This is the novel that, as I said, grew out of a short story. In fact, even more deliciously, I later extracted a character from it (Shirley) and gave her a story of her own (it appears in a later collection, “Changing Babies”).. The storl is narrated by a man, a coach driver called Desmond. It really describes a long nervous breakdown as he drives through Britain, searching for a son he’s never seen, the result of a liaison long ago. I write a great deal about lost children – lost through divorce, kidnapping, abduction, incest. It’s also a voyage through various hinterlands of modern life – a caravan park in Spalding, a house, condemned for demolition, in a backstreet of Reading. I like people who are washed up, who live on the edge. Like Heather in “Porky”, this man seems to be carrying on life without me; I’ve thought about him a great deal in the intervening years (this novel was written in 1988). I’m very fond of poor bewildered Desmond, who is trying to understand women. I suppose it’s a sort of road movie, a dark night of the soul. And it speaks up for the eighties’ forgotten gender: men.
Desmond never did have much luck with women – except in getting them through their driving tests. Now a coach driver, he is at the most crucial crossroads of his life. His wife has thrown him out. The crisis serves only to deepen his despair over another failed liaison – until he elects to steer his coach on a spectacularly reckless quest for the son he has never seen.
“Disturbing and witty…a deftly-described odyssey that places the battle of the sexes in a new arena.” (Sunday Times)
“Moggach, for the purposes of the book, has turned herself into a bloke. His monologue throughout strikes me as totally authentic, but not only does Moggach get his lingo right, she thinks through his head, dramatizing his confusion, decency, wit, pain and determination. This is not just ventriloquism, but empathy so complete as to be phenomenal.”
“At once acutely funny and sad…a woman’s protest at the inequality thrust on men by the worse excesses of the women’s movement.”
(Mail on Sunday)
“Poignant and funny…Deborah Moggach is brilliant at capturing just the right voice for her characters.”