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Saturday, 30 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 22 Competitors

Behind The Text’ Part 22_Competitors

Two Of A Trade Seldom Agree.’ (Proverb)


Jonas Forbes in four of this series faces opposition which might be termed ‘competition’ – regarding either securing  or retaining control of a person or object. Clearly this involves getting away with what he’s got, which may mean facing the same people on another occasion.
In ‘Scrambling South’ (Book 3) and ‘Find Bormann’ (Book 8) Jonas faces an Israeli Mossad unit, and on both occasions Shiran Moshkovich & Barak Sternberg take part. In Egypt Jonas on finding  a cipher  is also challenged by the Mukhabarat (Egyptian Security Police): while in his hunt for Bormann to recover documents the extra danger is supplied by Bormann’s SS protectors. In both cases Jonas is captured but manages to escape with the goods.

So why did I include Mossad twice? Because they’re a very effective organisation and, in both cases, they'd provide ideal competitors for the target – in the first a list of Israeli agents in Egypt and in the second Martin Bormann, a prominent Nazi fugitive. I should add that, in the latter case, Mossad don’t realise Jonas is involved until the very end – and after they’ve virtually wiped out the SS unit!
In ‘Lies Hunt in Packs’ (Book 10) and in ‘HAVOK Goes To Moscow’(Book 13) Jonas challenges the KGB, which include Col. Alexandra Tolstoy & Lt./ Capt. Valentina Boykov. The latter has the unenviable distinction of interviewing Jonas twice, without recognising him. In both books the KGB are on home ground - trying to prevent Jonas smuggling out a dissident in the Book 10 & supplying a cipher to dissidents in Book 13. In both cases they fail. The KGB play a significant role in ‘Dare Call It Treason’ (Book 2) where they work as much with Jonas as their rivals the GRU (Military Intelligence). The latter help Jonas in ‘Dragon-Spit’ (Book 7) While dealing with Soviet contacts I should add the GRU sniper, Elena Valentina Arentsky who saves Jonas’s life on 3 occasions. She appears in ‘Dare Call It Treason’ (Book 2), ‘Lies Hunt in Packs’ (Book 10) & ‘Endgame At Watergate’ (Book 16) and was the cousin of Natasha Rykov (see Posts 6 & 23).

Why should I repeat characters in different books? Some readers (like myself) if they spot this situation, may look forward to seeing how Round 2 will work out with extra relish. Hopefully there’d have been changes on both sides to add interest for such discerning readers. However, this device shouldn’t be overdone. In some series I've read  the same opponent occurs so often I start questioning how both sides can survive to fight another day.
Competitors differ from villains because there often develops some degree of mutual respect.

Bob Hyslop

Friday, 29 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 23 Lovers

Behind The Text’ Part 23_Lovers

‘Cherchez La Femme!’


Jonas Forbes is certainly one for the ladies. In 11/16 books he has a sexual relationship – however brief. Even so, here I’ll only consider 3 of the 14 women (no mistake with the Maths!) involved.

Lieutenant Natasha Rykov of the GRU  (in ‘Dare Call It Treason’ - Book 2) is undoubtedly the key lover in this series. A relationship which started as ice soon melts and is transformed after Jonas rescues her from Bonus’s gang. Then it’s back to Portsmouth, stopping at a hotel, a dinner impatiently consumed before passion in her bed. And then? The discovery of her murdered body in the morning, an accusation of murder soon proved false and then Jonas’s determination for revenge – not just on James Bonus but on the men who’d hired him to secure the means of killing the Soviet leaders. Natasha dead comes to mean far more to Jonas than Natasha alive. Her name appears in several of the later novels – perhaps as a memory which slowly, slowly fades. Even in the last novel his wife thinks: Jonas had never really played fair with her - right from the affair with Natasha, but she’d surprised herself by living with that for seventeen years.' She was to become an icon, an impossible perfection against which other women are matched and a life-long regret their affaire had lasted but hours.

