Fall by Michael Fitzalan a scientist knows too much – she must fall.

You fall in a dream. You wake. It stops. A spy in a fall. She falls and falls. She has no one to catch her. The fuel tanker ground through its gears as we weaved through the forest road that seemed to meander endlessly. I knew we were heading for the border. It was all I knew for certain. It could have been day. It could have been night. I wasn’t following the tanker, I was not even driving the tanker, although I have a licence to do so. I was in the tanker.

Smuggling spies across the border is a tricky job, whether you are taking a spy from a country after they have revealed secrets about it or if you are a spy being taken to a country to be tortured to give up your country’s secrets.

Listening to the last vestiges of oil swilling in the belly of the tanker, I felt tired and cramped. The drug they had administered to me left me in a half-conscious stupor. My neoprene leggings, Lycra sports top and thick, oatmeal wool jumper stopped me from freezing to death, it was surprisingly cold. There was a bruise throbbing over my eye. The big brute sitting next to me had hit me with the butt of his pistol when I made a smart remark.
Thugs like him hate intelligent women, it makes them feel even more inadequate and reveals them to be the stupid and ignorant bullies that they are.
Maybe it was the anger that was keeping me from feeling the cold. His twin was on the other side, he had smiled at my quip.

I was not thrown around by the truck’s movement as I was strapped to one of the ribs of the tanker, completely trapped. Masking tape had been wrapped around my shoulders and woven around my body to my waist like I was mummified. My mouth had been filled with what felt like a snooker ball. Whatever it was, it was hard and huge, my lips had been taped together by what I imagined was some form of masking tape.

The only way I could get all this off was being cut out. They clearly did not want me to escape. I might have been a valuable cargo, but I was being treated like a sack of potatoes, chucked into the back unceremoniously and forgotten about. The stench of fuel oil might have burnt my nostrils and the fumes might have stung my eyes, but I was wearing an old-fashioned gas mask, the rubber making my face sweat, the straps tugged at my hair. Where the tube led or if indeed there was a tube leading from it, I could not tell, the darkness was absolute. Looking left and right, up or down, made no difference. It was best just to keep my eyes shut, measure my breathing so I did not start to panic and wait for my chance to escape. I was determined to get free.

My gluteus maximus ached, sitting in the bottom of a fuel tanker, is not easy, even though they had supplied some sort of cushion for my bottom, partly, I was convinced to keep my body out of the dregs of the oil, not to provide me with a comfortable ride. I was feeling more and more like freight. Even cattle are transported with more dignity, at least they can breathe and their bottoms are not sitting in oil and detergent.
My legs were bent, and I could feel my ballet shoes were soaked but my feet no longer felt cold, they must have been numb. I estimated we had been on the road for two hours. Suddenly and violently the truck started to slow to a grinding stop, the sound of airbrakes and shuddering brake pads managed to pierce the steel shell around us.

My kidnapers were not as secure as me, the one on my left bumped into my shoulder, but there was no give, so I took the full force, I squealed in pain, but due to the ball in my mouth and the mask, which I wore over my face, it came out as a dull chirp.

This was the second bruise he had given me. I notched it up on the tally and imagined ways I would make him pay. I felt but could not see, the smiley one on my right move away from me. As we stopped dead, the one on the left was released from my shoulder by the momentum and smiling barrelled into my arm but at least he tried not to hurt me.

The border, it had to be. This was my chance.

I imagined the frontier posts, the lanes for all the cars, the sunshine in daylight, the yellow light of a night stop. I imagined the dogs sniffing around the tyres and checking under the body, the soldiers with their torches probing the chassis of the truck and the subframe of the tanker attached to its back. I imagined alerting them of my presence when they opened up one of lids to check the tanker was empty. Imagination is a powerful thing.

A tinny pinging signalled one guard’s ascent up the ladder, I mentally climbed the steps at his shoulder, counting each tinny step, there were nine. I heard him scuffling about somewhere above our heads.
The echoing resonance meant it was hard to detect where it was coming from. I heard him using the strange tool that unlocked the top. There was a mechanical gasp as the stopper was released from the bottle. The lid clanged on the roof, the sound cascading towards us in a resonant echo. There was a rush of air.

