Cover image for Blast from the past
Blast from the past
Elton, Ben.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
295 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Bantam Press, 1999, c1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Part noir thriller, part hilarious send-up of the politics of extremism, Blast from the Past chronicles the unlikely reunion of a rather unlikely pair of lovers: a young peace protester and a U.S. Army captain. Sixteen years later, Jack is back in England looking for Polly and discovers that someone is stalking him.

Author Notes

Born May 3, 1959 in Catford, South London, Ben Elton began life as a member of an upper-class academic family. During the war his family had been forced to flee Prague when Hitler invaded. In Godalming Grammar School young Elton participated in amateur dramatics and wrote his first play when he was fifteen years old. He later attended Manchester University and earned a degree in drama.

He started his career as a stand-up comedian in 1980. Joining Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson in the Comedy Store in Leicester Square in London, Elton soon became one of the regular masters of ceremony. He continued to do stand-up in order to perform his own material. Soon, however, he branched out into plays, novels, and films. His first novel, Stark (1989), sold well in Britain and Australia. Popcorn, published in 1996, opened as a play in April 1997 and won the Laurence Olivier Award for best comedy in 1998.

(Bowker Author Biography) Ben Elton is the author of four previous novels, Stark, Gridlock, This Other Eden, and Popcorn. He lives with his wife in London.

(Bowker Author Biography) Ben Elton has written the British comedy series The Young Ones. His novels include Popcorn.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jack, a thirtysomething U.S. Army captain, spends a memorable summer in England in the early 1980s making love to Polly, a 17-year-old English girl, despite the fact that each despises the others' politics and worldview. But Jack knows an affair with a teenager who keeps getting arrested for protesting U.S. nukes in England will nuke his career, and after a last passionate session, he simply disappears. Sixteen years later, he steps back into Polly's life, which is a shambles. On the eve of Jack's ascendance to the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Polly is alone in a shabby apartment, trapped in a humdrum social-services job, and being stalked by one of her clients. Jack's arrival spurs hope, passion, and fury in Polly. Elton's ironic, sardonic narrative style is perfect for the wicked satire of ideological debates between lovers on opposite lunatic fringes of the political spectrum. But he's less effective in evoking Polly's gnawing fear of the stalker. All in all, a memorable if somewhat flawed novel. --Thomas Gaughan

Publisher's Weekly Review

British stand-up comic, playwright and author Elton (Popcorn) brings a new, if unconvincing, twist to the term "sexual politics" in his fifth off-the-wall novel. Polly Slade is a stereotypical leftist activist, but, … la Bridget Jones, she's also sadly single. When Polly was 17, she had a brief and improbable sub rosa love affair with American Captain Jack Kent, who was stationed at the airbase in Greenham, England where, in the '80s, there was a year-long demonstration against American militarism. Polly, radical protester-for-peace in the bloom of her punkish pulchritude, is shortly abandoned by the ambitious Jack, whose pursuit of army life cannot be derailed. Now 16 years have passed and Jack has risen in the U.S. ranks, in line to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Polly's career hasn't been so steady, as she passed through anarchist, feminist and labor support groups. She's dated both politically correct and lying married men. But now she's got a stalker, Peter (whom she nicknames "The Bug"), a former client at the Office of Equal Opportunity where she works. When Jack comes to London and looks up Polly, whom he's never stopped loving, his quest coincides with Peter's escalating harassment. The collision of Polly's loneliness and nostalgia, Jack's egomaniacal personality and "The Bug's" psychosis, which Elton sets up deftly enough, doesn't quite gel. Kent, part Manchurian candidate, part Rambo and overall a blatant symbol of U.S. political corruption, doesn't make a credible figure, especially when his enduring passion for Polly turns deadly. Elton's condescending asides about Polly's ultra-leftie politics render his heroine ridiculous. While the combination of U.S. and British politics, thematically linked with sexual obsession and blood-thirsty ambition, is a promising melange, these characters haven't the mettle to engage most readers in their violent and melodramatic love games. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Elton appears to be a blast from the presentÄa British standup comic, TV writer, and playwright whose novel Popcorn is the basis for a forthcoming film. Here, peace protestor Polly and U.S. army captain Jack, stationed in England, have a flaming affair until duty calls. Years later, Jack returns to England looking for his lost love. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



