WHAT is the price of power? How much authority can an individual exercise in the pursuit of political ambition? Can gaining one seat in Parliament lead to an agenda of domination, discrimination, and disinformation — today, Plymouth; tomorrow, the world?
These are questions that arise from J. E. Hall’s novel, Harry’s England, the latest in his series of thrillers dramatising religious and political issues that can lead to terrorism in a world of complex diversities.
Harry McNamara and his political ambitions are the engine of the narrative. A football hooligan, who featured in Hall’s Istanbul, shot to fame and glory by stepping in to prevent a terrorist attack at a match in Turkey, has set up a new right-wing party to make a bid for a Plymouth constituency.
His provocative, manipulative, and intimidating tactics, coupled with a softened public image and rat cunning, gain a popularity that outfoxes the main political parties who are mentioned, but whose campaigns do not overly feature in the story.
Harry has a small and extraordinarily effective team who can somehow, it seems, get a local journalist and photographer and television crews to cover his every move and utterance, and a social-media feed that certainly attracts followers.
A shady organisation, The Circle, lends a sinister hand — a bomb in the middle of Exeter, a shooting in a shopping centre, a murder, and a crisis involving decommissioned nuclear submarines — all of which McNamara is happy to blame on Islamist terrorists.
Exeter University students from Hall’s previous novels provide a counter to McNamara by living an engaged, peaceful life in a culture of cross-religious relationships. For them, the rules of life are not so hard and fast as Harry would imagine.
Hall gives the reader a pacy story that raises the odd eyebrow in believability, providing an entertaining angle on the complexities and dangers of today’s world.
The Revd Kevin Scully is Rector of St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green, in London.
J. E. Hall
Ottery Books £9.99
Available from Curious Otter Bookshop - 01404 814469