Page 45 Review by Stephen
"It's nice here. I like it.
"Lots of ground. Nice, dependable, solid ground.
"Very nice indeed."
Poor Mister Selim! Flying boats are not his cup of tea.
Come to think of it, even when they were sailing on the ocean he was all at sea.
He doesn't know his port from his starboard, but do you know what? Delilah could have said "left" or "right", couldn't she?
A couple of weeks ago I raved about Tony Cliff's all-ages DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING with its gorgeous Portugese and Spanish landscapes, its British stately homes, its exceptional fight-scene choreography and the genuine wit in the snappy patty patter between Delilah Dirk and her travelling companion, Erdemoglu Selim, whose first name will henceforth be Mister. Feedback informs me that you liked the promise of running tea jokes best and there are plenty more here from page three onwards.
This is the first book in the series which chronicles how the unlikely pair met in Constantinople, Istanbul, 1807. Mister Selim was a lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps; Miss Dirk was the Agha's captive. Neither party's position there lasted very long. There's an exquisite early sequence with Selim extolling Delilah's reputed prowess in escapology and combat, his master believing not one word of it, culminating in Miss Dirk bashing her captors through a thick wooden door and waving.
So that's Mister Selim unceremoniously sacked. I wouldn't feel too sorry for him. He wasn't earning very much. The Agha's method of distributing his soldiers' salaries was far from orthodox: he threw a bit pot of gold coins into the centre of a room and let his employees scrabble about the floor, snatching up whatever they could. Surrounded by much bigger bruisers all poor Selim came away with was much bigger bruises.
It's at this point I break to remind you just how lithe Cliff's figure work is, and how supple their limbs in motion. There are some thrilling perspectives as well, some of the action being perceived from ground-level. The balance between the calms and the storms is very well judged. The pair's travels go uninterrupted just long enough to soak up the bucolic beauty and for Delilah to contemplate why she lives her nomadic existence and explain it to her charming and charmed new recruit.
Speaking of charming there's another perfect piece of sequential art storytelling when the couple are offered ten days' respite as guests of a full-on friendly man and his family, the images contradicting Mister Selim's somewhat disingenuous narration in every possible way. Wonderful!
Indeed all the Turkish people we meet are open, kind, convivial, and generous to a fault apart from evil pirate Captain Zakul The Terrible, but you can't exactly accuse him of wearing sheep's clothing. Also explaining his somewhat sullen behaviour, Delilah may have slightly stolen a great big cart load of treasure from him.
This is where we came in, with Delilah and Mister Selim fleeing the hoards of Captain Zakul (The Terrible) in a flying wooden boat bombarded with multiple flaming arrows. It's an incendiary combination that causes them to crash-land under an aqueduct and I don't suppose that landmark lasts very long, do you?
What I'm trying to get across to you is how much fun this all is. Personally I'd still start with DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING which packs quite the punch but I will take anything from Tony Cliff I can get. There the journey's Delilah's, here it's Mister Selim's for as our story opens Delilah craves adventure and thrives upon it; Mister Selim emphatically does not.
"Ugh. What is happening? Why... did you cut me free back there? Why did you bring me all the way out here?
"Because, Mr. Selim.... you make the finest tea in all of Europe."