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When The Kissing Had To Stop

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Panther, London, 1978
price: 95p; 256 pages
(originally published by Cassell & Co, 1960)

dedication: For Moyra and for Roger

The blurb on the back:

Red Star Over Britain
England faces the most dangerous threat to its existence since World War II. Only this time the real enemy comes from within. Nation-wide, race riots are rampant, freedom restricted and the city streets purged by a ruthless, heavily-armed police force. But while hidebound statesmen, glory-seeking politicians, business tycoons and their mistresses intrigue for personal ends, the shadowy manipulators of world power wait patiently in the Kremlin. Silently encouraging the country's collapse. Waiting to deliver the ultimate death sentence on a way of life that for too long has been taken for granted.
'The book's aim is achieved; the nightmare round the corner has arrived and its effect persists after the last page' -
Sunday Times
'Horrifying, fascinating ... plausible' -
'Exciting, controversial' -
Times Literary Supplement

opening lines:
The waiter was, in fact, waiting, with his trolley of liqueurs and his boxes of cigars.

So there's a landslide Labour election victory, largely thanks to their promise to scrap British nuclear weapons and kick out all the American bases, and in response the establishment closes ranks with the Yanks to try to thwart the democratically elected government.

In other words, what we've got here is the same plot as A Very British Coup, but nearly a quarter of a century earlier. And, indeed, from the opposite side of the political fence, Because Mr Fitzgibbon is very clearly on the right, and is only too happy to take the view that the disarmament campaign was essentially a front for Moscow, even if most of its members were too gullible to notice. A tad reactionary of course, and the actual mechanics of the Soviet takeover are not exactly plausible, but it's all a long time ago, so I can afford to say that this is really quite a charming book. The man could write straight, precise prose and he certainly manages to control a pretty large cast with ease and some style.

In 1962 Bill Hitchcock made a two-part TV adaptation for Associated Rediffusion with a cast that included Denholm Elliott, Douglas Wilmer and Peter Vaughan (later to play Harry Grout in Porridge). I've never seen this - don't even know if it's survived - but Leslie Halliwell claimed it was better than the book. For what that's worth.

Incidentally, the dates of publication are interesting here: first published 1960 (at the height of CND the first time round), reprinted 1971 and again in 1978 - times when industrial unrest was provoking right-wing suggestions that trade unions were under Russian control. What do these fantasists believe nowadays? Are the Left in the pay of militant Islam? I think we should be told.

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