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Friday, 12 June 2015

Behind The Text’ 11 ‘Dragon-Spit’

Behind The Text’ Part 11_’DRAGON-SPIT’
When East meets West expect..........


‘Dragon-Spit’ was published in 2010, a few months after our visit to China. It's the seventh novel chronologically  in the 'Jonas Forbes Saga' and is set in London over 1960-1.

The historical background is quite deceptively simple. In China, Mao Zedong is facing failure over the Great Leap Forward and humiliation from Krushchev’s USSR. In the UK the Labour Party has suffered a third electoral defeat in 1959 and its leadership is challenged by Leftist Trade Unions & CND (demanding unilateral nuclear disarmament). If Mao can infiltrate UK politics and Communists seize control of the Labour Party he might undermine US global strategy and outdo Soviet international strategy.

Jonas Forbes is hired to ferret out  the Chinese agents involved and prevent the takeover of HM Opposition. In the guise of a student at King’s College, London he falls for a Chinese girl (with unforeseen complications), infiltrates the CND Aldermaston March (clashing with Tong ‘hatchet-men’) and becomes a man on the run. In China meanwhile, Wu Tao, who'd revealed the plot to the West, also goes on the run, heading for safety in Taiwan. Although the Chinese plot, based in the London Embassy, soon starts to unwind due to internal disputes, the danger is by no means over.
I was actually at King’s College when this story is set & I’ve used memories to create some of the characters & scenarios in this thriller; I was also on the CND March in 1961 with the same effect. However, in neither instance was I aware of anything like the fantasy I conjure up. Alas reality is usually so much duller than fiction! Some of the Chinese characters (e.g. Chu Wei & Sun Xue) receive traits from perhaps unexpected sources in my memory.

As regular readers might expect Jonas is very soon hanging on in there by the skin of his teeth, with the effective help of the newly married Vanessa Holmes nee Clarke and DCI John Wyatt. He upsets some bureaucrats and gets help from an unexpected source. His emotional life takes a tumble revealing a savagery within him usually suppressed. Meanwhile in China Wu Tao meets both good luck and bad in his flight to safety.

I had great fun writing the novel. For me, China and the Chinese remain a fascinating enigma.

Next time, hunting throughout Uruguay a Will 'o the Wisp from the past.

Bob Hyslop

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