It was 2:15 in the morning when the telephone rang. Polly woke instantly. Her eyes were wide and her body tense before the phone had completed so much as a single ring. And as she woke, in the tiny moment between sleep and consciousness, before she was even aware of the telephone's bell, she felt scared. It was not the phone that jolted Polly so completely from her dreams, but fear. And who could argue with the reasoning powers of Polly's subconscious self? Of course she was scared. After all, when the phone rings at 2:15 in the morning it's unlikely to be heralding something pleasant. What chance is there of its being good news? None. Only someone bad would ring at such an hour. Or someone good with bad news. That telephone was sounding a warning bell. Something, somewhere, was wrong. So much was obvious. Particularly to a woman who lived alone, and Polly lived alone. Of course it might be no more wrong than a wrong number. Something bad, but bad for someone else, something that would touch Polly's life only for a moment, utterly infuriate her, and then be gone. "Got the Charlie?" "There's no Charlie at this number." "Don't bullshit me, arsehole." "What number are you trying to call? This is three, four, zero, one . . ." "Three, four, zero? I'm awfully sorry. I think I've dialed the wrong number." That would be a good result. A wrong number would be the best possible result. To find yourself returning to bed furiously muttering, "Stupid bastard," while trying to pretend to yourself that you haven't actually woken up; that would be a good result. Polly hoped the warning bell was meant for someone else. If your phone rings at 2:15 a.m. you'd better hope that too. Because if someone actually wants you you're in trouble. If it's your mother she's going to tell you your dad died. If it's some much-missed ex-lover who you'd been hoping would get back in contact he'll be calling drunkenly to inform you that he's just been diagnosed positive and that perhaps you'd better have things checked out. The only time that bell might ring for something good is if you were actually expecting some news, news so important it might come at any time. If you have a relative in the throes of a difficult pregnancy, for instance, or a friend who's on the verge of being released from a foreign hostage situation. Then a person might leap from bed thinking, "At last! They've induced it!" or, "God bless the Foreign Office. He's free!" On the other hand, maybe the mother and baby didn't make it. Maybe the hostage got shot. There is no doubt about it that under almost all normal circumstances a call in the middle of the night had to be bad. If not bad, at least weird, and, in a way, weird is worse. This is the reason why, when the phone rang in Polly's little attic flat at 2:15 a.m. and wrenched her from the womb of sleep, she felt scared. Strange to be scared of a phone. Even if it's ringing. What can a ringing phone do to you? Leap up and bash you with its receiver? Strangle you with its cord? Nothing. Just ring, that's all. Until you answer it. Then, of course, it might ask you in a low growl if you're wearing any knickers. If you like them big and hard. If you've been a very naughty girl. Or it might say . . . "I know where you live." That was how it had all begun before. "I'm watching you right now," the phone had hissed. "Standing there in only your nightdress. I'm going to tear it off you and make you pay for all the hurt you've done to me." At the time Polly's friends had assured her that the man was lying. He had not been watching her. Pervert callers phone at random. They don't know where their victims live. "He knew I was wearing my nightie," Polly had said. "He got that right. How did he know that? How did he know I was wearing my nightie?" "It was the middle of the night, for heaven's sake!" her friends replied. "Got to be a pretty good chance you were wearing a nightie, hasn't there? Even a fool of a pervert could work that one out. He doesn't know where you live." But Polly's friends had been wrong. The caller did know where Polly lived. He knew a lot about her because he was not a random pervert at all, but a most specific pervert. A stalker. That first call had been the start of a campaign of intimidation that had transformed Polly's life into a living hell. A hell from which the law had been unable to offer any protection. "Our hands are tied, Ms. Slade. There's nothing actually illegal about making phone calls, writing letters, or ringing people's doorbells." "Terrific," said Polly. "So I'll get back to you when I've been raped and murdered, then, shall I?" The police assured her that it hardly ever came to that. Excerpted from Blast from the Past by Ben Elton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.