‘Delete This At Your Peril: the bob servant emails,’ Neil Forsyth
I read quite a lot of books.
Therefore, you can trust me when I say that a book is funny. And ‘Delete This At Your Peril‘ is very, very funny.
Neil Forsyth had the genius idea to take one of the singularly most annoying aspect of modern life, (spam emails), and turn them into pure gold by doing a simple thing: replying to them.
Forsyth takes on the persona of a (hopefully) imaginary, 60-something Scotsman called ‘Bob Servant’, complete with a gradually revealed back story, disturbing friends, and a very interesting world-view. Apparently all it takes to get a real person on the other end of an imaginary scam email is to be foolish enough to reply, and from then on it’s fun and games as ‘Bob’ manages to delay sending bank details just long enough to spin the most unlikely of stories which a parade of African Princes, Russian beauties and Nigerian lawyers have to go along with just in case the mark at the other end of the line is as stupid as he seems.
The opening exchange was probably my favourite. Negotiations quickly degenerate from a deal for Bob to accept 25% of a $75m money transfer, to a request to “have my share in diamonds and gold,” to a desire to take delivery of four lions, (for “Frank the Plank’s Zoo”), causing me to snort unknown substances out of my nose when ‘Bob’ pushes the limits of surrealism by sending a list of questions:
“Are they male or female?
Are they in good physical condition?
Do they talk?…”
(‘Jack Thompson’s eventual reply caused further, even harder mystery snorting).
International readers beware: there is quite a lot of British humour present, especially in the obscure 80’s celebrity names dropped, but to be fair I feel like there was probably a fair amount of comedy I missed due to not being from Dundee, Scottish home-town of both Neil and Bob. And I still loved it.
At times, (especially in the almost as funny sequel ‘Why Me? the very important emails of bob servant‘), Forsyth can get very meta, referring to scams, (“I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope she doesn’t get ill in such a way that would mean you’d have to ask me for a few quid…”), and these sly winks to the reader make the desperation of the scammers even more hilarious. Some get so insistent, distraught, and (worst of all) even understanding of Bob’s problems that you almost feel sorry for them.
What kind of twisted mind does it take to send a scammer your phone number one number at a time, for fear of security breaches? Genius.
I was more than a little surprised to find one of these books in Tony’s bookshop in the tiny tourist town I inhabited for six months recently in rural Guatemala. I was even more surprised when, showing it to my almost-landlord and local entrepreneur Simon, he informed me that the author was one of his closest childhood friends.
If I didn’t know better, I would have presumed he was trying to scam me…