Immediately, I started drumming my feet on the bottom of the container, once, twice and then the pain. He must have been expecting it. I whimpered; I heard my own cry as a whisper. My eyes filled with tears, the pain shot through my body, spreading in waves that made me nauseous. I wanted to scream but you need to be able to breathe to scream and I was too busy breathing, no panting, through the agony to cry out.

The pig had been waiting.

The handle of his pistol had assaulted me again, this time he had driven it between my legs as hard as he could. Maybe that was how he treated his male prisoners and he was too stupid to realise I had no testicles to pummel. My anger and frustration grew as waves of pain washed over me.

As I recovered from the excruciating pain and tried not to choke on the ball and my tears, I could only whimper as I saw the torchlight sweep the hold, the small, shallow, oily pools glistened in the light but of course we were out of sight in the shadows, well away from his sweeps. He was looking for contraband fuel supplies not smuggled spies.

The border guard would not hear me, even my loudest scream would be a muffled moan undetectable to his hearing.

In my dazed state, I had suspected that they would choose to spirit me over the border at the dead of night, but that was so stupid of me. If I had been mounting a similar operation, then I would have chosen a busy time, cars rushing by to provide noise to drown the sound of my drumming feet on the floor, keeping the engine running to disguise any sound in the tanker. I might have even chosen a border crossing near an airport, if it was possible, to keep noise levels outside at a maximum.

The driver had turned the engine off as instructed, but as I realised while I was collecting my thoughts, he had turned the motor on, cranked it up, and, then, started revving it hard once the border guard was on the roof, at the precise time that I started my bid for freedom by stomping on the floor. It had, of course, been a total waste of effort. When I heard the lid clinking back into place, the sound of someone walking along the roof and the official’s footsteps coming down the side ladder of the tanker, I knew that I had failed in my attempt to attract attention.

My hopes had been destroyed; my imaginary escape was buried along with my hopes for freedom. All I could do was wait, like a captured animal, I would lick my wounds, rest and hope that my captors would make some mistake.

Aching all over and with the blows throbbing still, I laid my head back against the cool, sharp metal of the rib and tried to sleep. I wanted to analyse the events of the last few days, but I did not allow myself the luxury, I had to rest, get ready for the next opportunity. My bid to escape had failed that time, I was determined not to let failure cloud my thoughts.

I willed myself to clear my mind, meditated on all things good and dozed in my uncomfortable position in my echoing sepulchre.

In a dream, the truck ground through its gears, snaked through the roads and a distant sloshing of fuel oil soothed my ears and the noise, reminiscent of whale music, accompanied me as I fell into the arms of Morpheus.

I dreamt of the times before captivity: a time when my chest and stomach were not compressed by tape; when my back was not pinned against a sharp metal rib that bit into my spine and dug into the back of my head; a time when I could move my legs to walk, they were still bent; a time when my feet were dry and warm; a time when aches and throbs did not plague my body.

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. It looked like it was the end of my work for the government, the kidnappers had succeeded in getting me across the border, I only had days, or weeks or months of torture to look forward to, though at the time, I was only focused on making a break for it. Dying trying to escape seemed the sort of noble thing I should attempt. I was a bit tied up in the tanker but there would be opportunities.

Death held no fear for me, if it had I would never have agreed to be a spy. If you have ever been to Cambridge, you might have admired its beautiful buildings. You may not have realised the fact that beyond the university colleges and the stillness of the river, there was a scientific community that provided income that was an eighth of the wealth generated by the rest of the country, an impressive feat for a city so seemingly small.

Computing and Pharma were profitable and successful areas. That was what drew me to apply for Cambridge. With my background in maths, physics, biology and chemistry, it was an obvious choice.

Two years after graduating, I applied for a post at the Ministry of Defence laboratory at Porton Down; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, ‘Dstl’. It was in my field and my parents lived in Redlynch, so I rented a cottage in Idmiston where I lived for the week and drove my old, forest green, VW Polo home at weekends to see my friends and family. They were carefree days, exciting work and a full social life.

Perhaps, such details are unnecessary, maybe you have a picture of me already. I can tell you that I was twenty-seven when I was recruited, and my career lasted for three years. My mother was from Guyana, her father was Irish, her mother from Demerara. She came to England to teach and met my father in Birmingham, the city he was born in. He gave me blue, green eyes and an even paler skin than my mother. She was the little girl from Guyana that God loved, she always told me, beaming at me.

