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Monday, 22 June 2015

Behind the Text 3 A FALSE START

Meet Jonas Forbes
Jonas Forbes first made his appearance in ‘And Death Will Have His Day’ in 1977. I decided to write a spoof on the ‘sex & violence’ novels of the day. As my characters ‘borrowed’ traits from friends, colleagues & students at Chichester College where I was a lecturer, you can understand why it had to be VERY secret. Of course, I dedicated the tale ‘For all friends and acquaintances who have stimulated my imagination’. Even so, I added the ryder: ‘In no way is this a tale of fact nor could they ever be part of it.’ Only a couple of people knew the book existed and nobody ever read a page.

Where did the name ‘Jonas Forbes’ come from? To star in this ‘epic’ I needed somebody with a very different name from those familiar to my particular circle  – more glamorous, so more exciting and, perhaps more ‘American’. I picked on ‘Jonas Forbes’ but since I’ve been using the internet I’ve discovered several people with that combination so they have my full apologies for taking their name in vain!

Jonas himself was loosely based on three of my favourite characters in the thriller genre: ‘The Saint’ by Leslie Charteris, James Bond by Ian Fleming and Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler. So respectively, he had a tendency to bend if not break the law, a distinct eye for the ladies and a run-down office.

The plot is set in 1965 with a conspiracy to initiate race riots throughout the UK and, in the chaos, make a fortune. It opens with an assassination but of the wrong man. Jonas is hired to protect a politician who’s obviously the intended target. There follows a catalogue of murder, violence and mayhem liberally spiced with sex and cynical one-liners until the ‘ungodly’ (to use a Charteris term) are routed. The police inevitably appear too late to do anything but clear up the mess. I should add here that Detective Chief Inspector John Wyatt, the long-suffering partner / stooge of Jonas possesses a lot of my own traits.

In 1983 I thought I’d try to have it published under the pen-name of ‘James Marston’ & approached a literary agent. He was impressed by the book but felt it needed to be ‘brought up-to-date’. So Jonas acquired a smarter office, with a computer, photo-copier & other contemporary gadgetry. This meant retyping the whole book on my Remington typewriter. He thanked me for my efforts and then said he preferred the original. By then the original had been all covered by comments, amendments etc., so I gave up and shoved the manuscript away in a drawer

In my next Post, ‘Phoenix’, I’ll deal with what happened next and the problems that’s caused me.


Bob Hyslop

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