Today the sub-genre of choice is romantic suspense, and my guest is Robert Fanshaw, author of Shameless Ambition. Following publication of Robert Fanshaw’s new book, Shameless Ambition, Ajay, his eAgent conducted an interview over a Skype video link. This is the transcript.
Ajay: Good evening, Robert. I understand Shameless Ambition was never meant to be published. What happened?
Robert: The book was written from contemporaneous notes made by Caroline and myself. At one point, I was worried Caroline would be arrested and charged with blackmail so I told her to get her version of events down whilst it was fresh in her mind. Then it became clear that Melody Bigger might blacken Caroline’s reputation which would have killed her career at Monsaint Medical Instruments. I drew up a confidentiality agreement with Bigger to protect Caroline.
Ajay: So why did you have to publish?
Robert: I can’t go into the whole story now—it would make another book—but in essence Bigger decided to sue Monsaint, the company she once managed, claiming unfair dismissal. Her evidence would have dragged Caroline down. In the end, we had to publish so that Caroline’s side of the story came out.
Ajay: So it was a joint decision between you and Caroline to publish? I ask because some of the details about Caroline’s involvement with senior people in the European Central Bank are quite shocking.
Robert: No, it was my decision. Caroline defers to me on legal matters, I defer to her on financial matters. She is finance director at home as well as at work. I have to get her approval before every one-click purchase.
Ajay: What are your feelings now seeing your wife on the cover of the book and knowing that people will read about her indiscretions?
Robert: Mixed emotions. I am proud of Caroline that she came through the ordeal. She got involved with some peculiar people. And I do have a crumb of authorial satisfaction to see my work in a format others can read. A lot of work goes into a book being published. I would like to thank Steam eReads, the publishers; they have been fantastic. But then, absolute horror at the thought that people might read it.
Ajay: What about Caroline? What does she feel about people knowing intimate details about her affairs?
Robert: Her business affairs? I don’t know. We don’t discuss it. You can ask her yourself if you like. She’s in the kitchen doing the ironing. Shall I call her through?
Ajay: Yes please. I’d love to meet her.
Robert: (Loudly) Caroline – Ajay’s on Skype and wants to ask you about the book. Do you mind talking to him?
Caroline: (Muffled) Just a minute. (Sound of chair being moved and new person sitting down).
Ajay: Thank you for joining us, Caroline. Um…
Caroline: What? Oh, sorry for my appearance. I only do the ironing when I’ve got nothing left to wear.
Ajay: No problem. I think I already understand something better. Caroline, I was just asking Robert what you feel about the publication of Shameless Ambition.
Caroline: Pleased for Robert, obviously. He takes his writing seriously. But I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. I stick to political biographies, military history, and books by business gurus.
Ajay: In the book some people describe you as something of an exhibitionist. Do you think that’s a fair description?
Caroline: I really don’t know what they’re talking about. That bit at the end when I’m standing naked at the window in our room in the Shangri-La hotel with the lights on and the curtains open—everyone does that after a couple of glasses of wine, don’t they?
Ajay: So some of the book is familiar to you?
Caroline: I checked a few pages here and there to make sure Robert hadn’t taken any liberties.
Robert: If I could just come in there…
Caroline: Just wait, Robert. It’s my turn.
Ajay: When did you realise that Robert was writing a book about the Eurobonds affair?
Caroline: I wouldn’t want Robert to take all the credit. Large parts of the book were written up from my own notes and emails. Robert put it all together for legal reasons. We discovered that Melody Bigger is not only a powerful woman, but also a dangerous one. I agree with it being published because I think it’s important that people know what goes on behind the scenes in the world of business and politics.
Ajay: I have read every word of the book of course – several times. What would you say to readers who say it’s a bit far-fetched in places?
Caroline: I think you must have led a very sheltered life, Ajay. If it wasn’t factual, why would Von Wolfswinkle have hired the most expensive publicist in Europe to frame his denial of the major events?
Robert: I really must in come there… Von Wolfswinkle is entitled to his version of events. The truth is never straightforward. It looks different if you’re on top or underneath. The book is not intended to harm anyone’s reputation. I have changed some names to protect the innocent, except Antonia’s. But then she’s not innocent in the common meaning of the word. And Caroline is called Caroline, obviously. I can’t think of her by any other name.
Ajay: Some men might be embarrassed if their wife behaved like Caroline. They might even seek divorce. Does it take a brave man to describe his wife’s love life in such detail?
Robert: Bravery is standing up in court to argue for a plaintiff who has a five per cent chance of winning his case. You say you’ve read the book so you’ll know I’m not entirely blameless. Caroline and I like to think we have a modern marriage, and the truth is we are getting on better than ever.
Ajay: What do you think that means—a modern marriage: Caroline?
Caroline: I think it’s something every couple, married or unmarried, has to work out. There aren’t too many rules on how to live your life these days. I can only speak for myself. My job is very important to me. If someone tries to take that away, I get very angry indeed. If another woman tries to take Robert away, that’s not quite so serious. I would use conventional weapons, not nuclear.
Ajay: Same question, Robert.
Robert: A modern marriage? For me, it means a woman has an equal right to a great career, but still has to do the ironing. (Sounds of a brief scuffle and some camera wobble). No seriously, I am more than happy for Caroline to earn big money. Do you know how much a season ticket at Manchester United costs these days?
