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'The point is we want Harry Potter imitators,' the winning publisher had explained to Jimmy at the launch. 'Quite frankly, the closer the better. Just one original hook is all we look for and trolls is fantastic!'

The advance was small but the sales were good and Monica started immediately on the sequel.

'It's year two of their apprenticeship,' she explained excitedly, 'and the three firm friends are in more trouble!'

Despite the family's rapidly improving fortunes, Toby stayed on at Caterham Road. It was his choice. He did not want to leave his friends.

With the tentative lifting of the financial gloom, Jimmy was invited back to Mason Jervis but he declined the offer. His heart was no longer in it.

 

'It's a mindset,' he explained to Monica. 'To do that job you have to have the right attitude. You have to not care about the consequences. Imagine if you did! You're trading years into the future, buying and selling crops that haven't been and may never be grown, using money that doesn't actually exist. If you started trying to work out the possible parameters, variables and consequences of that, where would you start? And not just for you and your firm. For the people involved down the line. The people who grow and make the stuff you're playing with. The people who will one day eat it and wear it and try to heat their homes with it. Who will have to pay for it. Their kids. Their communities. Once you started thinking about it you'd go mad. Well, I've been there. I've done mad. I'm not going there again.'

Instead Jimmy recalled that the most satisfying job he'd ever had was trying to do up Number 23 Webb Street. He'd actually enjoyed doing that. Doing something real and tangible for the good of his family. So he began a joinery course, learning by coincidence under the same brilliant Romanian guy who in a different world had fitted the four locks in the big red door.

They began to see Jodie again from time to time as a family friend. She had married a cricketer, as it happened, although she reluctantly confessed he was an English one. Whenever AC/DC released another alb.u.m she sent it to Toby.

Who had converted Korfa.

'Oh YES,' he said. 'I LOVE my CLassic AUSSie ROCK. It is so powerFUL.'

Monica was able to pay back Derek and Nora from her book earnings and to help them eventually exchange their small flat for the cottage they had always dreamed of. She was also able, with the help of the people at the Big Issue, to find out Bob's second name. She traced his mother and organized a small memorial service.

In memory of a life that had not been lucky.

And in gratitude for her life and the lives of her family, which had.

Also by Ben Elton.

Stark.

Gridlock This Other Eden.

Popcorn Blast from the Past.

Inconceivable Dead Famous.

High Society Past Mortem.

The First Casualty Chart Throb.

Blind Faith.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION