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Wheel of Fortune  -  Humphrey Muller


in UK  - Vol I

in USA - Vol I


in UK  - Vol 2

in USA - Vol 2

WHEEL OF FORTUNE  by  Humphrey Muller  (in TWO volumes)



While the novel takes the form of a thriller, it is also a love story. It explores the relationship between the hero (Derek Mann, a teacher and an academic) and the heroine (the schoolgirl Jacquie Thomas who first meets Derek when he is temporarily appointed as her English teacher at a girls' school in Bradford). There are also undercurrents of social and religious satire, especially in the understated vein of wry comedy.

The plot pivots round the war-diary of Hollie Thomas (Jacquie's grandfather) who was supposedly killed in action in Egypt in 1941. Thomas had apparently invested money in partnership with his wartime friend Papenphus in an opal mine in a place designated by the letters 'C.P.' in 'S.A.' - supposedly in the Cape Province of South Africa.

When the diffident and ineffectual Derek Mann (29) loses his job and drifts from one temporary post to another, the precocious Jacquie (19) gives him the diary with a mission to return to South Africa and find the mine she believes to be her rightful inheritance.

He spends a few months in the 'twilight years' of the old South Africa (1987-88) shortly before the collapse of Apartheid - a world of prejudice and casual violence. His enquiries about Thomas's mine open a Pandora's box of intrigue. During this time he uncovers sufficient information to enable Jacquie to establish that 'her mine' is in Coober Pedy in South Australia. A right-wing element with strong interests in the mine conspires to kill Jacquie as well as Derek, especially when they are reunited in the Canary Islands. The pursuit takes place across the Atlantic to the Caribbean (the protagonists travelling in a yacht - a highlight is an aircraft attack in mid-Atlantic), across America and across a good deal of Victoria and South Australia. The novel ends in Alice Springs after a mountain-top experience on Ayers Rock in Central Australia.

There are scenes of dramatic escape - from a 'necklacing' in South Africa, a shooting on the nude-bathing beach in Gran Canaria, a mid-Atlantic aircraft attack, a plastic bomb on board the yacht off Barbados, a kidnapping in Victoria and an aircraft-helicopter pursuit along the coastline of the Great Ocean Road, and an attempted assassination down a mine shaft in Coober Pedy.

Much of the relationship with its associated tensions and conflicts is explored in the intimate love scenes between hero and heroine, where the underlying sexuality of the characters is given full expression, particularly in so far as it throws light on character development.

There are 76 chapters (each approximately 7 pages in length), each titled, and often ending on a 'cliffhanger.' The theme of the wheel of destiny is embodied in the imagery, especially in the references to wheels or circles. The style is wry, often laconic, to suggest the underlying satire or comedy, but more succinct and crisp in the action scenes.

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