Tim Renton "The Dangerous Edge "
Arrow Pbk (0 09 946821 2) £4.99
Important and highly respected member of the Conservative Party Tim Renton sat in the Commons bar and studied the razor sharp creases in his blue-grey slacks. Turning to his companion he mused, "So. What you,re saying is that the Queen does have residual constitutional powers in certain specific situations? Hmmm."
The Maguffin that produces this situation occupies a large proportion of The Dangerous Edge. A governmental crisis is caused by the seizing of two hostages in Lebanon and..... wait a minute, that's yesterday's news isn't it? The principle selling point for a novel of this sort, which teeters in the Never Never world between fiction and reality, is its topicality and relevance. Had this book been published in the late eighties its impact would have been greatly enhanced. But if a week is a long time in politics six years is an age. As it is the reader has to put himself in a parallel world set some time in the recent past and work up enthusiasm for those familiar faces we used to love to hate: Hez Bollah, El Fatah and Colonel Gadaffi.
Nevertheless, Tim Renton plunges on manfully and is his most effective when dealing with the power games within the Conservative Party. For a political party where appeals to loyalty are the rivets that hold things together, it is significant that a large number of its authors dwell on the theme of treachery behind the facade.
Jock Meldrum-Ross, a junior Minister at the Foreign Office is placed at the centre of a power struggle between his immediate boss, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. Which way should he jump? Scruples about the consequences of action taken extend only so far as the political careers are affected. The real victims, such as the hostages, receive only the passing attention of the Ministers involved. In short, they are not very nice people. And their wives are no better than they should be.The deepening emergency throws the already shaky government into a constitutional crisis and it is here that the Queen has an important role to play.
As Winston Churchill may have said, this is the sort of book that will be liked by the sort of people who like this sort of thing. (J.R.C)
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