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New book satirizes reality TV, "PC Britain," media

James Palumbo is best known as the co-founder of Ministry of Sound, the music and nightclub business that claims to be the world's largest independent record company.
/ Source: Reuters

James Palumbo is best known as the co-founder of Ministry of Sound, the music and nightclub business that claims to be the world's largest independent record company.

But, for the time being at least, he is swapping the beats for books, self-publishing his second novel "Tancredi" -- a satire on everything from reality television to obesity and health care to political correctness.

Palumbo, part of a wealthy "establishment" family from which he is estranged, probably does not have to write to make a living. He has a personal fortune estimated at 150 million pounds.

But Tancredi is, he explained in an interview, an expression of his frustration at what he called the "dumbing down" of society.

"I think I've sort of moved on from business a bit," said the 48-year-old about his switch to writing.

"I was really worried about money and security, but I've been through that and have got grey hair and I thought right, it's time for a new phase," he told Reuters.

"I just think satire, trying to make it a little bit lighter and amusing, is in itself a good angle."

Tancredi, published on Thursday by Palumbo's Marlborough Press, is the follow-up to his debut novel "Tomas," his take on what he has described as "the dark side of money -- the excesses, the obscenity of it all."

The new novel is set in the future and follows the innocent inquisitive young man, Tancredi, as he travels from planet to planet seeking to do something meaningful with his life before the world ends in a cosmic cataclysm.

On Sanitalis he meets old and deformed patients who are being kept alive at all costs even when they want to die.

When Tancredi himself goes to hospital, the chief psychiatrist argues that society, not the individual, is responsible for people's poor diet and health.

On the planet Scoop the hero encounters reporters who are pigs, sifting through garbage for the latest piece of gossip. Both the tabloid press and its readers come under fire.

Palumbo also attacks reality television, with one show host declaring: "We Game Show Hosts realize a simple truth -- the people are morons. That's how we treat them."

And Tancredi finds himself agreeing with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as he lays into the politically correct Leader whose fear of offending renders his proclamations absurd and meaningless.

The author said the book was partly his reaction to former Prime Minister Tony Blair's years in office.

"I think a lot of it is to do with what happened (under Blair), but also it seems we're still locked into not being able to deal with things, speak the truth, change the way we behave.

"It's not specifically to do with the Blair years."

A particular pet hate is reality television, above all music talent shows like "The X Factor," which he described as "karaoke competitions."

"My business is music. You have to be able to write, you have to be a lyricist, you have to be able to tell your story," Palumbo said.

"What happens is that they (contestants) get gigs in coffee shops and clubs for six months and then, 'bye bye', and they are crushed."

He added that he was aware some people may find his arguments old-fashioned and out-of-touch.

"On the one hand people may be saying that you sound like a granny, you sound shrill, but on the other, I guess that's what I think."