Whatever your picture of me, I am the ideal spy, non-descript, normal, of average height, too tall and you stand out in a crowd, too pretty and people remember you, too thin or too fat can also make you memorable. My hair is frizzy and mousy, though in my work, I have been blonde, brunette and even ginger, yes red hair stands out but there was a reason for the colour. I have played the prim professor, the ice maiden, the smashed and available, the man-eating vamp; I have done unspeakable things and had unspeakable things done to me.

Intelligent, pretty and competent women are easy to find but those prepared to give up their life for the service of the country are few and far between, believe me. Perhaps, I had been slightly press-ganged into the service, but I willingly took the King’s Shilling. I did not regret a moment of what I had done as the tanker ate up the miles to my prison. I had helped to keep the country safe and though I could not admit it to myself then, I had to make sure that I did not betray any secrets. Maybe, that was why planning and preparing for my escape gave me such succour. These were the only thoughts that I allowed myself. I dreamt as I slept, I was always able to sleep at the drop of a hat; my father was in the services, a submarine commander in Singapore and we travelled a great deal, I was educated at Wycombe Abbey.

Travel and napping were in my DNA. I actually dreamt of a few days before the kidnap. The day when I should have realised that I had been found out. I knew that the man who purported to be my contact was a fraud and I even called him out on it.

We had met opposite the cathedral in a four star hotel. It was an early afternoon meeting and he ordered a brandy and soda. I asked for an apple juice. My suspicions were aroused further when he did not offer me anything to eat, a gentleman always asks and it was almost four o’clock, time for afternoon tea. He certainly looked the part, Jermyn Street shirt, the double cuff curved to denote Hilditch and Key, a bespoke suit and good quality brogues with leather soles but there was an embroidered logo that I noticed on his left sock when he crossed his legs, CK. Calvin Klein, it might have been a brand to wear casually but in a man who had so meticulously dressed in a formal manner for a business meeting, it seemed incongruous.

Alarm bells rang.

That was when I knew they were on to me. Of course, I took evasive action; it was what I had been trained to do. As he interviewed me about the fire, I told him everything that was in the public domain, all the details he could have gleaned from his own research. Then, I ordered a cup of tea. As soon as it arrived, I poured a cup of weak tea into the elegant cup, threw it over his lap, pushed him backwards over the sofa when he stood up, howling in pain, and ran like the wind, noticing before I fled that the scalding water had made a very satisfying stain on his groin.

Of course, he was not alone. A big brute in a black suit folded his paper and was marching towards me before I had passed the concierge desk. I, immediately, diverted to the ladies, aware that my interrogator would soon be after me, too. The cheeky sod followed me into the ladies but not before I had taken out my pepper spray, which I released into his face, blinding him. I stood back and watched as he stumbled to the sink, fumbled for the taps and ran cold water. He had forgotten me already.

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions.”

The words resonated from my initial training in Herefordshire. As I came out of the door a small, thin man in a grey suit, about forty years old, grabbed my wrists and held them in front of my face. Despite his wiry figure, he was incredibly strong.

“You’re hurting me,” I hissed, staring at him with eyes of fire.

“Good,” he replied, tightening his grip and staring back at me with real hatred.

I whimpered in pain and then jabbed my knee between his legs. That made him release his grip, his face collapsed into an almost comical expression of pain, his mouth making a strange ‘o’ shape and his eyes staring into space, wide rimmed, registering his shock.

“That’s better,” I whispered, barging into him deliberately.

He keeled over, his head crashing against the wainscoting that lined the corridor to the washrooms. I had been suspicious when the call came through, so I was wearing flat shoes, an elegant navy linen dress, of course, but paired with suede, court shoes that allowed me to run. I heard the door of the ladies slam and that was when I ran. I suspected that someone would be waiting at reception, but my interrogator was with the concierge who had given him a sponge to wipe the tea stain from the gusset of his suit trousers.

“That’s her”, he cried as I tried to walk past.

The concierge blocked my path. I put my arm on his shoulder and whispered in his ear.