Wou San-San is a Linguistics student at University College, London with whom Jonas enjoys an affair over the first weeks of 1961 (see ‘Dragon-Spit’Book 7). Jonas is working undercover, trying to penetrate the circle of Chinese students at London University in order to foil a Maoist plot to unhinge UK politics. So is it just a means to an end? Perhaps at the start, but it soon deepens until he disappears, after his cover’s blown, and San-San realises most of what he’s told her has been lies. Taunts from her twin, Wou Mei-Mei, provoke a struggle in which San-San is killed by accident. Wait a minute though. When reviewing Jonas’s feelings for San-San, remember Jonas had also enjoyed sex with Mei-Mei (thinking she was her twin) and detected no difference, apart from improved technique. And remember that when he tracks down Wang Li, the killer of the Chinese agent, Mei-Mei, he deliberately cripples him by shooting out both knee-caps. So his true feelings for Wou Mei-Mei must remain, at best, uncertain.

Jonas (in ‘Find Bormann’ - Book 8) forms a relationship with Ilse Buch (aka ‘Miss '36-24-36'), even though he learns she’s also in 1962 Uruguay looking for Martin Bormann  - whom she’s certain is her father. Consummation of a sexual attraction for each other takes place on the pampas under the stars – and then they’re captured by the gauchos of Don Esteban de Cordilla y Marquez  who has his own agenda for the couple.  And there this Spoiler will end, except to quote virtually the last words of this novel: ‘Why was Jonas Forbes here? And, perhaps more importantly, why was he crying over that girl?’ So it wasn’t just sex or infatuation or even loneliness which bound two disparate humans together – or was it?.

Note I leave out Vanessa Holmes nee Clarke, who actually married Jonas Forbes, for a later, more detailed treatment (Post 26).
Bob Hyslop

Thursday, 28 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 24 Les Femmes Fatales

Behind The Text’ Part 24_Les Femmes Fatales

Scarlet Women

Jonas Forbes is certainly one for the ladies but sometimes he gets not quite what he expects. In 7/16 books he has a sexual relationship which he later comes to forget. Here are three such women who, like Jezebel, tried to ensnare their man (i.e. Jonas Forbes).

Svetlana Ivanova Petrova (in ‘Lies Hunt In Packs’ – Book 10) is a historian (an expert on 19th century British history) & a liberal in 1964 USSR, just after the fall of Khrushchev. Coached by his Russian wife, Lord Eustace Brimstone pulls strings in the Foreign Office to hire Jonas Forbes to get her safely to the UK. Jonas arrives in Moscow to find Svetlana has just slipped out of detention and they head for Finland. Jonas soon realises the KGB know about himself, his mission and are never far behind, however much he tries to throw off the pack. Svetlana proves at first uncooperative but they reach Finland where she's confronted by her fugitive husband whom she shoots. She explains it all to Jonas and they finish up making love.
Not quite the end and, if, Reader, you noted the title of this Post, you should realise one word in the first sentence of the previous paragraph is a lie. Was Jonas fooled? Who can say when ‘the old Adam’ is let loose.

Anne Demas is a black American with a seductive style who recruits Jonas Forbes (‘And Death Will Have His Day’ – Book 11 - the first thriller I wrote) to protect a radical politician and so prevent a race war in 1965 UK. He makes a gallant effort - & that also applies to his behaviour in bed with Anne almost from the word, ‘Go!’ – but narrowly fails. It takes much thought, and even more self-devaluation, to see what’s happened. At the end, even when she’s aiming a gun at him he still believes....... Well, I’ll leave it to you, Reader, to find out why Anne took all that trouble and how she got paid.

In ‘Endgame at Watergate’ (Book 16) Cettina Aita Gibellina is the niece of the ‘capofamiglia’ of a Mafia family involved in the 1973 Watergate Scandal. She hates & fears her brother, Vespasianu, and his acolyte, Miceli Vultaggio, and becomes sickened by an atrocity in which she played an ‘innocent’ part. To secure revenge for herself (& their victim, Antonietta  Paceco) she seduces Jonas to bring them down. As part of the deal she provides evidence re’ the murder of a UK diplomat – the investigation of which is why Jonas is in Washington. Is Jonas fooled? Perhaps at first but he’s soon getting most out of the relationship, which is to prove disastrous for them both.
Not all Femme Fatales suffered as a result when Jonas woke up from his stupor. There is one such woman, although she'd deny the description, who actually got away with it in 'HAVOK goes To Moscow' (Book 13) .

