A collection of ten short stories. No first publication dates are given, which is a shame because it would be interesting to know which are from the s or even the late s and because so many are quite different in tone from his book-length thrillers. In that so many of them are, unexpectedly, comedies. At a party he meets a stunningly beautiful woman we never get her name who resists his charms.
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A collection of ten short stories. No first publication dates are given, which is a shame because it would be interesting to know which are from the s or even the late s and because so many are quite different in tone from his book-length thrillers. In that so many of them are, unexpectedly, comedies. At a party he meets a stunningly beautiful woman we never get her name who resists his charms. He becomes infatuated. So, possibly over-reacting a tad, Sanderson hires a hitman Calvi to kill the weedy husband.
A silencer on an automatic is never truly quiet, despite the efforts of the sound-effects men in television thrillers to pretend it is. Automatics, unlike revolvers, do not have a closed breech. That is why they are called automatics. But in that split second as the breech opens to expel the used shell, half the noise of the explosion comes out through the open breech, making a silencer on the end of the barrel only 50 per cent effective.
Rather a good looking lady, too. He shot her, too. When Harkishan rebels, Billie attacks him, knocking the student to the ground.
The others in the gang, sympathetic but scared of the bully, tell him to stay down…. So that evening Harkishan sets up a little shrine in his Belfast flat to the goddess Shakti and prays for guidance, and the drizzling rain on the windowpane leads his eye to the corner of the room where the belt of his dressing gown lies huddled in the shape of… a snake! First part of the mission accomplished! Here he transfers the snake to a coffee jar and returns the next day to the building site.
Then Harkishan waits anxiously for lunch break to come round, for he has noticed that Billie always puts his hand in his pocket to get his tobacco. Harkishan watches surreptitiously, waiting, expecting the big man to be bitten. But lunchtime comes and Big Billie rummages around in his jacket pocket and fills his pipe with impunity.
Harkishan, on tenterhooks, sees a wiggling in the fabric and realises the snake has escaped and is loose in the lining of the jacket! There follow a tense 48 hours as Harkishan trails Billie back to his cheap terrace house and agonises that his wife or children might be bitten and killed by the snake.
Instead, the family find it as it slithers across the kitchen floor one mealtime and, more by luck than judgement, pick it up in a pair of oven gloves and pop it in a jar.
And so, the next Monday, when Harkishan opens his sandwich box and sees the snake Billie has slipped into it, he jumps out of his skin, throwing the whole lot across the waste ground where the crew are eating.
A fitting misunderstanding. There follows an odd epilogue, a scene of peculiar veracity, for the bully boy Big Billie turns out to have been a member of the illegal paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force UVF. Very hard men from this organisation insist on knowing whether there was foul play and so force the authorities to hold a second, in-depth post-mortem and inquest to decisively ascertain the cause of death — which I thought Forsyth might use to somehow implicate Harkishan, who would then come to a very sticky end at the hands of the UVF.
He has got away with, effectively, murder — scot free — and reassures himself with the thought that the snake, having no mate, will live eventually die and his secret will be safe forever. But in the final paragraph, Forsyth introduces a final ironic twist, as he reveals that the snake is in fact a female, was in fact pregnant when Harkishan illegally imported it — and has made itself a nice snug hole near the demolition site in which it is even now laying no fewer than twelve eggs!
The story is an extremely uneven mix of content and styles: there is the gritty realism of the hard men and their tough banter on a building site, a compelling description of impoverished family life on a Belfast council estate — and over the whole tale blows the chill wind of the Troubles, with the appearance of the UVF hard men. And then the final vision of the snake multiplying and, in effect, repopulating Ireland with a new species of highly poisonous snake, has the ominous threat I associate with many a science fiction short story.
His wife Edna accompanies him, a fat, pink-fleshed, blue-rinsed, nagging monster. Despite her constant abuse, Murgatroyd begins to unwind and enjoy the warm weather, the swimming in the warm sea, the young people in their gaily coloured outfits. The description of the successive catches and hauling in of fairly small fish is told with documentary accuracy, typically thorough Forsyth and very enjoyable for readers who like factual accounts of technical processes.
