"There Ain't No Sanity Clause" by Peter Relic (Arthur No. 17/July 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 17 (July 2005)


“There Ain’t No Sanity Clause”


Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail
by Christopher Dawes
(Thunder’s Mouth Press)

And so, with Monty Python having set the appropriately demented historical precedent, Damned drummer Rat Scabies and his over-the-road mate Dawes set off in search of that most infamous, perhaps mythical tin cup. The premise is tidy: punk legend Scabies is now a boundlessly enthusiastic treasure hunter, Dawes a rapidly aging music journalist (followers of the now-defunct Melody Maker will have read him under his nom de plume Push) of no fixed ambition. The resulting picaresque travelogue, taking the pair from the planning stages at Scabies’ kitchen table to Paris brothels, a rain-lashed Scottish countryside, the mystical French village Rennes-le-Chateau and a Knights Templars induction ceremony is a pretty fine “edutainment” yarn—right down to the reproduction of Scabies’ hand-drawn map of “Grail Country.” With Dawes playing the straight man and Scabies getting off endless one-liners (describing Christian Crusader Godefroi de Bouillon as “one of ZZ Top with a halo” and the hidden message in Sauniere’s parchments as “like a medieval FCUK”), the classic buddy scenario develops into a slightly sentimental (unpunk alert) attachment between neighbors. Initially the passages of historical exposition drag compared to those detailing wine-and-weed fueled hi-jinks, but all is eventually integrated, until a description of deceased opera singer Emma Calve’s bee obsession seems relevant to Ratty’s midnight graveyard raids. And if it all sounds as dodgy as the emasculating height at which Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown wears his slacks (ever checked out the man’s dustjacket photo?), well, Scabies does carry a copy of that airport bestseller around for most of this book. Not to read though—only to tear off bits of the cover to make filters for his spliffs.