Bob Hyslop

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Behind The Text’ 25 Jonas Forbes

Behind The Text’ Part 25_ Jonas Forbes

A Flawed Hero

Jonas Forbes is the hero of a series of thrillers set 1954-73 and is a complex mixture of good & bad, strong & weak etc. In other words, he’s not a super-hero, a paladin (or a monster) but a mere human – and he's NOT me! As he was created, aged 35 in ‘And Death Will Have His Day’ (Book 11 in the series but written nearly 40 years ago), there’ve been considerable problems enabling him to ‘mature’. I’ve also had to supply a ‘history’ for him.

Jonas was born on 28 January 1930, the son of an oil executive, and named after a Lithuanian great-grandfather. His siblings were James Timothy (1921–1943), John (1923-5), & Margaret (1926 – 95)  who married John  Fairbrother (1920 –99), a solicitor and they had two sons (see ‘Family Business’ – Book 12). He worshipped his brother, James, killed on a bombing raid in 1943 and erected him as his model (see ‘An Awkward Package’ – Book 5). He attended John Ruskin Central School in Croydon (my old school but over 10 years before me!) where he showed ability in certain ‘practical skills’ but little else. On leaving he entered an Insurance firm, became bored and so joined the army (‘Green Jackets’). He served in the Korean War (1950-53), was awarded a MM & promoted to Second Lieutenant but became bored with peace and resigned (1953). He joined the Kenyan Police during the Mau Mau Emergency (see ‘Stay Alive Runs Away’ – Book 1) but became disillusioned, resigned and became an ‘Enquiry Agent’ in London. SOME of his cases are recorded in the Jonas Forbes Saga and he was killed in Washington on 20 March 1973 (see ‘Endgame at Watergate’ – Book 16). He is buried in Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon (where members of my own family are buried) and left a widow, Vanessa, and 3 step-daughters.

A sparse biography, so what about his personality? He’s fearless, resourceful, loyal, lucky, charming (occasionally), persistent, and skilled in various techniques of armed & unarmed combat. He’s easily bored (becoming restless & making rash judgements), sexually active (with women), awkward (especially with bureaucrats and small children), impolite (sometimes), ruthless and occasionally vindictively cruel. He CAN be patient, deceptive, organised and sympathetic – but it all depends on the circumstances.

Jonas makes friends & enemies almost in equal number – and he can provoke both despair in friends and respect in enemies. He’s broken hearts and had his own broken. He’s been frequently disappointed in both the godly & ungodly not getting their deserts, as well as his failure to win the lady – or in the lady he’s won! He’s aroused enmity among some supposed to help him (e.g. bureaucrats) but secured help from defined opponents (e.g. GRU).

Would I have liked him as a friend? Yes, for help in a jam. No, because he’d possibly get me in a jam. Would I trust him? With my life or money, yes: with any woman, no. Do I admire him? Yes, for sticking up for little people and challenging ‘the good & the great’. No, for too often leaving others to pick up the pieces.
In his adventures I’ve tried to show him making mistakes (and usually recovering by luck), achieving a lot but sometimes at an unrecognised cost. In sum, a flawed hero.

Bob Hyslop


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 26 Support Team

Behind The Text’ Part 26_ Support Team

A Magnificent Two


A few individual individuals appear in more than one book in the 'Jonas Forbes Saga’. Let’s forget some such Sir Jeremy Smith (aka ‘The Nameless One’). Others, like Tim Ripley, don’t exercise a powerful influence. This Post will describe the two people essential in the life of Jonas Forbes – John Wyatt and Vanessa Holmes née  Clarke.