“He molested me, he’s a monster,” I confessed and felt him shift position.

Letting me pass, I glanced back as he stepped aside and stood between the interrogator and I, barring his way with his bulky body. It was a clever move, designed to buy me some time to think but in the end, as luck would have it, I had none.

My new friend who had decided the loos were no longer gender specific was speed-walking towards me, trying to look casual, which his bulk fought against. He looked like an Emperor Penguin waddling towards the sea. I ran again, towards reception, the revolving doors were spinning when I reached them, and I was out of the door and opposite St Isaac’s Cathedral in a blink of an eye. The cold spring Petersburg air hit me hard, it had been so cosy in the hotel and I had been forced to leave my faux fur coat in the cloakroom. That was part of my training, too, it was best to avoid going back to collect one’s belongings if you were being pursued by thugs who might want to kill you, torture you or quite probably both. I had to avoid being taken at all costs and that included taking a taxi.

Shivering slightly, linen has never been ideal in a wind chill, I ran down the steps, past the two stone lions on to 12 Admiralteyskiy Prospekt and took a right. At the corner of Voznesenky Avenue, I looked back to see my Billy Bunter pursuer looking left and right and then spotting me. I gave him a cheery wave before disappearing into another alleyway off the main Prospekt; I felt my prospects of escaping were pretty good at that stage and I am frequently right.

Looking over my right shoulder, I could see the lance-like spire of the famous Peter and Paul Fortress. It was a long walk, but I knew I would outrun the blancmange in black that waddled after me. I had not worried about the thin man in the grey suit, picturing him writhing on the ground outside the toilets. He was made of sterner stuff, clearly, as he hurtled down the road after me like an express train. Behind him was the tea stained interrogator.
I should have gone across the square; I would have gone across the square to get lost in the park if I wanted to be a sitting target. I had a plan.

“Plan the work and work the plan.”

Another maxim from my months of training in Herefordshire with the brave boys of the SAS.

Chapter 2 – A Train of Thoughts

“You’re not racing for a train or training for a race.”

Another maxim from my months of training in Herefordshire with the brave boys of the SAS.

Actually, I was racing for a train. Paddington Station on a Saturday morning can be extremely busy. The concourse is slippery terrazzo and the platforms are concrete, a spy never wears heels when travelling, for lunch perhaps and supper, definitely, unless the host is shorter than you. Flat shoes save lives.

I was not expecting to do any running that day, so I was feeling relaxed, alert but relaxed. It was chilly so I dressed up warm with a lightweight, brown leather jacket. Underneath, I was wearing a summer dress, cream with small blue flowers, the only worry I had was spilling the flat white that I had bought.

I had a copy of the New Scientist in my back pack and had The Guardian on-line on my phone. I travelled light, another thing that was drummed into me at spy school in Herefordshire.

‘Travel light and move fast.’

I had spent the previous week learning more details about the biggest secret I had kept in my life. It was a huge responsibility and one that in the wrong hands could destroy life on the planet.
Before leaving, my handler had taken me to one side and told me that, with my knowledge, I would be a target for kidnap from now on. Soothing words were used to downplay the threat, but they did not work with me.

A slap up meal at my hotel and a good night’s sleep and I shook off any fears. They had pointed out to me that anyone who wanted to kidnap me would first have to know what secret I kept and that was highly unlikely.

At the station, there were hordes of people but only one person caught my eye and that was because he was good-looking and clean shaven, most of the people on the platform had beards to disguise their faces. Despite the distraction, the fears were reasserting themselves in my mind. I was feeling slightly anxious all the same as I boarded the train. A crowded train was not the place for a kidnap, as far as I could tell. The operation of bundling a screaming woman from a train at any station would be problematic, performed in front of so many witnesses and with so many details that could go awry, only someone desperate would do that, I reasoned. With those thoughts reassuring me, I searched for my seat.

Finding, the seat that the intelligence service had booked for me, I shrugged the back pack from my shoulders, unzipped it and spread my reading material on the table before slipping the heavy bag under my feet. I had been supplied with certain goodies so that I would be safe if I were ever attacked. Sitting down and settling into my seat, I looked out of the window at the emptying platform and the crowds that were being swallowed up by the train. The air conditioning was too cold, and it made me shiver. I felt a presence next to me and a shadow loomed over the table top. I ignored it, hoping the person would move down the aisle and I started to read my novel.
“I know this seat is reserved from Reading, but may I sit here for now?” asked the stranger, I looked up from my book, it was the good-looking cleanshaven man form the platform.

