Briony and Tom, both in their twenties, are very different characters. But opposites attract. In business, as in love, they complement each other.
They buy a farm and discover a rare drug. Tom grows it and Briony markets it. At first, they are oblivious of their responsibilities to the land and its people. But gradually they realise that they have been supporting a racist and colonialist regime.
The onset of the Rhodesian – Zimbabwean War of Independence tears at the couple’s relationship. Misunderstandings arise from their conflicting personalities and from external pressures. Events pull them apart, but also bind them together.
Try the Leopard’s Mouth is a romantic thriller set in Africa. It is also a historical novel, grounded in real events in the period 1970-80.
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Charles Moberly’s novels are different from one another in style and genre. He likes to push boundaries, and to address subjects rarely covered by other writers. If there is a common theme, it is tension arising from misunderstandings.
His blog is https://charlesmoberlyauthor.blogspot.com
Moberly has written three novels to date: The Scrotum Toad, a satirical comedy (Winner of A Chill with a Book Reader Award); The Corncrake, a historical novel set in 1909-10 and 1914-15, (Winner of a Chill with a Book Premier Award); and Try the Leopard’s Mouth, a romantic thriller with a firm historical base (Winner of a Highly Recommended Award by The Historical Fiction Company). All three novels are available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon now.
In his second novel, The Corncrake, four members of a family share the narration, which passes between them over two hundred and fifty times. This powerful technique allows the reader to enter the minds of characters as they react to events, so that love, conflicts and misunderstandings are conveyed immediately. This is only possible if the voices of the characters are so strong that they are identifiable the moment they speak.
Moberly lived and worked in Africa for two years. Two of his novels are set in Africa.
I wanted to get out: out of England, out of doors, out onto the land. A seed had been sown by childhood visits to my uncle’s farm in Shropshire. On leaving school I’d gone to agricultural college. Then, somehow, I’d taken a wrong turning. I’d ended up in an office in the Ministry of Agriculture, far from the soil, shuffling paperwork. Each night I’d crept through dreary wet streets to filthy yellow-stained trains, where hatchet faces looked loweringly at one another, their personalities cramped by shallow-breathed conformity.
I’d chucked it in, all of it, and here I was, a manager on a farm in Rhodesia. It was ten years before it would become Zimbabwe, but only three before the terror of Chimurenga, the guerrilla war of liberation, came springing through the bush.
Moberly is a mastermind in his craft. Painting an image so vivid of 1970s Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe, with its lush rolling hills, fertile farmland, roaring waters and rich culture that any reader would feel as though they’ve been dropped into the middle of the African bush. For they are to feel as drawn to it as the characters of the story, regretting when the time comes that they must leave. He has woven a tale of incredible stakes. A country at war with racism embedded into the very foundation of its start. We are thrust into the middle of the goings on and the history of the story delivered is precise, it’s harsh in its truth, but it’s emotional and sucks the reader in so they are as immersed as the characters are in the plot. A man who just wants to be a farmer is sucked in by the angel he’d never intended to meet and his world of simplicity turns into one of politics, warfare and a drug that can only be fuel to the fire.
She squared him to face the storm ditch at the side of the track. He peered down into it, questioningly. His mighty hindquarters coiled under him and he sprang, firing them out over the ditch. There was total silence, and then a knocking of hooves picked up as a cloud of dust grew in the air, quickly claiming them from sight. The sound rolled away into silence, and I was left earthbound, with dust in my eyes, and a vision of a girl in primrose and bronze, who’d shown that she was already in love with me.
Tom Etheridge, the focal point and narrator of the tale being told, is the kind of character that readers will relate to. He’s flawed, but human in every sense of the word. Starting from the mind of a young man looking to find himself in a beautiful land so vastly different from his home back in England he is searching for his purpose. Along the way he makes mistakes, he misunderstands, he reacts at the best of times and doesn’t at the worst. Moberly has made Tom’s narrative flow so smoothly that it feels as though the reader is listening to an interview of a lifetime. On the edge of their seat, crying with him, laughing at times, but angry at others with a raised fist and a sense of disapproval. Only a well practiced writer could elicit such a response, and Moberly has shown his hand with this novel. He has constructed characters from the middle of their life stories, but during times where decisions lead to either growth or destruction. He has written them as real as the reader is, and that is what makes the novel so easily read.
Innocent days, carefree days. Days of plenty, with contentment to spare. Days when the nights were short, and nights which would last forever. Drinking surplus sunshine by day, we released it after dark with laughter and whimsy. Little did I know how soon those days would end.
The formatting is broken down into a recanting of the events as they unfolded for the characters, with Tom as the central voice weaving the entire tale of the ten years he spent in Southern Rhodesia. How he lived through the ongoing war and the role he, and many others, played in it. Not all the facts are given, because it’s a series of memories, told in sometimes broken form as one might tell a story that is twenty years old. It creates an air of mystery that’s enjoyable and leaves the reader holding their breath while they wait for the big reveals. And of those there are many.
And what of me? I looked at myself as though from outside, as if I too had become a single photo. I looked down as though from a distant height and didn’t want to return. Do I wake or sleep, and do I want to wake? I had become a deception, an unreliable ghost of myself. Which was reality, the me of the days of joy, or the creature I stood observing now, wishing it would dissolve? For they were surely different beings.
“Try the Leopard's Mouth” by Charles Moberly receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit www.thehistoricalfictioncompany.com/book-awards/award-submission