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Novels

Follies, Fools, and Garlands
Shortlisted Best Novel 2019, Eyelands International Book Awards
Published by ELM VILLAGE ARTS

430 pages.  Paperback @ £10.99: Kindle version available from Amazon @ £4.99.
ISBN: 978-1-9160457-2-9

Follies, Fools, and Garlands is about a world of secrets and manipulation. It is also a complicated love story. The central actions of the novel take place during the Cold War of the 1960s, and in a society where upper-class values of the gentry begin to lose their place to the upwardly mobile nouveau riche. Anthony Ashley-Chetwyne, narrator and ‘son of the privileged’, joins the legal profession. Whilst a young barrister he becomes engaged as a junior to an experienced QC in a case of espionage; a member of the House of Commons has been selling secrets to Czechoslovak agents in London. That involvement connects him to behind-the-scene security and intelligence issues and a variety of characters involved in those classified worlds. These include ‘Miss K’, as she is first known, whose work with the security service crosses Anthony’s path both professionally and personally. In that service she connects also with William, a friend of Anthony’s from Oxford days. Both she and William are posted to Prague, William with a mission to ‘turn’ a senior member of the Czech state security, hers of a very different nature. There are surprising twists of narrative and a cast of authentic characters to capture the reader’s imagination. Told with wit and humour, the novel as a whole explores themes of deception, lies, secrets, and the concealments of its characters within both their personal and public lives. Whilst probing the edges of the spy thriller, this is a novel concerned above all with the complexities and duplicities of relationships within the febrile nature of trust.

“Unputdownable.”
James Gordon, novelist


Shattered Mirror, Broken Selves
Published by ELM VILLAGE ARTS

372 pages. Paperback @ £8.99: Kindle version available from Amazon @ £3.99
ISBN 978-1-9160457-5-0

Beguiling and gripping… An engaging metaphysical mystery. Not a who done it, but a who is it? A tantalising exploration of identity and what defines us as unique personalities. Ron Smith, author of The Defiant Mind.

Doctor Daniel Adamson is driving eastwards for a hastily arranged meeting when he suffers a near-fatal accident, requiring emergency surgery. He falls into a deep, prolonged coma. Upon his awakening, he has no recall of his past. And as he puts it: ‘A man without memory has no identity.’ The past offered to him seems inadequate and unsatisfying. Somehow, on impulses he feels compelled to act upon, he rejects the ready-made identity offered to him by his wife. That life-story somehow does not ‘match’ the self he imagines himself to have been, or wants to be in the future. Instead, he wants to recreate himself in his own image – one which somehow matches his own emerging sense of self.

Meanwhile, there surfaces what appears to be another history belonging to an alternative life. In the clash between these differing selves, which is founded on memory, and which on false memory? As we follow Adamson’s ‘reintegration’ to living consciousness, the edges between fantasy and reality, the actual and the imagined, blur and overlap. Complications multiply. Mystery, doubt, and uncertainty surround and compound the interwoven strands of this novel with its incidents of drama and humour.

What is the real Self, or Selves of a person? What is the relation between memory, false memory, and identity? These are among the questions posed by the author in this compelling exploration of the events surrounding Doctor Daniel Adamson’s car crash and coma. The consequences for him and others will draw you into mysteries within mysteries…

Praise for Follies, Fools, and Garlands: Some Readers’ Reviews

 

 

A remarkable book situated in the 1960s in the Cold War in Europe. Though located in a murky setting – full of secrets, lies and manipulation – in its subtle comments on class and the relationship between the sexes, it goes well beyond the spy genre. Follies, Fools and Garlands cleverly intertwines the secrets, lies and manipulation of the outside world with the personal world(s) of the major characters. This is achieved through wry and astute humour, none so more than in the analysis of the relationship between men and women. The reflections, for example, on the difference between falling in love and falling in lust are very funny indeed. Gardiner also makes some fascinating comments about the use of alcohol in various, other settings again, with great humour. 

The story itself is intriguing – and I wont be the only reader to guess wrong on both eventual events as well as the major players – yet it is the analysis of the several flawed and duplicitous characters that stand out. The writing just effortlessly flows. 

Heavily recommended but a warning. Do not read unless you are certain you have no other demands on your time. A truly compelling read, a novel that goes well beyond the simple cold war genre and will make you ponder, think……and laugh. 

Les Garner


Spy novel or love story? Set in the murky world of the Security Services at the height of the Cold War, and inspired by real events, this is a spy novel with a difference. Instead of a series of violent actions, we keep turning the pages because we are fully engaged with the central characters. They and their troubled love story are brought to life by Gardiner’s selection of detail and sensitive description. At the same time the progression of the espionage theme is constantly intriguing. For these reasons, this book would make a popular mini-series for television. And there would be a real possibility of follow-ups, since in William, one of the central characters, Gardiner has created a true original, who many actors would desperately want to play. 

Juliet Woodhouse


A masterpiece. A carefully crafted book in which the author leads us into and beyond the prime story, which is itself insightfully told. A book that eloquently highlights the difference between love and lust… and perhaps how little care can be behind both. Reading it will make you laugh and question.

Isabella Anders 


Great read. This novel is an interesting take on the ‘spooks’ of the Cold War. It dwells on the personal relationships between agents rather than on their spying activities. Mysterious people appear, disappear and reappear throughout the narrative. They rarely tell each other the truth, and the rather ‘Oxbridge’ language helps sustain the mystery. One is reminded of the spy scandals of Cold War period – Burgess and Maclean, Profumo et al. This is an intelligent read that keeps you guessing to the end, and even then you may not be too clear on who’s who. Most enjoyable.

P. Barrett 


An absorbing read. I really got drawn into this book, didn’t want to put it down. An intriguing and unflagging storyline with many twists and turns that kept me fully engaged. Loved especially the presentation of characters,their finely-observed mannerisms and their interactions with each other. Within the action of the novel there are moments of real humour, whilst at the same time there are serious matters of trust and deception and betrayal underpinning the entire narrative. A real thought-provoker and greatly enjoyable. 

Elisabeth Greene

 

 

Shattered Mirror, Broken Selves has just been published. It takes time for reader reviews to come in. As they arrive they will be posted here.