Unfortunately, Forsyth has a way of embedding even his most powerful sequences in crass and bathetic anti-climaxes. And so, after the boat has docked and the South African taken Murgatroyd to the local hospital where he is covered in anti-burn cream, his hands bandaged, his shoulder put in a sling and generally fixed up after his ordeal — Murgatroyd returns to the hotel to find the story of his exploit has preceded him and he is greeted like a hero, cheered by the crowd of holidaymakers all the way to the steps to his apartment.
And this is where he is confronted by his disapproving gorgon of a wife, the fearful Edna. She launches into a tirade, telling him how cross she is that he disappeared without a by-your-leave etc, when he cuts right across her and, for the first time in his life, tells her to SHUT UP.
And not only to shut up, but that he is divorcing her, she can go and live with her sister in Bognor as she always says she wants to, she can have the house and car — he is going to cash in his investments and life insurance policy and stay in Mauritius, buying the boat, learning the trade, and himself becoming a deep sea fishing instructor.
They have been tipped off that this lorry will be carrying 9, bottles of French brandy which they are planning to sell to a gang from the North of Ireland for a tidy profit.
So the gang of small-time criminals, led by scrap dealer and seller of dodgy second-hand cars, Murphy, proceed to dress up as traffic cops and pull over and kidnap Liam and his lorry. The Northern gangsters take one look and are not amused at all. The police arrive on the scene before he can flee and, when they examine some of the bags of fertiliser which have tumbled out of the trailer — discover the snouts of a bazooka and machine guns poking out of the bags. In a flash Murphy, who has by now emerged as the bumbling lead in what has turned out to be a broadly comic tale, realises the truck driver Liam — probably in all innocence — had been carrying this consignment of weapons for the IRA in the North.
Now, through the concatenation of accidents, it would look very much to the IRA as if he, Murphy, had hijacked their arms shipment. All things considered, Murphy realises it might be better to plead guilty to arms smuggling and get to spend some time in the relative safety of prison. Ultimately, it is meant to be a comedy, but the comedy depends on you accepting as a premise an underworld of tough criminals, armed gangs and terrorists, and the possibility that cock-ups among these groups can be wryly amusing.
Money with Menaces 24 pages Mr Samuel Nutkin is a timid insurance broker who catches the 8. One day he finds a magazine stuffed under his seat which advertises the services of, ahem, women of ill repute. She invites him to hang up his jacket and remove his other clothes and accompany her into the bedroom. A few days later he receives a large format letter containing photos of himself and Sally in the act. Horrified, he then gets a phone call from a threatening man who gives no name, and realises he is being blackmailed.
So far so expected — but then the story takes a twist, as timid Mr Nutkin goes on an extended shopping trip, buying a battery, fertiliser, copper wire and so on. He assembles and wraps up his package, then takes it to the rendezvous in Battersea Park, where a masked man on a motorbike relieves him of it quickly.
Ho hum. His was just one out of hundreds of names, addresses and photos they found: had he received a threat of blackmail? Nutkin perfectly feigns horror and embarrassment and shame and says, No, nothing — oh how horrible! After the policeman has left, Nutkin dusts off a photograph in its old frame. It shows himself and a colleague from the war, when they worked for the Royal Army Engineers and made up one of the most successful bomb disposal teams in the country.
And the sudden ironic reversal at the end of the story looks forward to other unexpected reversals in Forsyth, specifically when timid or non-descript men turn out to have a powerful and violent Army past — notably the twist in the tail of The Veteran , from 20 years later which, despite myself, I found myself liking. All the squalid terraces have been razed to the ground and the inhabitants shunted off to new high-rise hutches in the sky.
Only one old geezer remains in his squalid slum, refusing to leave. Finally, the rainy morning comes when the police, local authority, council, social workers and wrecking crew assemble with final permission to evict Mr Herbert James Larkin from his home and demolish it.
Hanley is, of course, a gentle giant with a heart of gold. He is precisely the kind of solid, experienced, by-the-book official that Forsyth reverences in story after story. Hanley shepherds the bewildered old man off to a local caff and pays for him to have probably the first hot meal in months. But then this mundane event is transformed when the demolishers find the body of a woman stuffed into a space behind the fireplace.
