[statement from a press photographer]
As I was going into the Memorial Hall, Paddington, this afternoon to cover Jim Lester’s adoption meeting, I was approached on the pavement by an attractive young woman. Apparently she had noticed the press badge I was wearing, and wondered if I could help her… I was interested, particularly as the girl (25 plus?) was quite an eyeful.
[Report by a political journalist]
Mr James Lester was formally adopted as the Progressive Party Candidate for Paddington South-East at a well-attended meeting of constituency member and party workers this afternoon…
On the platform, Mrt Lester made his usual impressive showing. He is, as most people now know, a physically attractive man dark handsome and well-built. At 44 he gives an impression of youthful vitality… His accent is of the Cam and Isis (old style) but his dress verges on the trendy.
commentary: I picked up this book on the recommendation of crime expert extraordinaire Martin Edwards, who wrote about it over at his Do You Write Under Your Own Name? blog. I am going to quote from his review, as I don’t think I can better his description:
The eponymous Lester is a fast-rising star in the political firmament. He's just become leader of the Opposition, at a time when the government is unpopular, and facing a general election. Within a short time, Lester could be walking into 10 Downing Street. Then disaster strikes. An attractive young woman lets slip the information that, more than six months earlier, she and Lester had a brief affair. Lester is a widower, and there's nothing terribly scandalous about what happened. But Lester denies that he ever met the young woman, and his apparent deceit creates a furore.I liked the document format, too, it was very effective. And the book was short and sharp: no flabby long passages, and it kept up your interest for the whole of its 150-page length. And I liked that Garve was grappling with modern life, as in the modern clothes worn by the protagonists, and the fact that life has become more free and easy in the previous 10 years or so. (Garve, who wrote under several names, was born in 1908 and started publishing before WW2.)
The story is told in a series of documents, including reports from people working on a newspaper sympathetic to Lester. This method of story-telling can work very well, and Garve does a really good job of building the tension. There's an obvious explanation for what has happened to Lester, but it's not the right explanation. I enjoyed finding out the truth.
The setup is interesting, too, because we are in little doubt that Lester is innocent: this is a tightrope act for a writer, but when well-done it becomes particularly fascinating. I am forever saying that I don’t really like inverted mysteries (we know who did it, but how, and how will he/she be caught?), but this particular form of inversion I enjoy when it’s well done. We are watching an investigation, we are certain of the outcome, we just don’t know exactly what is going on. Josephine Tey’s Franchise Affair is an excellent example, as is a book I recently blogged on: Charlotte Armstrong’s The Dream Walker (despite my blogpost getting rather hijacked by my interest in the bedjackets and nightwear in it). And there was an interesting parallel with one of Agatha Christie’s short stories from the collection The Labours of Hercules – in The Augean Stables, Poirot helps out a Prime Minister with problems, and whose wife as a result will be, as Wikipedia puts it, pictured as ‘wanton and cavorting at clubs with a South American gigolo’. The future PM in this one is portrayed as going in for nude sunbathing and sex on a boat – though as Martin says above, it is clear that this in itself is not a problem, it is the accusation of lying and covering up that would put him in the wrong.
There have been a couple of other Andrew Garve books on the blog – click here to find them.
The very fashionable persons of 1973 above are dressed by Guy Laroche, photo from Kristine’s photostream.