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The Abduction

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New English Library, London, 1972
(price: 40p; 176 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The powder-keg of Southern Africa is ready for ignition. Premier Hiller has illegally declared independence and begun hanging black terrorists.
There is only one way to prevent a descent into total dictatorship - a kidnapping.
GF Newman has written best-selling novels on police corruption -
Sir, You Bastard - and on the ill-treatment of young children - Billy. In The Abduction he balances personal conscience against political expediency. It is a novel of unique topicality and great power.

opening lines:
Wearily Father Bannamin moved along to where the second man stood on the wooden structure; his weariness was of will rather than flesh.

The veteran undercover agent engaged on what might well prove to be his last operation is a staple of adventure fiction, and - good lord! - here's one right here. See, there's this guy named Charles Ryman who fought 'with Sterling's lot' in the War (presumably not unrelated to Stirling of the SAS) and who went underground in 1956 to embark on entirely unofficial missions. Some of these have been on behalf of private clients, but what we're interested in here is his proposal to kidnap the white minority ruler of South East Africa.

The more historically minded won't have failed to notice that the story of a white politician in Southern Africa unilaterally declaring independence is not entirely fictional, and it seems fair to assume that Newman was exploring seriously the idea that a civic-minded citizen might want to do something about the odious Ian Smith of 'Rhodesia'. Which all sounds like an interesting proposal (better than Harold Wilson's half-arsed sanctions at any rate), but unfortunately the whole thing gets weighed down with adventure and gun-for-hire clichés that do bugger all for me. It's a bit more interesting than it might otherwise be, since Newman is about the only writer who'd approach this genre from a radical leftist perspective, but even so, I was distinctly unmoved. I'd rather have had the politics, frankly, though I did like some of the details: the capital of South East Africa, for example, is called Soamesburg - the most convincing fictitious place-name I've ever come across.

Gordon F Newman (born 1942) is, as you can perhaps guess from the photo below, a no-nonsense, don't-fuck-with-me kind of novelist. He became best known for a couple of TV series, Law and Order (BBC2, 1978) and The Nation's Health (C4, 1983), which each ran for four episodes and which ripped the shit out of the police/judicial process and the sickness industry respectively. They're worth seeing (the first one was good enough to provoke official complaints to the BBC from the police), but you'll have to work at it - they don't often turn up on those cosy little TV nostalgia themed evenings. More recently, you'll perhaps know him as the creator of Judge John Deed.

hard as nails
GF Newman


from the maker of:

The Nation's Health

The Terry Sneed trilogy
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Sir, You Bastard
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You Flash Bastard
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The Price

The Law and Order trilogy
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A Detective's Tale
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A Villain's Tale
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A Prisoner's Tale