John Wyatt is the character in the series most like myself – in appearance, mannerisms & attitude. He first meets Jonas when he's a humble sergeant at Scotland Yard just about to be promoted to Inspector ( see ‘Dare Call It Treason’ – Book 2). He has his doubts about Jonas – not helped by him bending the rules (e.g. sex with a GRU lieutenant) and flouting diplomatic convention ( ‘arrest’ of a suspect). But he successfully closes the case (albeit being saved by a Russian sniper). So the policeman sticks by the ‘Enquiry Agent’, despite being often there just to pick up the pieces, appreciating how Jonas gets results, often by luck. Occasionally he’s moved to swear about Jonas or lie to superiors or bureaucrats as he climbs the ladder to Detective Chief Superintendent (both helped & hindered by Jonas). One wife (Anne Mavis Filligrew) is killed by a lunatic driver (Book 14) but he then marries Jane Penelope Henshawe (Book 16). The first wife is a psycho-therapist: the second a police inspector – both useful careers when your husband works with Jonas Forbes. As he could never tell who was best for him that should explain some of his character. For Jonas he isn’t a conscience, mentor nor dog’s-body, except at times. He’s just a good friend.

Vanessa Clarke (born 13 July 1934) meets Jonas while working in Whitehall (see Book 2). Initial amusement turns to admiration (after being saved from teenage thugs) and then to love (suppressed with great effort). She breaks off a brief affair in 1957 because ‘he was definitely NOT ‘Mr Right’ –
being naturally unfaithful, too prone to put his life on the line and with too much machismo.’(‘The Awkward Package’ – Book 5). Really to save herself from herself she marries the dull Simon Holmes (1960) and they have 3 daughters – Sam (1962), Lou (1964) & Sharon (1967). Simon, wracked by jealousy, increasingly resents her working for Jonas. The marriage is near breaking point when he’s murdered in 1968 (‘Californian Nightmare’ – Book 14). Then the obvious happens; Jonas and Vanessa marry (1 April 1969) but she superstitiously retains the name ‘Holmes’ – especially as Jonas doesn’t change, disappearing for weeks and suspected of womanising (‘So Few Come Out’ – Book 15). She’s widowed a second time on 20 March 1973 (‘Endgate at Watergate’ – Book 16).

Vanessa is friendly, outgoing, kind, forgiving - almost a saint in contrast to Jonas. In most of the books she stays in Britain, sometimes defending him from critics (‘Southern Scramble’ – Book 3) but usually, keeping the ‘ship afloat’ while just worrying (‘Find Bormann’ –Book 8). On odd occasions she becomes a key player in the mission. Sometimes this may mean she needs rescuing (Books 6 & 11): but actually she saves Jonas’s life twice (Books 5 & 11). Friends wonder why she sticks by Jonas – and often so does she. At his funeral: ‘She’d expected several women to be there because, in life, Jonas had definitely been one for the ladies – even herself when she was trying to be loyal to poor Simon. Had Jonas been faithful to her? Probably not, but her mind tried to shut out the very idea.’ Loyal to the end – and beyond.

Did Jonas deserve the support of  two such people? Probably not – but then he’d argue he never REALLY asked for it.

Bob Hyslop

Monday, 25 May 2015

Behind The Text’ 27 The Unloved

Behind The Text’ Part 27_ The Unloved

NOT Some Of My Favourite Things

In the pages of the 'Jonas Forbes Saga' the Reader will soon identify certain categories or types of people who become targets for mockery or dislike. I should stress that such are what I ASSUME somebody like Jonas Forbes would label.

Bureaucracy is an open target and falls into three distinct divisions: UK Government Departments, UK Embassy staff & Foreign Governments

The UK Government has its own way of conducting business, possibly slow, somewhat pedantic but orderly, annotated and controlled by rules. Just the institution to arouse the irritation (rising to fury) and disrespect (sinking to disdain) of the scatter-gun, anarchic (if not anomic) approach of Jonas
Forbes. Only in Book 16 does he supply timely reports –  after a lengthy disappearance, a frequent feature (voluntary or not) in these tales (see Books 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 & 16)
With Whitehall this situation is aggravated by the instant hostility of Sir Jeremy Smith (see Books 2 & 3), passed on within Whitehall (e.g. Book 5) and overseas (e.g. Books 4 & 8)

Embassies appear as somewhat  of a backwater where lesser mortals slink away their years to retirement on personal obsessions (e.g. Sir Marmaduke Trelawney in Book 4) or spite (e.g. Seymour Dudley in Book 15) or simple ennui (e.g. Miles Upshawe in Book 13). Of course, Jonas only wants Embassy staff to jump when he cracks the whip – not exactly realistic.
Foreign Governments & their Agencies also are stigmatised. I've intruded rivalry bordering on comic relief for the Soviet KGB & GRU systems for narrative purposes. The CIA, FBI, MPD & SFPD (see Books 16 & 14) are targets because they try to control Jonas or insist on his obeying their own rules.

