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by Derek E Haskett

The Seat of the title plays a pivotal role in the action of this novel. It is the place where our prosaically (but perhaps realistically) named hero, Johnny, goes with his girlfriend Rosemary, when they begin their relationship, and it is to the seat that they return whenever crisis looms. It is a handy hook on which to hang a novel. If only the general quality of the work lived up to the original idea, it could have been a winner. And yet it is obvious that the author has put in a lot of effort.

Johnny and Rosemary have a baby son. They cannot decide whether to call him Thomas or John. They puzzle over this conundrum for some days, until a visitor suggests calling the child Thomas John. That is one of the more exciting incidents in this first novel from Derek E Haskett. I am actually only guessing that it is Mr Haskett’s first novel. Had he written more than one, I would have expected him to have a clearer idea of how to construct a plot and delineate characters. Johnny and Rosemary are two-dimensional beings, as are all their friends, family and acquaintances. The blurb on the back cover, implying a tornado of swirling emotions concealed beneath Johnny’s calm exterior, is completely misleading.

The basic story is that of Johnny and Rosemary’s marriage, which quickly falls apart under the pressures of normal, everyday life. All very well, except that this story is supposed to be taking place in the 1950s and early 1960s, when divorce was rare and generally the preserve of those with money to spare. At one point, it looked as though Johnny was going to come into a fortune. If this had happened, it might have encouraged me to persevere, but I read on out of a sense of duty, feeling no interest in, or sympathy with, either Johnny or his mate. By the time Johnny did receive a promotion (for which he was thoroughly unfitted) and proceeded to climb the ladder of big business, I had completely switched off.

The dialogue, which makes up such a major part of the narrative, is equally flat:

"I should think that would be all right. He is usually there from about nine-thirty. I will tell him you are coming when I see him. What time shall I say?"

"Eleven-thirty would suit me. Phone me if it’s not OK."

This is the cardinal error so often made by first-time writers. We really don’t need to know what time the man is in his office. It does nothing to move the story along, and only creates tedium.

To come to the positives, which perhaps I should have done earlier, Arima Publishing have done an excellent job on this paperback. The cover is very professionally produced, though the price of 8.99 is not going to encourage a casual purchase – which should be a consideration for an unknown writer.

They say that everyone has a book in them. Derek E Haskett should try again. He evidently hasn’t found his yet.


Buy this book from Amazon


ISBN 1 84549 141 6
Arima Publishing, 2006
172pp, paperback
Retail price 8.99

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher