TO FORTUNE (non-series)
Scribners, London (1992) /Mysterious Press, NY (1993)
My ninth novel, published Scribners,
London 1992/Mysterious Press, NY 1993, writing as Elizabeth
paperback (US only), large print, Soundings Audio Books
(unabridged, credited as Jill McGown).
That the Benthams’ long marriage was basically
unhappy wasn’t the least unusual. What was totally
unexpected was the effect on it of Susan Bentham’s
more than one-million-pound win on the pools.
For her lawyer husband Jeremy,
the money was an answer to a prayer, giving him the
comforts of a Rolls-Royce
and a new mistress. Susan’s reaction was more profound,
and perhaps more sinister. She had the chance to have
a new image, different friends, an unexpected lover – and
the opportunity to avenge herself for twenty years of
frustration with Jeremy. All she had to do was concoct
a plan to trap her husband in a noose of his own making.
Unfortunately for them both, by the time he took a good
look at his wife and her anger, someone had to die. But
no one could guess who, when and why.
Why the pseudonym?
It is – so far – my only suspense novel as
opposed to a whodunit, which is why I chose to write
it under a pseudonym, but I think that any future suspense
novel will be written under my own name, as Elizabeth
Chaplin seemed to be a tad unlucky for me.
Why the change of publisher?
My editor for eight years at Macmillan left to go to
Scribners, and though I was just starting on a new
Lloyd and Hill for Macmillan, I had already had the
idea for Hostage to Fortune. Because it was going to
be written under a pseudonym, I hoped I might be able
to write for Scribners on non Lloyd and Hill books,
and Macmillan had no objection. Unfortunately, Scribners
was owned by Robert Maxwell, who fell off his yacht
the week Hostage to Fortune (was ever a title more
apt?) was published. The discovery about his financial
affairs meant that his assets were frozen, and that
included my novel. The review copies had gone out,
but the book wasn’t available. By the time it
was available, no one wanted to review it. Perhaps
they didn’t want to review it in the first place – I’ll
never know now. But I think it’s one of my best
books, and I hope that one day someone will publish
it here in paperback, under my own name.
Why wasn’t there a UK
paperback at the time?
It didn’t create enough interest in hardback over
here – maybe because of the lack of reviews, or
maybe because of the pseudonym, or maybe because it just
didn’t. But it got very good reviews in the States,
so I think it might have done all right here if it hadn’t
proved to be such a hostage to fortune itself. The intended
second book was written for the American publishers,
but it didn’t pan out, so Elizabeth Chaplin retired.
Why was it your last non-series novel?
Because it had become obvious that it was the series
novels that sold, and Macmillan suggested that I concentrate
on them, which is what I’ve done ever since.
I don’t know how they would feel about a non-series
novel, but my finances have always been too precarious
to risk one, even if Macmillan were prepared to publish
it. The Lloyd and Hills are what put butter on my bread
and they take me about a year to write, so I can’t
fit in non-series novels without taking a year out.
But maybe one day, if I can produce a Lloyd and Hill
quickly enough, or acquire another source of income,
I might find the time. Another suspense novel might