There are exceptions to the above – the awe-inspiring Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick & the astute Sir Dick White (Book 3 etc.) & Tim Ripley, of course, in several books. Overseas there might be David Wilson (Book 5), Arthur Duncan Collingwood (Book 16), Steven Bradford-White (Book 14) and Superintendent Kemdirim (Book 15). However, such models are few and far between.
Another group throwing themselves open to mockery or contempt are criminals. Naturally, there’s the Mafia, both in the USA (Books 14 & 16) and in Italy (Book 5). Jonas doesn’t really converse with any ‘wise guys’ as much as dispatch them with contempt (e.g. Miceli in Book 16). London gangs are different – see the exchanges with Laurence ‘Chopper’ Simpson (Book 9),  Marty (Book 11), Archie Morrison (Book 12) and Freddie Herbert & ‘Crazy Charlie’ Carter (Book 14).

There are more but the above should be enough for the Reader to realise Jonas may not agree with the character who ‘...plays no favourites and hates just about everyone’  (Book 14 ) but he sometimes comes pretty close.
Bob Hyslop

Saturday, 23 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 28 The Moral Compass

Behind The Text’ Part 28_ The Moral Compass



Should an author consider morality when constructing any work of fiction? No, I’m not answering that one – on the grounds of ignorance, if nothing else. I’m only dealing with ‘moral issues’ within the 'Jonas Forbes Saga'.

I remember my surprise when Smashwords asked me to tick the ‘Adult Content Box’ for one of my books. I’d never considered my works as ‘bad / challenging’ as much as several books I know freely available in the UK.  I remembered how the moral thermostat can vary in different cultures and complied. Then I promptly added that classification to all my books as I didn’t want to experience any rejection by a morally-critical eye. Reject my works on account of plot, characterisation, style or subject matter, but please not on the grounds of morality.

Jonas Forbes is amoral – a womaniser, a killer, often a deceiver and (almost) 100% ruthless. I’m not proud of him. He just jumped into life that way over thirty years ago and I haven’t seen fit to change him. Of course, he loses out on a lot as a consequence – a dozen years of not living with the ‘almost perfect’ Vanessa for starters. Often he suffers through going the wrong way, unconsciously perhaps losing support, affection, admiration and the plaudits of the crowd. But then I'm trying to make him human – at least, enough to gloss over the nastier bits. Frequently, he does the ‘good thing’ without
knowing why – e.g. distorting the truth about Shaidan to preserve a woman’s dream (Book 15). It’s not all just rescuing fair damsels from dragons (e.g. his preservation of the Amazonian sister of Luther Wallenstein in Book 16).

What about the more minor characters – some are just wicked (Kimotho Gathegi & Kurt Langer in Book 1) or plain good (Hermann Brugsch & Nathifa in Book 3). Some are torn different ways (Lord Brimstone & Boris Danilovsky in Book 10). Some live in a tightly controlled country, others in chaos (like a disintegrating Biafra in Book 15). Some face the temptations of affluence and others the millstone of poverty. Some comfort: some torment. Some help: some betray.

Wherever you have humans, you have standards and wherever you have standards (or mores) you have both acceptance or rejection of them and so a Morality System.  Do I believe that? No, but my beliefs about Morality remain strictly PERSONAL.

Bob Hyslop

Friday, 22 May 2015

'Behind The Text’ 29 Research

Behind The Text’ Part 29_ Research

The Facts.... Give Me The Facts

When I was writing those thrillers making up the 'Jonas Forbes Saga' I always looked upon them as Historical Fiction, meriting as much research as any decent book in that genre. In that respect I can subdivide that research into four sections.

Way back in time in the UK I was an Examiner in 20th Century World History. A mere 30+ years ago I was teaching the same period to British GCE Advanced Level students. Apart from that I’ve had a long interest in aspects of 20th Century History. In sum, I am well versed in the general historical
background of many of the books.

