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The Joy of Frustratia

Archer Swift

Sir Utley Ewesless is a top-ranking civil servant of one of the world's few remaining monarchies. As he looks back in time, he recalls the years he spent at a boys' school, the education system within it, and the residue of vivid memories it left behind.

He reconnects with a fellow alumnus, once a victim of school bullying and now, ironically, a senior military man and expert on black ops and deception.

Both men share the joint perception that their school conspired to turn them and many others into brainwashed slaves of a manipulative and self-serving state.

They devise a plan to neutralize their 'beloved' alma mater for the sake of future generations of unsuspecting young people.

The  idea is a covert operation involving several foreign powers who unwittingly help to execute their plan. The outcome creates a domino effect in which the very fabric of Frustratia's long-established monarchical society is stretched to breaking point.

The two men reap huge benefits from the very system that bred them, as well as from foreign sources.

The Joy of Frustratia is a satirical send-up about cultural behaviors, practices and values. It is also a thriller murder mystery with a dash down the corridors of espionage along the way.

Burnham Bridges, also known as Burnham Bertram Boyle Bridges or ‘4Bees’ to his associates, has been enjoying a leisurely lunch out on the veranda at the Bazilion Coats Hotel in Psalm Beach, Florida. (To this day, no one has ever known the peculiar origin of this hotel’s name). And as for the name Psalm Beach, it clearly originates from the many homes of biblical proportions that adorn this beachside community).

His niece-for-the-day is a young, lovely and empty-headed blonde less than half his age who, in exchange for a champagne lunch and a small white envelope passed to her under the table containing several hundred dollars in cash, has agreed to provide him with certain kinds of relaxing personal entertainment in the privacy of his bachelor pad, for an hour or so later that afternoon.

Burnham is the very model of Psalm Beach propriety of the Frustratian variety, to which the women of the area are most partial. His particular and distinguished identity tags are several. A Frustratian military mustache. A mop of greased perpendicular white hair perched like a steep Black diamond ski slope on his skull and schussing all the way down to his neck. A pronounced Frustratian accent, as if possibly from Oxblood, all of which features assure him instant access to the legions of overweight, over-tinted (blonde) and under-educated socialite women of a certain age to be found in the many feeding grounds in, on and around Worthless Avenue, the main shopping drag of Psalm Beach.

It is just as he is finishing the last mouthful of a delectable chocolate mousse and raspberries, and while gently caressing the soft white skin of his ‘niece’s’ thigh beneath the tablecloth, that his cell phone discreetly hums and vibrates into action.

Unlike so many other cell phone users, 4Bees always keeps his phone on vibrate, both for discretion and, being a considerate fellow, not to annoy others around him. However,  unlike other cell phone users, 4Bees’ phone is rather special. It has a special signal for 4Bees to pick up a call from a certain government caller in Lun-Dun, Frustratia, who ‘does not exist’.

Incoming calls from his superior, whom he has never and will never meet in person, are always prefaced by the caller’s words, “Dr. O’Malley here!” To which the correct response is “So glad you called, Charles!” or – in case of emergency or compromise – “Can I call back later, Charles?”

The secure phone line is scrambled so well that not even the Janks’ famed No Such Agency – which allegedly has eyes and ears everywhere – and even Frustratia’s comparatively modest Ghastly Communications HQ, can pick up the signal. 

A muffled voice now speaks, in a slow monotone.

“We have good reason to believe a terrorist cell is about to launch a major attack on a key Frustratian institution. We cannot reveal the nature of that institution now, but we do have evidence of the location of the cell in question. Your mission is to plan a preemptive strike on the cell before it strikes. You will shortly receive a large brown envelope at your local club. The location of the cell will be indicated by the contents of that envelope. Kindly call in once you have it and state the name of the sender. We shall confirm the target with the word ‘Te Deum’. Over and out.”  

4Bees looks at his date and rolls his eyes.

“Darling, can we call your Mummy and see if we can put off our little visit this afternoon to another day? Alas, I have some pressing business to attend to.”

The empty-headed little blonde turns her perfectly blue goo-goo eyes to his and gives him a tiny pout with her perfectly pink-painted rosebud mouth. She stares at her sugar-daddy of the afternoon for a moment, whispers “Okay” in a featherlike voice, and rises to reveal legs balanced precariously on heels that are at least six inches high. As the little thing begins to totter out of the veranda restaurant, 4Bees dials a special number on his very special phone.   


