I was reading The Ways of the World, a thriller by Robert Goddard that is set in 1919,in the days immediately following World War I. It started out well. The hero, James Maxtead, is a Royal Flying Corps veteran at loose ends after being de-mobbed. He hopes to start a flying school but needs the help of his father, a veteran British diplomat. However, before he can strike a deal, his father is murdered in Paris during the Peace Conference. Goddard’s writing was smooth, the pacing expert and the storyline absorbing. Wanting to know more about the author, I turned to the back flap. I found that Robert Goddard had read history at Cambridge, lived in Cornwall and that he was the internationally best selling author of several books. One of them, I further read, had won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award.
I was instantly entranced by this information. What a wonderful name for a literary award! It sounded so much better than the Man Booker International Prize or the PEN Literary Award. If I were an writer, I would love to be known as the author of a Thumping Good Read. The name was uniquely British and conjured up memories of the British thrillers I used to read in my schooldays: the Biggles and Gimlet books by Captain W.E. Johns, the Sexton Blake mysteries, the Shark Gotch stories and the adventures of Raffles, the gentleman thief.
Alas, I was in for a disappointment. Halfway through The Ways of the World, I began to think it might not end well. The writing was still very good but there were too many plot twists, some improbabilities and, at the end, the fatal words TO BE CONTINUED. This was a low blow indeed. When I start a book, I expect it to have a definite ending. It can be the first of a series but it should not leave things unresolved. On the last page, I expect to see the words THE END.
From now on, the first thing I will do is take a peak at the last page to make sure it contains the words THE END, or failing that, that it does not contain the words TO BE CONTINUED.