Frederick Forsyth is one of my father’s favourite authors and when my sisters and I were young, Papa would often narrate to us certain incidents/ episodes from his novels: The Day of the Jackal., The Odessa File, The Dogs of War etc. Though, these novels, esp Jackal, have long been on my wishlist, somehow I have never got round to reading them. But around a decade and a half back, I did pick up a collection of Forsyth’s stories No Comebacks.
Right from the eponymous first story, I was hooked. It had a killer punch line that had me reeling. Over the years, I have forgotten many of them but three remain fresh in my memory. The first one is about a British Billionaire, Mark Sanderson, who always gets what he wants, and that includes women. After a number of affairs, he meets the married Angela Summers and for the first time in his life falls in love enough to propose marriage. Angela too reciprocates his feelings but still is loyal to her husband who she thinks needs her more than Mark does. Before parting she does confess to Mark though that had she not been married she would have married him.
An embittered Mark decides to remove the obstacle in his path and hires an assassin to kill Angela’s husband. Does the assassin do away with Angela’s husband? Does Mark get the woman whom he wants? The last couple of lines have such a twist that they resonate with me till date.
The second story in the collection There are no Snakes in Ireland has an Indian Punjabi student Harkishan Ramlal as one of its protagonists. A medical student, Harkishan is in the final year of his medical course in Ireland. As money is short, he decides to take up a part-time job at a construction site. However, the overseer Big Billie Cameron is a bully of a man who especially enjoys belittling Harkishan by giving him jobs that he is not quite fit to do. Constant insults and humiliation make Harkishan seek revenge and he comes up with an ingenious plot to finish-off Cameron.
Both my sister (who read the collection alongside) and I wondered why Forsyth had chosen an Indian. The only explanation we could come up with was that India in the Western view was merely a land of snake and snake charmers. Whatever the reason, this is again a good story with a twist in the end.
Duty, unlike the other stories in the collection, is based on a real-life incident. Told in the first-person, it is about a couple who are travelling through the French country-side when their car breaks down. They find refuge in the house of Mr. Preece who turns out to be an English man married to a French lady. A reticent man, Preece, opens up a little later and tells the couple about his young days when he was in the British armed forces. One of his assignments included going to Ireland to quell the unrest over there.
This is a moving story about a man just doing his duty.
Writing this piece has made me want to pick up this book and re-read it.
Entry for letter N in the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme.
Entry for Friday’s Forgotten Books.