Then I’ve lived through the period and can remember contemporary accounts of events (e.g. the assassination of JFK, the Biafran War and the downfall of President Nixon). In addition I did a year-long Part Time course on the Soviet Union and then travelled by coach across Europe (see Book 13) to Moscow & Leningrad in 1965.

For several of the books I read published accounts of the subject background. I've acknowledged in the appropriate novels those particular sources (e.g. in Books 1, 9 & 16)  helping to get the background more factually correct. For example, ‘Watergate: The Hidden History’ by Lamar Waldron (2012) traced back the origins of the downfall of Nixon far further than I’d suspected. Indeed, Histories of the Hanged’ (2005) by David Anderson made me see the Mau Mau Emergency in ways I hadn’t envisaged and so ‘Stay-Alive Runs Away’ is a different and, I hope, a better book.

Finally, I must give enormous thanks to those producing the pages which make up that most brilliant of libraries called the Internet– and I don't just mean (the too often under-valued) Wikipedia! I remember, in writing my historical trilogy (see Post 1),  the struggle of the first 7 years to assemble factual details, before I had easy access to the Internet, and the much easier 9 years afterwards. The 'Jonas Forbes Saga' never knew that trauma – whether details of an individual or of an organisation (KGB, MPD or Mafia) were needed, they were available. I studied details of weapons, cars and other aspects of human activity in which I’d never shown an interest before. I even had the temerity to try to plot railway platforms  in 1958 (see Book 5)required for the train changes Jonas employed to shake off the pursuit of the Mafia! I trust I got it reasonably correct.

I should mention here, though separate from ‘fact-hunting’, the help I’ve had,  especially from Smashwords, but also from Amazon Kindle & Google, in the publication of these books. I couldn’t have done it without them.



Bob Hyslop

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Behind The Text’ 30 Untold Stories

Behind The Text’ Part 30_ Untold Stories

Steps Too Far

Over mainly over the last 7 years I’ve written 16 novels featuring Jonas Forbes. I’ve now called it a day, chiefly due to diminished energy. This Post lists stories which I MIGHT have tackled, given more time & energy.

I intended Jonas to be chiefly involved in historical events or situations throughout the period 1954-73. I’ve used Posts 5-20 to comment on existing novels. Here are potential plot ideas I’ve never tackled. They are the BASIC ideas from which I’d start research & so build up a proper plot. I add in RED an initial comment on reflection which is, perhaps, why they were never started.

1959    Aug India & Tibet.    JF is sent to Tibet to rescue Desmond Thomas, an agent near Lhasa.. They set out but tare captured & Thomas is badly wounded in upper arm (left). They escape from the Chinese & head south The arm turns gangrenous & JF says he will amputate. Overnight Thomas, who fears disability, walks out & dies in snow. JF has map, compass, gun etc. & basic food but no lang. He pushes on, pursued by Chinese scouts & reaches the border of Nepal. A Chinese patrol continue the pursuit but are wiped out by Nepalese.
(Problem = weather conditions unsuitable for proposed dating)

1961    Dec Sharpeville. BOSS in still clamping down after the Sharpeville riots in Mar 1960. They are homing in on the ANC and a British agent based there is in danger. JF smuggles him out to S. Rhodesia. (Needs more detail to distinguish it from other stories)

1966    Jun 1966 Guang Dong, China         JF is begged to rescue the family of Wou San San threatened by the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution.(Wouldn’t JF be too conspicuous to carry out the job? Drop name as already used? What if Maoists were trying to expand into Hong Kong & authorities needed help for that to be stopped?)

1967    Apr Prague.   The daughter of a leading Government politician is in danger. She’s married to a Czech dissident who refuses to leave. Time is lost and JF’s only escape route is east, deeper into the Soviet bloc. (Much too close to other stories, (esp. Book 10) except perhaps if employing unusual location or method)

1970    Jun Mexico    An assistant coach has been murdered in a poisoning attack on the English football team. Mexican authorities are slow to help so JF is sent to deal with the threat.(Possible, but need to maximise football element)

1971    Oct Cambodia           A British journalist is kidnapped & is being transported to N. Vietnam. JF is sent on a rescue mission financed by his newspaper. (Requires integration with US forces to introduce internal complications as well as external threats )


Bob Hyslop