The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie Review

It was only after watching a great deal of House M.D. that I discovered that Hugh Laurie had penned a novel (published about a decade ago, now). I was intrigued. Clearly the man is an exceptional actor, but, as we all know, a great actor does not a great author make. Certainly both an actor and an author will have an understanding of the structure of a good story and the ingredients for interesting characters. Writing, however, is an art unto itself.

Hugh Laurie

An art that Mr. Laurie is clearly in possession of.

The Gun Seller follows the fortunes of former Scots Guards Captain Thomas Lang when he is dragged into a worldwide conspiracy featuring all sorts of ne’er do wells like corrupt CIA operatives, terrorists groups, and unscrupulous arms merchants.

The Gun Seller is…a bit of a bugger to describe, actually. I suppose it could be said to be a spy/thriller novel; however, I can’t help but feel that this does the book a grave disservice. It is so much more than that. Others have classified it as a spy spoof, but again I feel they’ve missed the point. A spoof is a study in absurdity, a parody of an otherwise serious topic, whereas this book tells a very real and sometimes harrowing tale from the perspective of a man with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humour.

Laurie has chosen to write from the first person perspective, which is a courageous choice for a new author. It severely limits his options, because he can only work from the perception of his protagonist. However, Laurie does this masterfully, and from the first paragraph I was hooked and laughing out loud. The sheer quantity of laughs to be found in this book is astonishing, considering the seriousness of the themes explored, and I think it’s this humour that misleads some into seeing a spoof where none exists.

Laurie’s protagonist, Captain Thomas Lang (retd.), is a very endearing character whose irreverance and aforementioned sense of humour is strongly reminiscent of Laurie’s own. So strong is the association that I found myself picturing Laurie as Lang and felt that Laurie was almost writing an acting part he would love to play. Lang, under the charming boyish exterior,  is a very tough man indeed, who plays the ex-soldier-for-hire who’s in over his head with a great deal of panache and sincerity that challenges the stereotype. His supporting cast are all possessed of a great deal of depth, and Lang’s relationship to each of them remains central to the story throughout.

The plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing, and I was left hanging on every word as the story slowly revealed itself. The suspense remains in place until the last paragraph, and I had no idea how it would end and was often  surprised at some of Laurie’s choices. The book does end rather abruptly, which might bother those who would wish to see the aftermath, but I feel that he ended it with admirable brevity and subtlety with a delightful little dig that should leave you wondering who the gun seller in the title really is.

In summary I think this book is in the must-read category for anyone with a taste for classic British humour and suspenseful, thought-provoking tales. It is lovingly written and explores the officially sanctioned yet darker side of the international arms trade as well as some of the less pleasant aspects of the human condition. This may seem incongruous when combined with the humour so liberally sprinkled throughout, but Laurie really makes it work. It seems his genius is not limited to the screen. I sincerely hope he will put pen to paper again.


  1. Thank you for the book review Mr Sobel ,I think you got it spot on , I really enjoyed the book very much too , I couldnt put it down , I also realised that a similar wit is diplayed by both Thomas Lang and Gregory House which leads me to believe that Laurie is more involved in ‘House’ than just the acting (which by the way is just incredible week after week after week , the man can speak volumes without a word of dialogue) ,he has according to interviews started another novel , not sure if it is a follow up to The Gun Seller or something completely different , he has had trouble finishing it because of is workload since House started , but I await the second one named ‘The Paper Soldier ‘ with anticipation, he is also directing a futre episode of House which could be interesting, it seems there are several strings to Mr Laurie’s bow. we hear very little of his successes or aknowledge his incredible talents here in England maybe thats because he seems to be all round nice guy as well….boring as far as the media are concerned ….But I think he likes it that way , well done Mr Laurie hope you continue to succeed in every field . xx Marie

  2. It’s funny you mention the House/Lang link. I said that I pictured Lang as Hugh Laurie, what I neglected to mention is that it was Hugh laurie as House. The man is a genius.

  3. Thank you Mr Sobel for your promp reply, I would also like to mention that whilst reading the Gunseller I was intrigued from the very first paragraph and I only realised why when I read your review , >quote “Laurie has chosen to write from the first person perspective,”unquote < thats what grabbed me from the ofset, not being a writer myself and being old enough to have gone to school when religious education was the main subject I had no idea what writing from the first person perspective really meant , but I realise now thats what I found to be exciting and I can also understand why you said it was courageous and limits the options, wow!!!! just goes to prove one is never to old to learn , thank you ,I will try to impress my niece ( who is doing an OU creative writing course at the moment )by telling her that The Gun Seller was even more interesting because it was written from the first person perspective he he!!! ..xx

  4. I NEVER tire of watching House. I am amazed by this show, its writers, and by Hugh Laurie’s performance week after week. So much so that I too have started to crave more information about the man. Before your post I didn’t know he authored a novel. Now, my next stop is to go over at Amazon and buy the book.

Comments are closed.