Book Review: Delete This at your Peril!

Delete-this-at-your-PerilEveryone with email has received them – messages in fractured English from corrupt officials in oil-rich nations, job offers that involve merely processing payments, love letters from stunningly beautiful Russian women who will happily overlook the fact that you are fat, balding and middle-aged. The common factor is a request for your bank details. Amused or irritated, you can’t really avoid them.

Allow me to introduce an unlikely White Knight who tilts at these internet trolls on your behalf. His name is Bob Servant, a native of Broughty Ferry, which is a suburb of Dundee – the spiritual home of Beautiful Railway Bridge. Ah, that shining city on the silvery Tay! Bob is a veteran and chief beneficiary of the Burger Van Wars (1988-9), once owner of the biggest window cleaning round in Western Europe, and consummate piss-artist.

Bob likes to unwind of an evening, after the pubs are closed, by leading scammers down the long and convoluted garden path of their own greed. He’s a sort of Scottish Siren, luring them onto the unforgiving rocks of Broughty Ferry. If they weren’t such amoral scumbags, you could almost feel sorry for the victims. His method is to distract attention from the point – their need for his bank details – with a bewildering array of side issues. He also puts forward counter-proposals that proliferate into surreal and bizarre scenarios in Bob’s mind, aided and abetted in these imaginations by his drinking pals, Frank the Plank, Tommy Peanuts and Chappy Williams. Invariably the scammers go along with these suggestions. At one point Bob is so disgusted at the lengths they’ll go to that he voluntarily ends the game.

Sadly, Bob Servant is the fictional creation of Scottish author, Neil Forsyth, based on his own experience with internet scammers. This does have its benefits. Bob is allowed the most outrageous libels against the worthy institutions of Broughty Ferry – the Post Office and Bowling Club get a lot of stick – and Forsyth can then ride to the rescue with a footnote saying this couldn’t possibly be true. Appropriately enough, each section is a sequence of emails, with all the necessary footnotes to defuse Bob’s cheerful defamations.

Delete This at your Peril! became a BBC Radio 4 series, and Bob Servant also reached television in BBC 4’s Bob Servant Independent, where he runs for election. I watched the first episode – you can see episode 2 in the video below – but it was so bloodless compared to the inspired profanity and deranged imagination of Delete This at your Peril! that I didn’t watch any more. The best thing about it is the Broughty Ferry location, the views of Dundee and the glorious Tay Bridge.

I urge you get the book and enjoy a vicarious revenge against internet scammers.