“Of course, be my guest,” I replied, smiling up at him in a friendly manner before returning to a fascinating article on growing human stem cells in mice.

I did not feel the train start to move; I heard his alarm on the phone, which he had placed ostentatiously in front of him, a status symbol, the latest i-phone. Looking up briefly, I saw the platform move away as though some scene shifter were moving the backdrop along on wheels.
Without a sensation of movement my mind deduced that as we were not moving, the platform must be. I get that every single time a train pulls out smoothly from a station.

“Right on time,” he sighed, opening up a paperback, I noticed the title, Bravo Two Zero, another armchair soldier.

I don’t travel on the train much, there’s no commute for me, no season ticket but I do take the train for long distance travel and to visit London, partly because I don’t want to add to the pollution in the city and partly because you are stuck in traffic jams and cannot find a place to park. Since joining the research centre, I had been spoilt. I had become used to jumping into my Polo, nipping down the road and parking in the staff car park that had ample spaces. It surprises me how many men read books about war. I cannot see the fascination. It might be a need to learn about forefathers, or the need to connect with all warriors, the alpha males of the planet, or just that as they say: ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’.

“It’s a good service,” I replied, looking up at him, noticing that he had a warm smile on his face and his clear, blue eyes were directed solely at mine, boring right into me.

“Popular, too,” he continued, encouraging more conversation but breaking the eye contact so that he was not staring at me.

He seemed poised to return to his book, a clever ploy making me want to engage in further conversation.

“Indeed,” I responded, non-committal, I was torn between chatting and the article, but his expression encouraged me to keep the conversation going.

“My name’s Andy,” he lied, but, still, his blue eyes were locked on mine, a habitual liar, interesting.

“Really, Andy McNabb?” I exclaimed, delighting in watching his expression change to confusion.

“No, what do you mean?” he asked.

“The book, Bravo Two Zero, written by Andy McNabb, is that your name, too?” I quipped.

The penny dropped.

“Oh that,” he breathed, his eyes shot down to the book and he smiled, swiping it away and slipping it into his big Belstaff jacket pocket. I noticed the logo, then, he might have been an armchair motorcyclist too, “Just a coincidence. Andrew Fletcher.”

He seemed to fill out the jacket and he seemed fit, a bit of a hunk by the look of things, good looking definitely but short, I had to admit: ‘small but perfectly formed’.

Another adage from my training. It was my callsign SPF – ‘small, perfect, form’. Sierra Papa Foxtrot. My main handler was Bravo, Bravo, Sierra, ‘big blonde and scary’.

He was handsome and he seemed charming. Surely, there was no harm in chatting?

“An intriguing name, an ancient family moniker,” I surmised.

“How so?” he looked at me quizzically.

“A fletcher puts the flights on arrows, coming over with the Normans in 1066, from the French, ‘fleche’ meaning arrow,” I explained.

“I’m impressed, come to think of it my dad did say something about arrow sellers when I asked about our name but that was when I was seven.”

“My father is fascinated by nomenclature, he specialises in knowing people’s names and their origins though he does dabble in town names; for instance Reading comes from Reada’s People.”

“I think he needs to get out more. Seriously, it sounds like a great hobby, he must learn a lot. Anyhow, what’s your name?”

“Susan Lea,” I fibbed, blatantly, I even looked him in the eye when I did it; my intelligence bosses would have been most impressed.

I was still sure that he was lying, female intuition was the best secret weapon that I could have, It was information that has never let me down. I was wary, he was a stranger, so I had every right to be.

“Dr. Susan Lea, the very person who wrote the article you are reading?” he gasped in mock incredulity.

“I’m impressed,” I admitted, “reading the name upside down, why, what good eyes you have.”

I pulled the brown, leather lapels of my jacket closer together, defensively; I was not sure how revealing my dress was or how good his periphery vision was, and I was not stupid enough to make a song and dance out of buttoning one or two buttons that I may or may not have left unfastened in my rush from the hotel room to the station.

