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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

'Behind The Text’ 19 ’So Few Come Out’

Behind The Text’ Part 19_’So Few Come Out’

‘in blood stepp'd in so far’ (Shakespeare: ‘Macbeth’

So Few Come Out' was published in 2014 and is the 15th chronological novel  in the ‘Jonas Forbes Saga’. The title comes from a rhyme from a couple of centuries ago bewailing the high attrition rate of European venturers in West African areas surrounding the Bay of Benin. When the Reader reaches the end of this gory tale they might think it refers to the destruction of the characters.
Jonas Forbes is persuaded to hunt for a surgeon lost in the midst of the Biafran War in 1969 Nigeria. The young man is the son of Reverend Joshua Obasi. However, it’s not easy to get into the middle of a civil war (and, even more importantly, out again!). The UK Foreign Office cooperate, provided he assesses for them the situation as peace approaches – in this they will  definitely be short-changed.

The action shifts between Jonas, blundering his way around in a particularly nasty conflict to the despair of Vanessa (now his wife) along with others in London, and various units on the Federal & Biafran sides, especially the guerrilla leader, Shaidan, terrifying the opponents of the dying Republic of Biafra. Both sides engage in war crimes and it’s largely the civilians who suffer. Shrugged off by UK diplomatic staff ( such as Seymour Dudley and Jerome Milligan) Jonas plunges into the unknown with his usual enthusiasm and almost immediately finds himself a prisoner of the Federal forces and then of Shaidan himself. DS John Wyatt employs contacts to find Jonas but is always one step behind. Towards the end Jonas shows strange signs of ‘sympathy’ / ‘weakness’. Could these be the effect of being married to Vanessa? You may find the answer on Book 16.
This book deals with one of the tragedies of the 20th century but there are some admirable characters: Private Dialo, so sick of the war that he deserts; Sgt. Athie, who saves a child from the miseries of war but then hunts down Dialo because those are his orders; Superintendent Kemdirim helps a policeman from afar, out of solidarity; Algana Alabi, a victim of war; and Dr. Jide Igbokwe who suffers for answering to his vocation. However, such are out-numbered by those for whom war releases the vilest behaviour and those who watch the world disintegrate and do...... not enough to stop it.
This is one of the more depressing novels in the series. Why did I write it? I can’t answer that except to say I just had to. Researching this book showed how little some survivors still want to admit what happened, especially if they might be held responsible. Could the like happen today? Take a look around. I think it’s already here.

Next, the end of the line - in Fact and Fiction

Bob Hyslop


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