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In the comments and questions surrounding the last few episodes of ‘Hallbury’, I mentioned that I had re-written the ending of the original book, which engendered the obvious question, I suppose – what were the changes and why?

The substance of change began with Joe Palliser stumbling across Charker Smith on Wedesday Common:  Jennifer Althorpe’s fate was the same, but in the original version Charker’s gun had two barrels.  He was about to fire the second barrel into Joe when Tom Peterkin fell across the gun, taking the full force of the shot.

Next, the book moved to a bedside interview between Joe and a police inspector to clear up the mysteries of the story. Joe gave his explanation of Violet’s antecedents, the contents of the folder, etc., after which the action cut to the night of Ian’s ‘count’, and a lengthier passage concerning his arrest for the murders.

In the afterword, a crippled Tom and Emma raised the child she conceived during her liaison with Joe.   Financially, they were reliant upon Joe, who never found an emotional constant of his own.  He had a distant half-marriage with Sophie: ‘It took three years before he and Sophie finally got together in a sort of marriage.  Even now it is a long-distance relationship, especially since Aunt Sophie’s father died’   and a continuing relationship with Michael, his mentally ill brother, whom he also supported.  For most of his life he was destined to drift, alone with his memories of Marian:

‘The last time I spoke to my father?  No, I am not afraid of the question – I telephoned him just the other day.  He was vague, as usual.

“Are you off to France?”  I asked.

“Yes, I suppose so.  Next week, I believe it will be.”

“Are you going on your own this time?”

“Why not?  Marian will be there.”  My father said.’ 

Other details?  A disabled Jennifer Althorpe became much closer to Sophie, while Charker opened his logging business in Canada, rather than Scotland.  And that’s it!

On the face of it, they seem quite minor, these changes, but they altered the complexion of the last chapter considerably.  Why?   Well, this is the boring stuff!

To shorten the book for serialisation I removed quite a lot.  That altered some practical details; Joe’s explanations to the detective in the original included research he had made into Parkin family history, but for serialisation his visit to the library was cut, so Joe had to catch up with that in the postscript.  Immediately after the fire he simply wouldn’t have the facts.

Charker setting up a logging business in Canada?  I can’t imagine Canada would be anxious to welcome an immigrant with attempted murder on his record – so for the serial I changed the location to Scotland.  Lucky Scotland!

Editing made a huge difference.  Making sex scenes more ‘acceptable’ to a blog audience (and agreeable to WordPress) I blue pencilled much of Joe’s epic last night with Emma, the original version of which was loaded with nuances and tensions.  Here’s one of the tamer bits:

And now he saw her need, saw how her whole body was quaking in its grip; and this was his need, too.  There were no more words of resistance, no more pitiful pleas against the inevitable.  Joe took Emma in his arms.  She struck out at him, ineffectual bird-like flaps not meant to hurt.  He parried them, pushed her back so the wall was behind her head and there was nowhere she might escape, and then he steadied her tear-damp quivering chin with his fingers and took her in a kiss.  It was their first kiss in twelve years, yet it might as well have been the umpteenth kiss and no time between, because Emma fell to drowning in it as gratefully and as openly as she had always done, and the time that had slipped away from them both was forgotten.

It speaks for itself, doesn’t it?  But it isn’t right.  Emma isn’t stupid.  She can differentiate between passion and love.  She knows this is the man who left her, claimed to marry someone else, never wrote to her or gave her much thought for a decade.  She knows that they see each other across a class divide, which means that however much Joe thinks of her, he can never belong to her.   No, she has a man she loves in Tom, and Tom is warm and generous, and kind.   Her heart is his, but her body craves the only thing outside Tom’s power to give her; the child she is convinced only she and Joe can create.

Would Tom forgive her?  Of course he would; we will always forgive the ones we love.  And his friendship with Joe is closely akin to love, close enough, once Emma can persuade him Joe is not a threat, to be rekindled.  I didn’t like a relationship in which a crippled and helpless Tom was reliant upon Joe.  Unfair.  So instead I only allowed Charker one shot, and kept Tom healthy.  He, Emma and Joe can agree, the three of them, to live openly with a truth acceptable to them all, for all it is not often articulated!

If Tom does not deserve to be injured, neither does Joe deserve loneliness.  From Marian he has inherited security, which is the kernel for much more.  The Joe of my ‘final reel’ is a changed character with a love of his own; so I gave him a chance meeting (for brevity’s sake – he would have tracked Sophie down in the end) and she approaches him for the desired result.  Yes, I think Joe and Sophie belong together, don’t you?  She has the true generosity of the upper class, and in their brief acquaintance, despite their differences she and Joe found bridges they could cross together.   Unanswered questions remain – would Sophie’s understanding be stretched to accept the ‘arrangement’ he has with Tom – would they, perhaps, have children of their own?  I think they will be happy.

In writing this book about village life, the elephant in the room was class.  Class in the UK has always been and still is the greatest limitation upon progress both materially and socially.  Upward mobility is stifled into virtual non-existence because of it, education reinforces it, birth right has greater worth than ability in any theatre, but none more so than the English village.   If there is a single thought to leave in the wake of this book, it is this: could Ian have murdered Violet Parkin if she was his equal in class, or would he have been forced to take a different road?

© Frederick Anderson 2019.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.