Sunday, June 23, 2024

With One Hand Waving Free

by Ben Soton

With One Hand Waving Free: a novel by Ken Fuller. Independently published, 2024. Pbk, 351pp, RRP: £12.99

This is the title of Ken Fuller’s latest book. Regular readers will remember him as the creator of the Red Button trilogy set in the heady days of the early 20th century. This work, however, is set in the 1970s. Roger Drummond is happily working in a bus garage when offered a managerial position in a medical supply firm Merrit &Thwaite which is thrust upon him through his socially ambitious wife.  Drummond, who also spends some of his spare time in left-wing bookshops, resembles a combination of Reginald Perrin and Citizen Smith. 
Drummond’s work for Merrit & Thwaite takes him to the Caribbean island of Arawak.  
The novel shines a light on British imperialism’s role in the Caribbean; it was in fact the slave trade that enabled the industrial revolution to take place.  Set in 1978, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the NHS we see the Callaghan Labour Government under left-wing pressure agree to fund a shipment of medical supplies.  I wonder if a Starmer Government would be susceptible to such pressure: don’t hold your breath.  Drummond’s reason for visiting the island is to oversee their delivery.
Arawak’s left-wing government, which has similarities with both Michael Manley’s Jamaica and Maurice Bishop’s Grenada is attempting to introduce healthcare to the island’s impoverished population.  On the island he witnesses attempts by US imperialism to destabilise the country and becomes involved in a passionate affair with the country’s health minister, Davinia Lee.  
 The dual role of religion is exposed in the story.  On one hand the Reverend Bassfield Thomas advocates a form of Liberation Theology and he refers to the imperialists as Pharaohs.  His followers come into open conflict with a group of Billy Graham style Evangelical Christians who object to the presence of Cuban doctors on the island and try to turn backward sections of the population against the government. 
The novel ends with a very interesting twist which readers of Fuller’s other works will understand.  However With One Hand Waving is an excellent read in its own right.  Not to say there is a possibility of a sequel.  It can be safely said that Fuller is a pioneer in the genre of the left-wing political thriller.  I hope his work continues.    

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