I have spent much of this glorious summer researching the eleventh novel in the Simon Fonthill series. It has been a rather desultory business, interrupted by the need to see how England were doing against the Aussies in this most fascinating of Ashes series and also agonising about whether I should try parting what's left of my hair on the other side. The book will be set against the invasion of Tibet by the British - oh yes, it actually happened - in 1904. No title yet but I am toying with 'THE HIGH ROAD TO LHASA.'
My thoughts have also been straying, however, towards considering what to do with Fonthill after he, Alice and Jenkins, have brought the warmth back into their fingers after fighting the Tibetans (and, in the case of Simon and Alice, each other) on the high passes of the Himalayas. In chronological terms, it ought to be the end of the trio's adventures. After all, by the time of the beginning of the World War I, Fonthill will be 59. A bit old for an adventure hero and, anyway, I didn't want to return to the Western Front so soon after 'STARSHINE.'
Then, however, a reader wrote to suggest that the contemporaneous conflict in German East Africa, which in fact lasted longer than the war in Europe, would be ideal territory for Simon, whatever his age. For more than four years the German, isolated from their homeland some four thousand miles away, conducted a remarkable campaign. It was thrillingly related in William Boyd's novel, 'An Ice Cream War.'
Fonthill, with his experience of campaigning in many different parts of Africa - Zululand, the Mozambique border, and the homeland of the Boers - could, it was suggested, be of invaluable help to the British High Command in this conflict. It's an idea. What do you think? Post me your views.