Jeff Torrington first came to prominence when, at the age of 57, he won the 1992 Whitbread Book of the Year Award for his debut novel, Swing Hammer Swing!. The Devil's Carousel is cast in the same mould, a black comedy which sends the reader on a roller-coaster of the absurd, full of wisecracks, wordplay and puns. However this time he takes more time to get into gear and the first few chapters seem more like a series of vignettes, strung together by a common thread - the Centaur Car Company. Gradually, as it picks up pace, the plot takes shape. The car company is owned and run by an American multinational whose local bosses are known as the Martians because of their distance from both reality and the workforce. It is presumably modelled on Torrington's experiences as an employee of the ill-fated Chrysler Linwood factory, in Scotland, which closed in 1981. Such is the incompetence at every level that it is amazing the plant produces a single vehicle intact. The hub of this industrial bedlam is MAD, the Main Assembly Division, where theft and sabotage are routine. The acronym is appropriate, for just about everyone in the plant appears to be several sandwiches short of a picnic. There's 'The Sleeper' who always spends his entire shift comatose without anyone noticing, and the shop steward 'Stinky Brogan' who slips away to his son's wedding by pretending he's died of a heart attack. Nervous breakdowns and premature deaths litter the novel. The workers are trapped on a carousel, but while the baggage gets off at an airport, this is the devil's carousel and no-one alights until he dies. Like all gallows humour, there is a dark and prescient side which Torrington reveals eloquently, showing himself to be a writer who knows his characters and understands their feeling of alienation. For while this is comic fiction of the highest order, it is also a satirical testament to the death of British industry and the subsequent decline of working class culture. With pathos he describes an elderly couple who have grown to hate each other, their marriage having been calcified by years of drudgery: 'This was them for the rest of their lives, a pair of juiceless old fossils buried in a graveyard of dead hopes. Trapped, they were, just like the cuckoo clock in its Swiss jail. Doing time together without hope of remission.' There are times when Torrington tries too hard to be funny and it doesn't work. Overall, however, he succeeds in writing another very funny work with some wonderfully surreal passages and outrageous characters.