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Saturday, 6 June 2015

'Behind The Text’ 16 ’Family Business’

 'Behind The Text’ Part 16_’Family Business’

‘Do good to you & yours, and then to others if you can.’ (Italian Proverb)


Family Business' was published in 2013 and  the 12th chronological novel in the 'Jonas Forbes Saga'. It's set in 1966 England but is rather different from most of the others in the series. Jonas Forbes is hired by nobody but intervenes on behalf of his sister when her husband is badly injured by the Morrison gang. For much of the book Jonas is on the run – from BOTH the British police and the gang. Most of the action takes place away from urban surroundings. Jonas’s normal helpers, Vanessa Holmes & John Wyatt prove of limited use – Vanessa is hidden away for her own safety and John Wyatt is restricted by his official responsibilities.
The Morrison gang are linked to the Richardsons (notorious in the 1960’s UK along with the Kray twins) and their plan to conceal their finances is ruined by the dishonesty of one solicitor and the honesty of another, who happens to be the brother-in-law of Jonas Forbes. It soon becomes a battle between Jonas and the gang in which both innocent and guilty suffer.

As we lived near Tunbridge Wells during the late ‘60’s, where the opening sequences occur, and had close relatives living near Petworth & Upperton, I found no problem in hiding Jonas away. I’ve tried to reproduce local attitudes etc. from memory when the area was ‘unsophisticated’ 25 years before the internet was developed. Various features – prices, transport, interests and living conditions – have changed far more than may be initially believed; here memory comes to the aid (& hindrance?) of research. I’d like to apologise here & now for my embarrassing attempt to reproduce a Scots accent & dialect. It was an attempt to fill out the character of Fraser Morrison.

This novel contains several nasty scenes – e.g. the questioning of Daniel Longcroft and the abuse of  his wife, Cecile  – necessary because of the effect they reveal. Madness takes over Cecile as the rather unpleasant personality she possessed is ground into nothing. But there are other forms. Hilda Frost worshipping her boss to the point of self-delusion and, by that route, resorting to such sadism as to bring about a collapse in her own mental state through remorse. Max Morrison, so cocksure and yet so terrified of his father that his highly-strung personality can swing so easily between kindness & cruelty that  arrogance brings about his destruction.
Minor characters, I hope, are more than stereotypes – the police (DCI Nicholson & Sergeant Wilkes), the locals (David Simmonds & his Jonas-worshipping family – and the resentful Harry Benbow) and the typists (Susan & Janet, varying in the measure of charity they can muster for others).

This thriller’s end lurches towards disillusion, despair and the other ‘d’s associated with the darker side of life. The winners merely survive – John Fairbrother remains crippled, neither Cecile nor Hilda are the women they were and Vanessa’s marriage to Simon Holmes persists, or just about.

Next time, Jonas learns a lot - but not quite all that's needed.

Bob Hyslop


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