Ajay: Robert, do you have any ambitions as a writer?
Robert: One day I would like to move on from memoir and into fiction, but currently I’m working on the sequel to Shameless Ambition. Caroline is likely to be in the news soon because of nude painting she did for charity, and Melody is trying to exploit that as well.
Caroline: Robert, you promised you wouldn’t…
Robert: I’m trying to explain to Ajay why I write. Lawyers write things down all the time, make up a story from the available evidence that will convince the judge. In this case, I hope for a positive verdict from the jury of readers.
Ajay: Thank you, Caroline and Robert Fanshaw. Perhaps we could all meet up for a drink one evening?
Melody sees in Caroline aspects of her younger self and a barely suppressed exhibitionism. She draws Caroline into a plot to put pressure on Von Wolfswinkle, the German delegate to the European Central Bank. His opposition to Eurobonds is causing hardship across southern Europe, and Caroline is inveigled into a peculiar relationship with Von Wolfswinkle based on his voyeurism and her exhibitionism. Melody wants Caroline to influence the banker’s recommendations to the forthcoming European economic summit.
As Caroline is drawn into a seedy world of private parties for bankers and politicians, she soon realises she has damaged her reputation and her marriage. How will she ever be able to face her colleagues and her husband again?
Caroline and work colleague Clive have been partnered in an orienteering exercise designed to develop leadership skills. Unfortunately they got lost by a mountain stream…
Clive inspected his bleeding hand. “You may as well take them off. A few minutes on one of these rocks and they’ll be dry again. And in any case, if it’s not impolite of me to notice, the water has made them transparent.”
“I’m glad to see you’re living up to your reputation, Clive.” Nonetheless, she wriggled out of the wet underwear, and he did the same with his shorts.
“Well it’s not as if I haven’t had the pleasure of observing your features before.”
“Last night, in the pool. I sent you a message complimenting you on the performance. Don’t you check your emails?”
Caroline shut her eyes in the hope of shutting out this new piece of information. She decided denial was the best policy.
“Clive, you are an utter pervert. What have you been imagining?”
“I will show you exactly what I have been imagining.” He delved into the rucksack for his notepad and whizzed his fingers across the screen a few times. He passed her the pad and she was mortified to see a crystal clear video clip of a naked woman pointing her ring finger at the camera and then using the finger to good effect.
“The resolution on these new pads is amazing. And the camera even has a zoom.” He demonstrated the camera’s features with a close-up of Caroline’s face at the moment of abandon.
“You will delete this—this minute—or it’s going in the pool.” He tried to grab it off her but she held the pad out of reach.
“Caroline. What are you suggesting? I would never show this to anyone but you. It’s solely for my own private use.”
“You heard me—in the pool. Tell me how to delete it.”
He showed her how to get the toolbar up and how to send the film to the bin.
“And now tell me how to empty the bin.”
“Oh Caroline, don’t be such a spoilsport. You’re just denying an important, lovely part of yourself.”
“No I’m not. I’m trying to protect my reputation from two billion creeps like you.”
“Okay, okay, collapse that screen—there’s the bin icon. Press delete again. Gone.”
Clive put the electronic pad back in the rucksack and leaned across Caroline, unnecessarily she thought, to sit the bag upright in the shade of rock. Did he deliberately brush against her breast?
“I really admire you, Caroline. Not just because you’re lying there naked. I love the way you deal with Ivan at the monthly meetings. You’re always so well prepared. He makes the rest of us look stupid but you seem to have anticipated the tricky questions he’s going to ask.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Caroline smiled. She knew what Clive was like. But it was nice that someone noticed how much attention she paid to the monthly figures.
Clive turned towards her and propped himself up on his elbow. “You know, we would make a really good team. I’ve got this plan. In a couple of years’ time when the market for self-care has developed a bit, I’m going to set up my own company—our company if you like. Medical devices at home, aimed at the mass market of hypochondriacs who think they’re ill or are just about to be. I know I could make it work if I had someone like you to keep the cash flow tight and disciplined.”
Caroline continued to look up at the blue sky, feigning indifference. But she was enjoying the attention. It was so rare for anybody to be nice to her at work; usually it was moan, moan, moan.
Not discouraged, Clive placed a hand on her knee. “Just think about it for me, Caroline. These big companies just chew you up and spit you out. We would be free to do our own thing.” The hand moved up and stroked the inside of her thigh.
“Get off, Clive. I’m not that easy.”
“I know you’re not, Caroline. I’m just trying to give you what you want.”
“What I want? How do you know what I want?”
“Well—sex outdoors. You’re obviously an exhibitionist.”
“No I am not.”
“I bet you were Head Girl at school.”
“Yes, I was actually.”
“And you had the lead part in all the school plays?”
“No, not in every school play, once I was the director.”
About the Author
Robert is a barrister who specialises in commercial law. He began writing articles for law magazines but then discovered more interesting material in the world of business inhabited by his wife, Caroline. What started as a blog when his wife was away on business trips became the ongoing story of the dilemma faced by many working couples today—how to balance the competing demands of work, marriage, and supporting a football team.
Now in his mid-thirties, Robert lives in Surrey, England.