The education of 4Bees is totally different to that of either Fitzy or Sir Utley. 4Bees is raised first in the tough streets of the main Protestant city of Belslow, a grey and hardscrabble town in Northern Ire-land which, for some incomprehensible reason, was always full of angry people. It had always clung to the Frustratian Crown for its own survival - or else the Crown had hung on to it for inexplicable ‘strategic reasons’, or maybe a little of each.

Following his many years of bloody noses and broken bones from street fights, 4Bees’ mother, a fiery Ire-ish Roaming Maverick, elects to marry a Protestant just before ‘The Troubles’ re-erupt in 1968. When they begin, she decides to quit the town and take her small but equally feisty Burnham with her to stay with an aunt in Cesspool, the dreary Frustratian city from whence the globally-renowned pop-music group called The Insects had originated. He is then all of fifteen years old.

Here, Burnham receives more broken bones and, this time, some much needed plastic surgery, following two serial bouts with a Roaming Maverick street gang one week and a Protestant one a month later. But he does not go down without a fight. He takes at least four of his tormentors with him, to the hopelessly ill-equipped National Health Hospital in Cesspool South.

His singular accomplishments in street fighting come to the attention of Cesspool’s public enforcers. They in turn informally relay his exploits to the local Home Office team and its regional senior security officer, Walter (Two Wacks) Wackem. Ever in search of talent for special service duties, ‘Two Wacks’  pays a solicitous visit to the wretched NHS hospital where a startled Burnham, covered in bandages, is to be found strapped to a bed ( “for your own protection”) and so unable to escape the clutches of strange-looking and unknown visitors from….of course...the Home Office.

Peering from under Two Wacks’s cheap brown toupée and a pair of bushy eyebrows are a wall eye and a good eye. So, anyone not already in the know needs to work out quickly which eye is the good one to gaze at. His craggy lined face tells tales of unspeakable things he has witnessed and has even performed, in the naïve and mistaken belief he is serving the security interests of his employer, the Qwen and her millions of minions. His soiled raincoat, at least one size to big, billows around his body and serves as a pointed reminder of his lowly income as a provincial Enforcer.

“So, Lad” he begins. “I’m Walter, a friend of a friend, you might say, who suggested I come by to see how you are doing.”

Bandaged Burnham gives his visitor a guarded glance and, despite the one small opening below his nose and head, says nothing.

“Now, Lad, I have something to tell you that may interest you.”

Pause. Nothing.

“There are some other friends of mine who are pretty impressed at how you took down those kids – yes, they too are here but are strapped down and under guard on another floor, so fear not, Lad.”

Pause. Nothing.

“Now, if you are interested, these friends of mine are looking for a small number of special people with special skills. The money is good. The hours are fair. There’s benefits too, as I hear your Mum is having a bit of hard time holding down a job.”

Pause. Still nothing.

“Anyway, here’s my card. When you get out of here in a few days, give me a call. I can arrange for you to meet some of these people. Then you can decide for yourself.”

The stranger then stands up, turns and leaves the room, not seeing the curiosity he has created in young Burnham’s bandaged eyes.


Two weeks later, Burnham is sitting in a venerable Frustratian institution called a pub, facing a square-jawed man call Mr. Moss. Despite his name, Mr. Moss seems anything but soft.


“Burnham, Sir”.

 “Full name?”

“Burnham Bertram Boyle Bridges…Sir”


“Number Four, Pinkley Avenue, Cesspool, Postal Code S3D4W.”


“Sixteen in November, sir”


“Cesspool Grammar, sir.”

And so it went on. Then a long pause.

“Mr. Bridges, I am here to offer you a position that few people even hear about. In exchange for a sum of You Ess 40,000 per year, you can become an enlisted man in a very special unit that…well, doesn’t exist.”

And so begins Burnham’s journey into the ‘non-existent’ world of Force Q. Here, he undertakes ‘non-existent’ training by lots of ‘non-existent’ people in many different ‘non-existent’ places.

Twenty years on, and many unreported bloody exploits later, Burnham has not only won his spurs but had been given the plum Force Q job in, of all places, Psalm Beach, Florida. Here, he merrily plunders the wealth of large elderly women with blue-rinsed hair and severe eating disorders as he seduces them one by one. He has at last attained the rank of colonel in Force Q. And so, to enhance his cover, he freely allows himself to be called The Colonel in this Disney-like make-believe ghetto of the appallingly wealthy.

