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Friday, 19 June 2015

‘Behind the Text’ 5 ‘STAY-ALIVE RUNS AWAY’

‘Behind the Text’ Part 5.  ‘STAY-ALIVE RUNS AWAY’

Never Will You Outrun The Legs Of Trouble


Stay-Alive Runs Away’ is Book 13  in the publication order of the16 books  in the ‘Jonas Forbes Saga’ and stands apart from the rest.

It’s the FIRST in the sequence, being set in 1954 Kenya during the Mau Mau Emergency.

It’s set before Jonas Forbes became an ‘Enquiry Agent’ . Here he’s a Sub-Inspector in the colonial police.

Neither of the other two main characters in the series (John Wyatt & Vanessa Holmes) appear.

Here Jonas Forbes is a HUNTER whereas in most of the other books he is normally the HUNTED or, at best, an IRREGULAR fighting for Justice with questionable methods. Why? Because the protagonist OUTSIDE authority adds to the tension.
 Murigo ‘Stay-Alive’ Johnson is a very unhappy Askari because he’s ill-fitted for the job & he’s bullied. He witnesses an atrocity carried out by his unit & later learns a dangerous secret. Under pressure to reveal all, he runs away but is hunted down by a patrol led by Jonas. But the story certainly doesn’t end there!

Jonas is another outsider. As a soldier in the Korean War he fitted in. With peace (1953) he left the army & joined the Kenyan Police but soon found that to be a mistake. This book covers his entire career as a policeman!
Both Mau Mau insurgents and colonial forces include men who’d be villains wherever they might inflict themselves upon the world. Both sides mistreat / abuse /exploit the ‘non-combatants’, just adding to the misery in a Kenya moving towards nationhood at a speed unacceptable to extremists.

This isn't a pleasant book to read (nor to write!) & it’s certainly not an encouraging one. I found myself exploring unwelcome sides of human nature. Both the villains & their victims experience justice of some kind. But that isn’t the fate of Stay-Alive Johnson. I’ve researched Mau Mau & consider it caused far more misery to the native population than to the colonial masters – often because of the unjust repercussions its activities provoked from the authorities. Don’t expect a clear-cut picture of a struggle for independence. As in so many other parts of the world extremists on both sides load misery, barbarity and suffering on the long-suffering majority.
A few real-life figures appear but I’ve tried to invent examples from the whole range of humanity – differing in race, faith, wealth, occupation, but mostly experience. I leave it to the Reader to set their own ‘red-line’ for acceptable behaviour. I found mine all too often being smudged by events & so difficult to define. As in the other books, characters & situations ran away with me. I hope they do with the Reader.

Next time I’ll look at home-based action where, perhaps, judgements appear easier to make.

Bob Hyslop




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