Suddenly it becomes a murder enquiry and Forsyth launches into another detailed account of all the personnel and procedures who are now called into action forensic police, coroner, more police to cordon the area, murder squad, and so on.
When the contractors fail to break or move it and just go ahead and pour tarmac over it, Larkin turns from the building site, and for the first time has an expression on his face — he is smiling with relief. A gruesome sense of humour. Turns out the article, in the Business section, strongly implies he was in league with a company of crooks which went out of business.
Chadwick is livid since it is a complete falsehood. He writes to the paper, tries to see the editor to present his case, but is fobbed off.
Then goes to visit a solicitor and here begins a lengthy explanation and critique of the libel laws of England, hopelessly skewed towards the rich and powerful, and how extremely unfair they are to the ordinary punter who is defamed by a newspaper.
Chadwick goes to research the law himself and comes up with a humorous solution. He tracks down the author of the article Gaylord Brent in his nice house with a nice wife in a nice part of Hampstead — knocks on the door and biffs him on the nose.
Then he finds the nearest police constable and turns himself in, insisting at the police station that a crime has been committed and insisting he is charged. So Chadwick is charged with common assault and pleads not guilty to ensure that Brent must attend the resulting court case, along with a prosecuting council.
He then phones the editors of every national and local newspaper in London, suggesting they send a journalist to the court for an entertaining session. And then he uses the law of privilege which is that a witness may not be charged with libel or defamation for anything he says in open court to mount a stinging attack on Brent in front of the massed ranks of his colleagues — calling him a drunk who listens to bar room gossip instead of doing his research, and so on.
When Brent tries to interrupt proceedings the magistrate threatens to have him thrown out. Well worth it. It is narrated by an Irishman who tells the story of a cheap holiday in France he took in a beaten-up car with his girlfriend Bernadette, in the early s. Very slowly indeed it emerges that he is not French but Welsh, was badly wounded in the Battle of the Marne in the Great War, and fell in love with the pretty nurse who looked after him — and here they are.
He then goes on to reveal that he was stationed in Ireland during the early part of the war, in fact in Dublin. And then the whole atmosphere changes abruptly, when the giant goes on to say that he took part in an execution firing squad. The narrator feels his girlfriend stiffen and grow tense — her uncle and brother both died in the civil war and in the Troubles since.
Eventually the meal is over and it is obviously bedtime. The narrator and Bernadette go to bed troubled. Some poet called Pearse! As the couple drive off, Bernadette remarks that the giant is a brute, a beast, a swine. No, says our narrator sagely: just a soldier doing his duty. As any reader of his books knows, Forsyth has a highly developed sense of the honour and dignity of soldiers and policemen and along with that goes a respect for soldiers on both side of any conflict, professional men doing a professional job.
What most sticks out is how many of these stories are set in Ireland. Does Forsyth have family roots there? His doctor tells him he has incurable bowel cancer and 6 months to live. Now he makes elaborate — very elaborate — plans for his death and his will.
Briefly, Hanson dislikes his sister and brother-in-law and their spoilt son, Tarquin. He stipulates in his will that he must be buried at sea in a lead casket which he has had manufactured specially.
No Comebacks is a collection of ten short stories by Frederic Forsyth. These stories, with themes of blackmail, betrayal and murder, were published individually over the years and as a collection in No Comebacks features Mark Sanderson, a middle-aged wealthy Englishman who is not used to not getting what he wants. In spite of his established Casanova image, he is on a lookout for a woman he could marry. When he finally meets Angela Summers, he knows that his search for a wife is over. While she likes Mark, she is not-so-happily married to Major Archie Summers and has no wish to separate from her husband as long as death do them part.
No Comebacks by Frederick Forsyth (1982)
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? A collection of taut, electrifying tales from the master of international intrigue, 1 New York Times bestselling author Frederick Forsyth A wealthy philanderer plots to murder the husband of the woman he loves A mild-mannered banker faces off in a fight to the death against a monstrous fish A thief with a plan to hijack tons of French brandy finds that no plan is perfect in practice