As he settles in, he becomes aware of a small army of locals – mostly men in blue blazers with white pointy handkerchiefs, pink striped shirts and white moccasins driving fabulously expensive cars – whose wealth comes sometimes from banking practices majorly frowned upon by the regulators and sometimes from the ‘cleaning business’, also known as money laundering. Aided by a mixture of charm and outright blackmail, Burnham taps into this tight little community and brings forth from it a network of contacts that spans all of Jankland and lands far beyond it.

To this little network of his own, he adds a peculiar network of Jank special services of the Force Q kind that exist, but ‘do not exist’. Beta Force (emphasis on the ‘beta’ word like ‘beater’) is the Janks’ equivalent of Frustratia’s Force Q and, thanks to the Janks and the so-called and much-heralded ‘Special Relationship’ between Frustratia and Jankland, the two are in constant communication.  They each serve as enforcer go-betweens for the two nations, so that certain powerful politicians on either side of The Pond that separates them can ‘get things done’ quietly and unaccountably.

So, once in a while, a Jank President will get assassinated or, as a warning, nearly assassinated. Or a Frustratian prime minister will lose a vote of confidence in the parliament when his (or her) approach to political life displeases certain duks and other members of the Frustratian or Jank Establishments.



 When the call comes in from Lun-dun, Burnham is ready to spring into action. He jumps into his modest black Mercedes 500 – guaranteed to provide anonymity in Psalm Beach – and sets off at a steady pace toward the Neverjades Club.

Wilbert Gilbert, The Neverjades Doorman, takes his car keys and announces in a soft Southern tone, “A Mr. Smedley just came by today, sir, and left an envelope for you.” 

WG, as Wilbert is known, has served as Doorman at the Neverjades for at least the past one-hundred-and-fifty years. By Neverjades standards, he is still a young man and is always referred to as such by the members of long standing. His fuzz of vanishing cropped white hair sits atop a shoreline of wrinkled brows, beneath which shines a pair of deep black sparkling eyes that know all, a broad nose that always smells a rat, a mouth that says little, and ears that miss nothing.

“Thank you so much, Young Man!” exclaims the merry Frustratian expatriot colonel as he reaches out to take the envelope from WG’s gnarled black hands. He slips the doorman a ten dollar bill, courtesy of the Frustratian taxpayer. A good deed for the day.

Hurrying into the bar where the last of the very Old Soaks are downing their final martini-not-too-dry-please–straight–up for the afternoon, he chooses a suitably dark corner away from doors and windows where he settles in and begins to open the envelope.

From Kirkus Reviews

Two adult friends set out to exact revenge on their former school in Swift’s (Big Pox, 2004) dark political satire. At age 63, Utley Ewesless works as the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury House of Frustratia.

After ruminating over his unfulfilled life since his unhappy time at school, where he was often bullied, he decides to contact his former close childhood friend Liam Sean Augustus Fitzshitz, the Assistant Secretary of Defence. Fitzy soon agrees that they should seek vengeance on their alma maters, Happy Manor and The Big School, which are both run by abusive, perverse holy men—Men of God of the Roaming Maverick Church.

Utley and Fitzy take great pains to plan their attack on the school grounds; they create a fake retreat, advertising a visit from “the Pop” and only invite the classmates that bullied them. They then stage a fake terrorist attack nearby, and Fitzy’s connections allow for three separate foreign powers (the Janks, the Is-Reallys and the Rooskies) to converge on the school, all unbeknownst to one another. However, Utley and Fitzy’s plans, and Frustratia itself, are soon thrown into chaos.

The novel relies heavily on sophomoric puns to elicit laughs, using them for every country name and government title. Although this is charming at times, especially when characters’ names inform their personalities, it eventually becomes tiresome. There’s very little character development overall, and the third-person omniscient narration makes for distanced, impersonal storytelling. The revenge-fantasy plans lack tension, as there are few hints that anyone will ever be punished for them.

When a power reversal occurs near the end of the story, readers may find that the intended irony of the phrase “the more things change, the more they are indeed the same” feels too easy.

That said, readers interested in political humor and detailed logistical planning will likely enjoy this book. An attempt at clever commentary on the nature of political systems and ideologies that’s light on storytelling and heavy on puns.