's TV presenter he has met was a drug user, because, he imagines, it is too much stress for them to constantly act perky and cheerful for their audience.
- During the War - The First Casualty is set during World War One.
- Expy - Blind Faith didn't do as well as Elton's other books, partly because of criticism that its plot was too heavily borrowed from 1984.
- Scout and Wayne in Popcorn are obvious Expies of Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, the entire book being a satire of the Moral Panic over media violence.
- Fiery Redhead - Jessie in High Society
- Funetik Aksent - High Society, ad nauseam.
- Granola Girl - Layla in Dead Famous. Polly from Blast From the Past was one as a teenager.
- His Name Is... - Happens in Past Mortem. Christine Copperfield left a message on Newson's answerphone just before her death, but was interrupted by the arrival of her killer at the door, and hung up so she could talk to them. Her message indicates that the killer is someone she knows; she just never got to say who.
- Holding the Floor - In Dead Famous, Inspector Coleridge talks on television for five and a half minutes to delay the end of the show so his colleagues can arrive with faked evidence to prompt a confession from the murderer.
- Lad-ette - Kelly and Moon in Dead Famous fit the trope, with Geraldine referring to Kelly as "the little ladette slapper."
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo - Prince Charles is a major character in Chart Throb, but is never named.
- Little Miss Badass - Anna Leman in High Society
- Love Makes You Crazy
- Love Makes You Evil - Peter in Blast From the Past
- Manipulative Editing - performed by characters in Dead Famous and Chart Throb, both of which satirize reality TV
- Meaningful Name
- New Eden - the basic plot of This Other Eden
- Only One Name - In Dead Famous, we never find out Trish's surname, or Sergeant Hooper's first name.
- Reality Subtext - Two Brothers, based around two boys in a German Jewish family who end up on opposing sides during WWII, was based on similar circumstances in Elton's own family, which he claimed he had been waiting for a chance to turn into a story.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money! - most of the cast of Meltdown begin like this, until the recession hits and they are left with nothing.
- Stalker with a Crush - Peter in Blast From the Past, Carlisle in Dead Famous
- Technology Marches On: The plot of Past Mortem heavily revolves around the social media site Friends Reunited, which was once the most popular social networking site in Britain, but which later became one of the many such sites that Facebook left behind in the dust. Ironically, Facebook first went online the year the novel was published.
- War Is Hell - pretty much First Casualty and Two Brothers in a nutshell.
- Write Who You Know - a lot of characters in Dead Famous are based on real-life contestants from Big Brother or people involved in its production, with Meaningful Names to show it. Also, Tommy Hanson in High Society appears to be inspired by Robbie Williams.
- Your Cheating Heart - For much of Blind Faith Trafford has an affair with Sandra Dee while his wife, Chantorria, is also having an affair with Confessor Bailey. They inhabit a dystopian future where marriage is not considered a permanent fixture and most marriages last only two to three years at most.