In Competition No. 3207, you were invited to supply an extract from a thriller, written by a well-known politician, that contains clues to the identity of its author.
This challenge drew a moderate-sized entry in which there was much to admire, including Janine Beacham’s fusion of Daphne du Maurier and Winston Churchill: ‘I might have called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, but I would not fail or falter. Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror…’ And David Harris’s channelling of Alan Clark, thriller-writer: ‘He liked powerful women. He liked all women. The only thing better than one woman was two, he mused, recalling his recent encounter with a beautiful mother and daughter…’
The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £30 each.
They were all plotting against him, George Surly concluded, sipping gingerly at his tea lest it, like so much else, prove poisonous. Glancing suspiciously at the woman tending the canteen’s tea urn — she looked reassuringly proletarian, hence suspect — he considered his enemies. The Russians, jealous of the white-hot transformations in modern British technology, were almost certainly plotting to sabotage supercomputer E.R.N.I.E and steal the formula for miracle fabric Gannex. Surly’s own colleagues in the Sideshow were acting with dangerous circumspection. Trade unionists — the most treacherous elements in that movement, Surly always found — were as disturbingly silent as any storm before it breaks. Abandoning his now alarmingly tepid tea, Surly made to leave, pausing only to note a furtive quality in his own reflection in the café’s grimy window warranting investigation. Drastic action was unavoidable: Surly’s sudden, irrational resignation the last thing his seemingly numberless enemies would expect.
Adrian Fry/Harold Wilson
Carruthers and Phyllis huddled against the dripping cavern wall; their penetration of arch-criminal Dr Clef’s Militant Orchestra had gone terribly wrong. Carruthers brandished his oboe but still the musicians advanced: ‘Where’s a competent symphonic conductor when you need one?’ he muttered.
‘Permit me?’ From nowhere, a perfectly dressed figure strode to the rostrum and tapped his baton: ‘Brahms’s Third,’ he announced with quiet authority. ‘Uno, due, tre…’
With Pavlovian obedience all were soon playing, except the percussionist shop steward who sprang up to hurl a razor-edged cymbal at the maestro. He fell, the conductor’s baton sprouting between his eyes. Calmly the conductor produced a replacement.
‘Good shot!’ said Carruthers.
‘334 Battery,’ murmured the conductor, ‘no stranger to Direct Fire. Now — time to leave?’
‘But how?’ quavered Phyllis. ‘We’re 100 miles from Rockall!’
‘My yacht awaits, Madam.’
‘Oh… a true Englishman!’
The conductor smiled, thinly: ‘A European, first,’ he said.
Nick Syrett/Ted Heath
The police commissioner addressed his team. It was tense.
‘Rumour is there’s a cereal killer at large. One bad hombre. It’s causing a tremendous covfefe. They say he’s killed thousands — don’t believe it. It’s fake news. You know fake news? The Brits don’t believe it. They say the matter is closed. Nobody has more respect for Cressida Dick than me. Tremendous guy. Fantastic. But if he’d taken my advice we’d have found him by now. Or her. Could be a woman, right? If they’d locked her up like I said, none of this would have happened. Any questions?’
‘Sir, do we have any evidence to go on?’
‘That’s a nasty question and you are a horrible detective. Next question.’
‘Sir, how do we know it’s fake news, sir? We’ve found thousands of bodies…’
‘And I don’t like you very much either. You’re just a very nasty person. Next question.’
David Silverman/Donald Trump
He pushed up his tortoiseshell glasses to read the menu. ‘Hamburger — hold the bacon.’ ‘And you, sir?’ ‘Ein Frankfurter. And one of your speciality doughnuts.’ She bustled off in her dirndl. I stared at the great man, wondering where to start. ‘I’m investigating the death of your ex-wife. Where were you on the night of Saturday August 4?’ He put his pipe between his teeth and flicked languidly through a pocket diary. ‘I can see your angle, but how does this investigation help me?’ ‘Ask rather how you can help the investigation, Arthur.’ ‘Well, I’m in Connecticut, three time-zones east of Pacific Daylight. Frank’s in Vegas. Fidel’s in Havana. Joe’s been in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown since 1955. Hoffa’s in Amarillo, and says if you want many more happy birthdays, stay out of Texas.’ Beyond the window, snow was falling again on the Kurfürstendamm.
Nick MacKinnon/John F. Kennedy
Chief Inspector Speker expected little from rural law enforcement, but this was the worst he had ever seen. One young constable was on her knees vomiting on what might be evidence; others trampled the blood-spattered ground like bovines in the proverbial ceramics emporium. The lack of professionalism was unforgivable, but what most upset him was that these oafs were impairing the decorum of the crime scene. Thus far he had been ignored, an experience with which he was familiar. But they would learn that small packages can contain surprisingly large contents. His voice cut through the chaos like a foghorn. ‘What this scene of forensic examination requires is ORDER! ORDER!’
A shabby plainclothes man, presumably the officer in charge, rounded on him: ‘Who are you? This is a police investigation you know.’ Speker looked up at him with pity: ‘Take a soothing medicament, Inspector; the adults are here now.’
Joe Houlihan/John Bercow
No. 3210: alpha to zulu
You were invited to submit a poem or a piece of prose containing words from the phonetic alphabet. Please email entries of up to 16 lines/150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 4 August.
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