‘The Thuggery Affair’, Part Five

Chapter Nine: Character Part

While Peter is racing around the countryside being shot at, Lawrie is on the train to Colebridge, dressed as a hot chick but being very Lawrie:

“…she liked to have active adult males as her travelling companions, not because they were more entertaining but because if there were an accident they would naturally devote themselves to seeing that Lawrie, being women and children, was rescued first.”

Lawrie might soon need rescuing because Red Ted, one of The Thuggery, is in her carriage. But it seems he doesn’t recognise her due to her dishy appearance. In fact, he’s showing off for her benefit and she’s flattered. Lawrie joins him in some minor rebellion against a couple of old folk and is pleased when the woman calls her a “painted little piece”.

Kate has noted that I should pay attention to the songs, so I will report here that Red Ted’s transistor radio is now playing Marching through Madrid – so at this moment, Peter’s bike is being steamrollered in the tar. Possibly it’s also a nod towards the travelling Lawrie is currently doing (and that Peter is not going to be doing on his bike). Then comes You’ll Never Walk Alone (be brave, Lawrie) and Another Spring (Lawrie is no spring chicken, she says she’s fifteen and a half! But she’s only thirteen, right? If Ginty turned fifteen in January, no more than two months earlier, the twins must be thirteen and Peter is fourteen.) Then as the train stops, it’s P.S. I Love You and Red Ted makes his move with this very romantic line:

“What’s new, slicklet chicklet? Do we rove to the caff and have ourselves a ball?”

How could any girl resist? Lawrie, now using her future-professional-actress name Sophia Lawrence, accompanies Red Ted to a coffee bar where she gazes with contempt at the amateurish make-up of some of the other chicks and feels “blissfully, shiveringly happy” at being part of Red Ted’s gang. Then she and Red Ted go off to the cinema. (Song: She Loves You, Yeah Yeah Yeah – well, yes, she does.)

But it’s that scary science fiction film, and Red Ted murmurs, “You chuffed I made Jukie make you my watch this noon ’n night?” and Lawrie suddenly remembers he’s a Thug and she’s meant to be taking the pigeon to the police. It does seem completely in character for her to have got so caught up in playing a role that she forgets reality. And her acting skills do come in handy – she convinces him she’s only going to the loo and (after a brief panic attack in the cubicle) escapes by breaking through a window and dropping into an alley. Where she’s picked up by the police.

Somehow, things always work out for Lawrie, no matter how ridiculously she behaves.

Chapter Ten: Telling the Tale

This is just like the time Lawrie got caught without her bus fare in The Marlows and the Traitor. The police see a “scruffily dressed girl” and refuse to believe she’s Lawrence Marlow, the respectable daughter of a navy captain. She certainly doesn’t help herself by giving her stage name and being smeared in make-up, but surely she sounds exactly like what she is, an upper-middle class girl from a posh boarding school. Admittedly, the pigeon story is a bit far-fetched and she has lost the drug capsule, but she does have an actual pigeon with suspicious harness and a cigarette packet with a written threat. For a moment, it seems the Inspector will be able to verify her identity from the library books, but the librarian reports that the books were borrowed by “D. Gates” of Westbridge, not a Marlow of Trennels Old Farm. It’s Doris the maid (why are her books at Trennels?), but Lawrie does her usual bursting-into-tears thing and can’t explain properly.

Fortunately, Mrs Marlow happens to phone the police station right then, looking for her missing daughter, and she and Peter soon turn up to say exactly what Lawrie has said:

“The only difference was, [the Inspector] obviously believed Peter.”

It is sadly often the case, even now, that authority figures pay more attention to a male speaker than a female speaker. Even when the female speaker is a lot more coherent than Lawrie.

The problem is that Patrick seems to have disappeared. The Inspector decides to send the Marlows home and get the Culverstone sergeant to investigate further, but just as the Marlows are leaving, there’s another phone call. Miss Culver’s housekeeper’s daughter has found a boy’s body in the storeroom under a rug! They’re too frightened to look at his face and don’t even know if he’s dead, but he’s clutching a rosary with the initials P.M.A.M.! And Peter identifies this as belonging to “Patrick Michael Anthony Mary”!

I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, that the two women at the Culver place can’t even look at the boy (what if he’s bleeding to death and needs urgent first aid?) or that one of Patrick’s names is Mary. (It can’t be, can it? Is the ‘Mary’ just a reminder on the rosary to pray to Mary Mother of God?)

