Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd
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First published in Great Britain by 22 Books/Bloomsbury Publishing plc 1994
Copyright © Bloomsbury Publishing plc 1994
Cover layout design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2016
Cover Photographs © MILpictures, Tom Weber/Getty Images (main image); Shutterstock.com (textures)]
David Monnery asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.
Though many of the events depicted in this novel actually took place in The Gambia in the summer of 1981, it should be considered entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Source ISBN: 9780008155186
Ebook Edition © December 2015 ISBN: 9780008155193
‘This town is ’coming like a ghost town…’
The song seemed to float ominously out of every open door and window as Worrell Franklin walked slowly down Acre Lane.
‘Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?’
No, not really, he thought, although only a fool would deny that things were getting worse.
A Rasta walked past him, going up the hill, and the look he flashed Franklin was for his uniform, not his face. Or, to be precise, the combination of the two. The oppressor’s uniform, the face of the oppressed. A black soldier in a white man’s army.
Franklin was used to looks like that, and to the more subtle ones that blended hostility with respect, contempt with envy. He was someone who had got out, escaped. He was someone with a job, which these days felt more and more like a privilege in itself.
Normally he did not wear his uniform around Brixton – it was just easier not to – but this morning he had it on for a reason. The only reason around here. For impressing Whitey.
He turned left onto the High Road and walked north. A crowd of youths were outside the tube station, doing nothing, just waiting for something to ignite their interest. On his side of the road a crowd were gathered round a TV shop, watching the Royal Wedding on the dozen or so sets in the window. When Franklin had left his mum in their living room Lady Diana had been setting out from Clarence House in the ceremonial Glass Coach, looking like an upmarket Cinderella. Now she was walking up the steps of St Paul’s, trailing an ivory-coloured dress which looked long enough to play cricket on.
The camera followed her into the cathedral, dwelling on a few famous faces in passing: Mrs T in a blue pillbox hat, Nancy Reagan in a nauseating pink, the Queen in aquamarine, looking like she usually did, as if she was trying hard not to notice that someone had farted nearby.
And then there was the King of Tonga, whose specially reinforced chair had been featured on the news that morning. It would hardly do to have the great fat git crashing through his pew in the middle of the ceremony.
Franklin tore himself away from the glorious nuptials and walked on under the railway bridges. The police station was another two hundred yards down on the right, across from the junction with Stockwell Road. Even from a distance it looked like a fortress, with its windows protected by wire mesh, and the building itself by iron railings.
He wove his way through the stopped traffic at the lights and walked in through the front door. The desk sergeant’s face went through that series of expressions which Franklin could have painted