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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

'Behind The Text’ 13 'Well He Would Wouldn’t He?’

Behind The Text’ Part 13_’Well He Would Wouldn’t He?’

Naughty but Nice - or Nasty?


Well He Would Wouldn’t He? was published in 2010 and is the ninth chronological novel in the 'Jonas Forbes Saga'. Its background is what was styled ‘The Scandal of the Century’ – though there are several other contenders for that honour. In 1963 Stephen Ward’s amoral household of young girls and middle-aged men became an object of public scrutiny, largely due to hysteria in the press. John Profumo, UK Minister for War, was forced to resign when his relationship with Christine Keeler became considered a possible security leak.

Jonas Forbes is hired to protect both Stephen & Christine from an unknown assassin who sends threats in Biblical language. He infiltrates undercover the circle of Stephen Ward, acquiring suspicious looks from the men & interested glances from the girls. He also acquires the unwelcome attentions of a West Indian gang, making this tale one in which he’s pushed to the edge. Indeed his surroundings change dramatically in the course of a chapter or so – from being chained up in a London sewer to giving evidence in an Old Bailey trial to being inducted into the creation of a zombie. Not quite the usual round for an ‘Enquiry Agent’.

This novel is largely peopled by real characters and firmly based on evidence from the Profumo Affair. Only the world of the Simpson brothers is wholly fictional with Anansi one of the nastiest characters I ever created. I draw some conclusions which may be questioned – the roles of DCI Herbert & John Lewis in the whole business, for example – but hope  my plot lies on a credible branch line to the real-life scandal surrounding Stephen Ward. Perhaps I’ve been hard on some members of the Law ( as practised by Sir Archie Pellow Marshall etc.), Politics (e.g. George Wigg) and the Civil Service (especially the fictional Sir Justin Hartington-Case). Perhaps I’ve been too condescending to the demi-monde surrounding Ward where some of the real-life characters acquired a fame/notoriety and some were to meet questionable ends. The Establishment panicked and this novel explores a world in which the innocent (even of the ‘murkier’ kind) are too often the victims while other less noble souls take the glory. Finger-pointing and pleas of innocence were still much in evidence – as well as some of my characters! - during the 50th anniversary to rake over the 1963 scandal.     .

I should stress this novel includes a number of GOOD characters – Zechariah Taylor, Julissa Brown, Ivy Jenkins, James Burge (real person) etc. – but too often they become victims. Personally I’d add Stephen Ward (and some of the likes of Ronna Ricardo) to that group but perhaps you’d disagree. If you want to dip a toe into the seamier side of 1960’s ‘swinging London’, including stuff bordering on the insane, you might enjoy this thriller.

Next time,  a trip 'behind enemy lines' in the shadowy world of espionage.

Bob Hyslop


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