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