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Success Stories

by Tara Hanks


ISBN 1 90499929 45 1
PABD, 2004
109pp, paperback
Retail price £8.99 

Open Book

Review by Chris Williams

This is a short novel, almost a novella, about The Profumo Affair. What, I thought when I first picked it up, is the point? Surely enough has been written about that case and everyone knows all there is to know about it? Then I started reading it and instead started thinking: "This is rather nicely written. Simple, straightforward, yet with a nice touch that captures the characters rather well. Maybe there is a point." And I read on.

The book is mainly from the point of view of Christine Keeler, with a secondary viewpoint of Stephen Ward. All the players are there: Jack Profumo, Mandy Rice-Davies, Lord Astor and Eugene Ivanov. They do what they did and the end is as it was. As we all know…but, wait a minute, perhaps we don't all know. After all, the 1960s, when this all happened, was at the middle of the last century. Maybe there could be an audience for a new novel about this. Sex, spying, the government and the very rich certainly haven't gone out of fashion for sensationalism and nothing was quite as sensational as this case.

The Profumo Affair is the story of two good time girls who are up for anything, having sex with whoever they feel like and getting introduced into a rich and extremely decadent society by the charming but rather naïve dentist Stephen Ward. Christine Keeler, who is living in Stephen's flat, is introduced by Stephen to both Jack Profumo, the Minister for War, and Eugene Ivanov, a Russian Naval Attaché. She sleeps with both of them. Some pathetic attempt at spying is encouraged by Stephen under the influence of MI5. Christine also has a jealous black druggy boyfriend, who takes some shots at the flat she's in. The police and the press gets involved. Profumo is forced to resign and Stephen is chosen as a fall guy by the establishment, who are trying to keep damage to a minimum and he eventually commits suicide. That's the Affair and that's the novel.

The general hopelessness of Keeler's life and character are here; the basic innocence of Ward, despite the nature of his pleasures, and the duplicitousness of the establishment. All are plainly laid out. This is as fine an introduction to the Profumo Affair as you are ever likely to meet. And thereby lies my problem. The book feels, to a great extent, like a précis. Here are all the facts. Here are the players and here is the action. But where is the soul? Where is the reason? Why has this book been written?

While I admit that it might find an audience, I think the audience would demand more than a basic telling of the facts. What happened next? This was forty years ago and most of the characters continued with lives after this time. Why did we not continue with them?

There is nothing wrong with this book. It is a short book written in a staccato style that moves it forward quickly. There are no obvious mistakes and no bad writing. It is well produced by the publisher with the excellent name but it left me peculiarly unsatisfied and I am left with my question: what is the reason for its existence?

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