A couple of Nanos ago – if you don’t know what ‘nano’ is, it is shorthand for the National Novel Writing Month where people set themselves the challenge of writing a 50,000 word book during November – I started on a sequel to my first novel, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. This followed the exploits of 19 year old Harry Spittle during the long hot summer of 1976.
The sequel – The Last Will of Sven Andersen – has been bashed and battered about and recently I decided that, yes, I really quite like. It does need more work but it will emerge as one of my novels of 2018. It is set five years on from the first book, during the summer of 1981. Harry is now working in London, approaching the point where he qualifies as a solicitor. As before though, his life is about to be turned upside down and become really quite awful.
As I’m making good progress with the sequel I decided to use this Nano to start the sequel’s sequel and I’ve made a good start. Titled ‘Booms and Busts’ it is set just before the financial crash and hurricane in October 1987. Harry has moved on and now works for a firm of lawyers in the City of London. He may be up for partnership but then again he may just be up to his neck in problems.
As an encouragement to me to get on with things, and as a teaser for you, I thought I might post a few extracts from book two, as tempters and teasers. This extract is from the start of The Last Will of Sven Andersen – Harry is at work at his law firm, it is July 1981 and a somnolent afternoon is about to get a little complicated.
“Call for you, lover boy.” Gloria, our receptionist loves her little jokes. “Sounds important.”
Oh heck. I hate using the telephone but needs must. “Put them through. Hello. Mr Spittle speaking.”
“Harold? Is that you? It’s me.”
My bloody father. Wouldn’t you know it?
“Dad, I’m at work.”
“I know that, Harold. That’s why I called you there.”
“I mean… Never mind.” I’m not meant to take personal calls at work – which Gloria knows only too well, not that she cares. In fact, the only people who seem to care are the two senior secretaries, Jean and Edith.
“I tried you at home last night, but the phone’s not working.”
It’s been cut off, not that I’ll say. He’ll only worry.
“Do you have a minute?”
Not really, not that I say that either. “If you’re quick.” I’m quite pleased how business-like I sound. I lean back in my chair. The plaster on the ceiling is flaking and there are cobwebs in the corners. Mum and Dad think I work for a prestigious London law firm with a posh address just off Oxford Street. If only they knew the truth.
“Two things, in fact.”
I hear footsteps on the stairs: Jean, coming to take dictation. “Dad, I’m really busy…”
“Yes, well, I had a caller today. You won’t guess who.”
Jean appears in the doorway. It is clear she knows this is a personal call from the way she shuffles her bosoms with her tight-folded arms.
“Someone from way back.”
Please hurry, I silently beg as I pretend to open a file on my desk. Jean makes a sign that could indicate I need to end the call or that I would be better cutting my own throat.
“Sven?” That’s got my attention. “What did he want?”
“To give us a present. A sort of sorry for the trouble his family caused us.”
“That was four years ago.”
“Five. He said to send you his regards and he will see you soon.”
Jean coughs; her cough is not something one lightly ignores.
“I need to go. What was the present?”
“A box of moths. Death’s Head hawk moths. You know, they all have skulls on their necks? Only moths to make a noise. Macabre don’t you think? I wonder how he knew I was interested in moths. Did you say?”
“Probably. I really have to go…”
“Just one more thing. I… the thing is… your mother…”
I cut the call. I shouldn’t. I will feel guilty all day, but better that than incur more of Jean’s silent wrath.
As she settles in her chair, I think about Sven. He always managed to irritate me even more than my parents which is saying something. Briefly I wonder what he’s up to, saying he’ll be in touch, before the tapping of Jean’s pencil on her notepad brings me back to the present.