Well, it all started with this novel: Just When We Are Safest which I read in the earlier half of the 1990s. It was the start of Gadney's Alan Rosslyn series and I was hooked. Gadney created quite an original in Alan Rosslyn - the man worked for Customs & Excise, as it then was. And who'd have imagined that the work there could be quite so exciting? (More on than later.)
The novel had this interesting character, great pace and plot, made good use of its London setting and was quite a thriller. When my ex-boss from Canada was on a business trip in London I made sure he went home with a copy, I was so enthused. I really enjoyed the novel and found it quite outstanding at the time. Amazon Marketplace (AM) has copies from just 1p right now, if you feel the urge to try it. Then we moved on to the second in the series...
The Achilles Heel, (copies from 23p on AM), still had Rosslyn working for Customs and this is a novel easily described as "not for the faint-hearted". The plot involves an investigation of a paedophile ring. Still excellent writing, but I found the content a little hard to stomach.
I finished the novel appreciating its value and quality, but hoping that the next would contain a story that I could enjoy more. Afterall, I was still hooked on Rosslyn's world.
Mother, Son and Holy Ghost came next (again, you can get this from a mere 1p on AM). And before I say anything else, I'd like to point out that this novel came out in the run up to Y2K when everyone was fretting about all sorts of risks, mainly that their PCs and computer networks might crash. Gadney, again with much originality and this time timeliness concentrated his plot around what might happen on new year's eve in 1999 with the planned excessive actions of a religious cult. Where many were busy programing against the finite deadline, Rosslyn was busy pursuing a far more human evil. The novel really did capture the feel of the time - its tensions and fears, as well as the anticipation of a big celebratory night to come - and I don't think Gadney got anywhere near enough exposure or recognition for this novel.
It's a substantial tome, but well packed with a fast moving plot and certainly not overlong. It made a very gripping read in the context of the time and I think it would stand the test of time now.
At its release, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a bookshop event with Gadney in London. There, he explained the origins of Rosslyn. Gadney was on a train one weekend, heading for an antiques fair. He found himself sitting near a man dressed in leathers, possibly also adorned with some noticeable body jewellery (if my memory serves me well) and they started talking, as both were heading to the antiques fair. Gadney then discovered the man worked for C&E. The man's appearance would never had led Gadney to imagine he worked for C&E. As they talked and Gadney discovered more about the man, Gadney was intrigued - and thus Rosslyn emerged into the world of crime fiction.
However - and this is the big one - as wonderful as Mother, Son and Holy Ghost was, it also saw a departure in the series with Rosslyn moving from Customs into the private sector and working for an intelligence company. Mother, Son and Holy Ghost worked well, but what came after was completely different and in my opinion, did not work so well at all.
Next came The Strange Police ,(Faber link for more detail), with Rosslyn spending time in Greece and getting a bit too enamoured with a certain woman involved in a case his company was investigating. It felt different. Far different. Faber's sloppy editing didn't help either. The novel title had obviously changed at some point, as another title was used in the blurb on the back cover. One chapter started with two paragraphs for which it can only be concluded that one was a pre-edit and the other a post-edit of the same text. The plot, involving an elaborately conceived plan of theft at the British Museum seemed a bit too hard to believe. (A little too Banacek from the TV in the 1970s, which, in the 2000+ arena is a bit cartoon-like.)
Disappointed, I still hankered after the good old days of Rosslyn and wanted to know more, so I moved on to the next: The Scholar of Extortion (Faber link again). Here Gadney took Rosslyn to Hong Kong and set him up with a rather nasty adversary: Klaas-Pieter Terajima. At this juncture, all I can say is that I remember nothing else about the novel, which says it all really.
Thus, since its release in 2003, I haven't thought too much about Rosslyn. I haven't made sure I know when the next Gadney book is out. Gadney, as I said earlier, has not had any big publicity campaign that I remember. As I perceived a decline in the novels and saw nothing else to draw me back, I assumed the series was over. But, I'll admit to some surprise last year.
In London on Saturday, 25 February 2006, I popped into Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. A table was stacked with the latest releases and alongside Richard Burke's second novel Redemption (would love to read soon, when I can find the moment, the plot sounds really good) was another Reg Gadney: Immaculate Deception. I was on a mission at the time, so I didn't take a close look, especially after two novels that disappointed.
I still haven't read it. There have been too many other authors who have produced such good work that I have been satisfyingly distracted. I also think that Rosslyn's old life, before the new millennium was far more interesting and original than his new life and career embedded in the private sector, in an intelligence company. Also, I suspect the first three novels stand the test of time.
So if you think you might like them, do give them a try. I was very impressed when I read them. To recap, and in series order:
- Just When We Are Safest (quite excellent)
- The Achilles Heel (again excellent, but with "reader be warned" content)
- Mother, Son and Holy Ghost (a far too well-hidden secret of its time - outstanding).
And where is he now? Well, still writing. It's just me that lost the momentum.