Friday, 16 December 2011

A paragraph (or two) - Herring in the Library




Dee has provided us with an introduction to one of her less sympathetic characters. I thought, in view of the topicality of all matters financial, I would give you a banker. Sir Robert “Shagger” Muntham is regrettably unavailable for future novels, but he manages to annoy a number of people before being found strangled in his own locked study - thus giving Ethelred and Elsie a chance to investigate a seemingly impossible murder.

Here is Sir Robert making his entrance in all senses of the word:
 
It must have been almost three months before that when I had run into Rob Muntham coming out of the village post office. I had literally bumped into a tall, slightly stooped, grey-haired figure, who was attempting to enter as I attempted to leave. I was just framing a muttered apology when the man addressed me.
“Ethelred?” he said.
I must have looked blank because he repeated himself.
“Ethelred Tressider, isn’t it? You don’t recognise me, do you? I’m Robert Muntham.”
“Rob Muntham?” I said. I had a horrible feeling that I had sounded as though I was correcting him on the subject of his own name, but at university he had never been called “Robert” – he had been “Rob” or, more usually, “Shagger”. The new, fuller version of his name seemed to come with the gravitas that he had acquired from somewhere during the thirty-odd years since I had last seen him. And, thinking about it, he had also sobered up a bit since that last occasion, standing in the middle of the quad singing a song apparently addressed to a Zulu warrior.
He gave me a tight-lipped smile in response to my mode of address. “These days I am, for my sins, Sir Robert Muntham.”
“Ah, yes,” I said. “Congratulations. I read about it in the College magazine.”
“For services to banking,” he added.
“Ah, yes,” I said again. I wondered if he had really been given a knighthood for his sins. It seemed unlikely, even for a banker. Still, Sir Robert Muntham …
It’s strange how some of your contemporaries show wholly illusory promise, while others emerge unreasonably and gloriously triumphant. Shagger Muntham was unquestionably in the latter category. He captained the College rugby team and had narrowly missed a boxing Blue. His capacity for beer qualified him as some sort of minor alcoholic deity. He knew all of the words to “Eskimo Nell”. These things were held, in the College, to be much to his credit. On the other hand, even his closest friends never claimed to know what subject he was reading. He was the only person I know who was wildly congratulated on achieving a Third Class degree. The party lasted several days and ended with him standing in the quad .... no, I think I’ve mentioned that already.
Then, for while, we heard nothing of him at all. Only later did his apotheosis become apparent. He had descended on the City when the main academic requirements were a pair of red braces and brash confidence. One he had already. The other he had bought, presumably, at a tailor’s in Docklands. As time went by, we sometimes caught a brief mention of him in the national press. The College newsletter increasingly called upon him for short articles on life after university or to encourage us to give generously to some appeal for a new boathouse or scholarships for overseas students – each successive accompanying photograph showed him slightly plumper, slightly greyer, distinctly more pleased with himself. The articles on life after university at least showed no false modesty. If the Queen had been hoping to surprise Shagger, she would have needed to give him a lot more than a knighthood.

‘Tyler juggles characters, story, wit and clever one-liners with perfect balance’ THE TIMES

9 comments:

Ann Weisgarber said...

Len, I giggled my way through this scene. This is so much fun even if Sir Robert "Shagger" Muntham does end up in a bad way. As always, Ethelred's pithy take on the world instantly drew me into the story.

You've written another smashing success. Let's hear for crime with humor.

Len Tyler said...

Thanks, Ann. Glad you liked it!

Eliza Graham said...

This always makes me chuckle!

Tim Stretton said...

Len's marvellously wry voice is one the great treats of contemporary English letters.

Those of us fortunate enough to shared a convivial lunch or dinner with Len will surely hear the prose in his own well-modulated tones...

Deborah Swift said...

The last line of that paragraph is priceless. I loved this book, lots of intelligent humour. Would make a marvellous stocking filler, just right alongside a glass of port and a mince pie.

Aliya Whiteley said...

A great extract, Len!

Len Tyler said...

Thanks, everyone, for these very kind and generous comments. Looking forward to reading the next paragraph to be posted!

Alis said...

I love Ethelred! He's like the love-child of Miss Marple and Bertie Wooster, with Jeeves as Godfather.
Can't wait for the next in the series...

Frances Garrood said...

A very tantatlising exerpt, Len!