“My name really is Andrew Fletcher,” he insisted, smiling properly for the first time.

I was sure he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and to myself, I added, ‘what wonderful teeth you have’.

“My names Sarah Jeffries,” I lied yet again, I was getting good at it, Sarah was my best friend at school.

“Wonderful to meet you,” he said smoothly.

I wondered how many men like him had bothered me at bars or approached me at bus stops when out shopping when I was younger. I remembered that men were predators, plain Jane or warrior princess they hunt us all.

“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied.

I conceded. He was wearing his sheep’s clothing well, so all was well with me, for the time being. It was good to meet a human who was not trying to train me and turn me into a killing machine. The ‘nice’ was suitably non-committal. I was about to be seduced by his charm. He knew it. I knew it. You get a feeling for these things. Suddenly, my blood ran cold. What if he was my kidnapper? My face froze. My blood ran cold and the colour drained from cheeks.

“Anything the matter?” he asked.

“I suddenly had a terrible thought,” I declared.

“Really, what?” he quizzed me.

“I just thought that I might have forgotten to double lock the door as I left this morning,” I distractedly mumbled as if I was ashamed of the admission.

“Too late to worry.”

“Too late,” I agreed.

I wondered how I was going to get rid of him. As we chatted, I worked through what he might do. He would ask me to move to the buffet car with him.
It always opened at Reading and closed at Reading going the other way. I knew that from my many trips to London as a teenager. He would ply me with cans of cider, I love it, or coffee, I love it more and would need to remain sober to keep my wits about me. After so much to drink, I would go to the loo.

Of course, he would follow me in, cover my mouth, plunge a hypodermic into my arm and lock the loo until we got to Westbury and then he would take me off, I would never get to Bruton. The countryside flashed past the window, he pretended to read his book. I read the magazine cover to cover, glancing up at him to make sure he was still there. The reserved seat provided me with hope. I prayed that the passenger would make the train.

When we arrived at Reading station, the pretty, young girl who had reserved the seat boarded and stood over her seat with her phone in her hand. There was no need for her to say anything, she was blonde and beautiful, some might saying stunning, and she had the paperwork to claim her seat, well the reservation on her screen He had no choice but to vacate the seat and leave the carriage as all other places were occupied. He smiled at me and the woman, then, sure enough, Andy-no-flab took his hard, honed body off to be an armchair visitor to the Middle East in the company of the Special Air Service. As I watched him go, I realised that he looked like he could actually have been in the SAS.

Out of sight and out of mind, I willed myself to forget him. However, he might have been good looking; he might have been good company and he might have offered a distraction. Then my mind went into overdrive: He might have been a mercenary and his commission could have been to kidnap me. Dismissing those mad thoughts, I absorbed myself in the New Scientist and hoped the coffee would not filter through too quickly. I wanted to be stuck to my seat until I reached my station. Then, I would take evasive action and, if necessary, fight my way out. I was safe in the crowd in the carriage. I used to hate crowds but since my training, I had grown to love them.

“Tickets, please,” the conductor asked, dragging me from a scintillating piece on the honey bee.

“Good morning,” I replied, looking up and smiling, as I fished the ticket from my back pack, which I had placed on the floor leaning against the side of the coach where I could reach it in a hurry.

He smiled back at me and took the ticket from my grasp.
That was another advantage of being a spy, all my tickets were brought for me and delivered to me. There were no queues for me anymore. He took the printed paper and scanned it, scowling, before handing it back. Meanwhile, my new travelling companion unpacked her book, a notepad and her laptop from her bag, which she had placed between her ankles on the floor, making it clear that she would not be indulging in conversation on this trip.

“I’ll have to ask you to come with me,” he said suddenly becoming officious.

My heart froze. This was not right. I was not sure if I could make a scene.

Buy the book here


A well respected author

Michael Fitzalan was born in Clapham, South London where his mother had established a doctor’s surgery in a house which she filled with children.

With three sisters, two brothers and a library full of books, a love of literature was imbued in him from an early age.

Michael Fitzalan comes from Irish parents were doctors and they settled on the West Side of Clapham Common and had six children in quick succession.

A story by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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