I don’t think the body is Patrick. I think it’s a Thug. I don’t know why he’s got Patrick’s rosary, though. Maybe he ripped it from Patrick while they were fighting.

Then another significant song comes on the radio: There’s a Hole in My Bucket. Which prompts Peter to look in Lawrie’s mackintosh pocket, which has a big hole in it, which means the drug capsule has fallen into the lining of her mackintosh (along with a lot of other things Lawrie has lost). Finally, the police have their evidence!

Peter, by the way, calls Lawrie a “prehistoric aborigine” when he discovers this. Nice one, Peter, you’ve managed to be sexist, classist and racist in one book.

Next: The Dovecote at Monks’ Culvery

12 thoughts on “‘The Thuggery Affair’, Part Five”

  1. I think it’s possibly not unusual for Catholic boys to have Mary as part of their name – I’ve seen Spanish names which had Maria as a second name. And John Wayne’s real name was Marion which ultimately derives from Mary.
    Peter isn’t the only one being racist – Jukie uses the same word later on. All classes can be racist obviously, but it’s not a word that I’ve ever heard used as an insult in England; that said, I wasn’t around in the early sixties when this book was set.
    I feel so much for poor Mrs Marlow in this bit, having to go and identify a body, knowing it might be the only son of a friend. As if eight children of her own to worry about wasn’t enough!

    1. That’s interesting about the name Mary – I just looked it up and found it was a common middle name for Irish Catholic boys in the early to mid twentieth century. Italian has Mario for boys, Maria for girls. But you’d think the Merricks could have found a middle name equally devout but less likely to lead to teasing!

      I can’t say I’ve ever read “aborigine” used as an outright slur in an English book, either. Related words were certainly used as insults in Australia. Weird choice for Antonia Forest if she made it up.

      Yes, poor Mrs Marlow! And poor Peter, too, thinking his friend might have died as a result of their bad decisions.

  2. Ouch, Peter. Just when you were starting to behave reasonably commendably, too. I think this might be one of AF’s made-up insults.

    Apart from that, I love love love Lawrie in character and getting carried away.

    I was quite bamboozled the other day when a 16th century French general in a crossword clue turned out to be called Anne Montmorency.

    1. I’m starting to feel quite fond of Lawrie! She’s often ridiculous but she seems very real – almost more plausible as a teenage character than Nicola, who is often a bit too good to be true.

      I am learning a lot about names today! Apparently Anne/Ann was a common Dutch name for boys and it was also used for French and German boys.

  3. I think the Catholics I know chose a name of a favourite saint when they took first holy communion, which then forms part of their name (presumably not legally) . Possibly this is where the Mary comes in? Just guessing here – it’s what I thought of when I first read the book – never bothered to check though.
    What are you writing these days Michelle? (code for: more books please)

    1. Ah, that makes sense about the first communion name. I have an Anglican friend who took a saint’s name at her (adult) confirmation, but it’s not part of her legal name.

      I am supposedly writing another FitzOsborne book, set in the 1960s (hence me reading this book!), but it’s progressing very slowly due to Day Job taking up a lot of my energy at the moment and also a general lack of motivation. I no longer have a publisher, so who knows what will happen to this manuscript if I actually manage to finish it. Sigh.

  4. It’s worth noting that Lawrie is also in very real danger in this chapter from Red Ted, though not the kind of danger that she seems to have foreseen.

    1. I think Mrs Marlow needs to have a bit of a talk with Lawrie – she’s so astonishingly naive about men – what modern teenage girl would think they were safer in a train carriage with an adult male rather than finding a carriage with women or at least a mixture of people – and then to go from that level of ignorance into willingly ‘snogging’ Rigid in the cinema?
      That said, if Mrs M realised half of what went on it might partly explain one of her decisions in a later book!

    2. Ugh, yes, I’ve just read that bit, Kate! It’s horrible!

      Did they actually get as far as snogging in the cinema? Rigid says “I was cuein’ me what a pleasure it was goin’ to be for the both of us when I got her settled to the snogging session.” So maybe just hugging?


      1. The cinema usher did tell them to stop snogging, but perhaps she was using the phrase generally rather than specifically.
        And yes, sorry, no more spoilers!

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