Lunsford – A Novel About Hope
I’ve been working on this novel. It’s about hope. It’s about a small county city called Crosschester, and a village called Shalford. It’s about a man called Martin Lunsford. It’s set in the late 1970s, with a man in grief. It’s also about and mundane Far Right politics.
Grief and the Far Right share a number of characteristics in that they both rely on looking backwards, creating myths and martyrs, and refusing to see the possibilities of good in the reality of the new. Both Grief and the Far Right create monuments and demand worship and subjugation in the face of hope and possibility.
Martin Lunsford is the central character. He is surrounded by other people, some of whom want the best for him, some for themselves and some for nobody at all. He struggles to emerge from grief, much as his village and city are struggling to emerge from the grief of 1970s England at its loss of status, empire and identity.
Lunsford, the book, is drenched in “Englishness” in many of its forms from the grey, pebbledash of flat-roofed pubs to ancient stories and will-o-the-wisp figures.
I began thinking about this book, following the deaths of my daughter and then my mother. I referred to my own upbringing in and around a small city in the 1970s when the National Front was attempting to create a hero in the figure of Robert Relf.
The second draft is 100% complete.
What follows is a short extract from early in the piece. Don Jarvis is Lunsford’s boss at the County Architects Office. He is a small man in many ways, but he has been given a vision…
Harding continued, “Crosschester was once a place of pilgrimage, the nucleus for a healthy body of thought and national feeling but Don, we’ve become just one of many historic sideshows”. He paused and drank his rum and coke. “The crying shame is that the same can be said of the country at large.
Where we once saw greatness, resilience, tradition and invention, we now see stagnation, laziness and torpidity. Our national imagination has been replaced by the ideas and dreams others. Other races and cultures, all of which have their places in the world do not misunderstand me, are replacing us in our own lands.
Where we once had a vision for the rest of the world, a good, honest, healthy vision to raise up the others, to be like us. We need that vision again, we desperately need a way of declaiming it, or making it resonate.
What better way than a hall for the people to gather and make their will, their hearts and souls apparent? The Wulfric Hall, constructed from the memory of our city, county and country made real in stone, Don. Imagine that.”
Harding took a long drink, and with a lowered voice told Jarvis, “And we need to build alliances, Don, alliances of the like-minded. The Wulfric Hall will be a place to focus those alliances. There is already a group on the council to push this through. There is also another group, Don, a group I’d like you to become part of, an important group. We’ve got the media on our side. We’ve got the money. Most importantly we’ve got the will and soon we will have the People. It’s all in here”, he took the notebook and something else out of the briefcase. He handed over the notebook and then he placed something small, hard, metal in Jarvis’s hand.
“I want you to have this, Don”, it was a signet ring and it carried the image of lion rampant in gold on a union jack.
The lion was standing on three letters, BDFP. “It stands for The British Democratic Freedom Party. This will open a few doors for you lad, wear it with pride but not in public quite yet, and get the drinks in.”
Jarvis had the ring in his watch pocket and Harding in his soul as he sat on his desk and began his prepared briefing for Lunsford and Mick.