All the following questions have been asked by the book’s first readers (both native English speakers and speakers of English as a foreign language). Anyone wishing to ask more questions can do so on the home page, in any of the ‘Comments’ boxes.
Why is the novel set in the 1970s?
For two reasons: one is that the technology of later decades would make the plot unfeasible. A second is that back in the 1970s, Wight was a place in which the vast majority of the population was white British: again, this is a requirement for the plot.
The teenagers in the story make some astonishingly twee and sometimes unconsciously shocking (eg racist) statements. Don’t you think you’re overdoing it a bit?
Some readers might find these dialogues a bit over the top, but others find them both believable and occasionally comical (which they are certainly supposed to be). They are, at all events, a serious attempt at reconstructing the speech and thought patterns of (some) middle-class and upper-middle-class English teenagers before the Internet came along.
Early on in the book, it is explained that the African infiltrator in the village has ‘passed’. What does this mean?
To pass, in this sense, is to pass for white, though born into a black family. This sometimes happens because of a ‘white’ gene somewhere along the ancestral line, as was thought to be the case with J. Edgar Hoover (according to his biographer Anthony Summers). There have been several feature films whose storylines are centred on ‘passing’, notably ‘The Human Stain’ (2003) in which Anthony Hopkins plays a university professor who has passed for white all his life, until he accidentally makes a remark in front of his students which they interpret as racist.
The messages published by the Africans in the village paper seem to be Pan-Africanist. Is this credible in the 1970s?
Pan-Africanism, at least as I understand it, is a movement based on the notion of strength through mutual support. It has had highly persuasive defenders (Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere) and others whose integrity and even sanity might be doubted (Muammar Ghaddafi, Ahmed Sékou Touré). It certainly enjoyed its first heyday back in the ‘Sixties – when many African countries obtained independence – but has survived as a movement and indeed an ideology up to the present day. (The African Union, founded in 2002, would be one concrete example of a Pan-African organisation). But the Africans in SNUG are more concerned with one primary aspect of African life: the arbitrary nature of African borders and the right of Africans to peacefully redraw those borders in a way that reflects African realities. It seemed to me interesting that this was something the ex-colonial powers could not abide. They tolerated regimes which were corrupt and dictatorial, but did all they could to stop Africans – even democratic and principled ones – from forming their own countries. When fighting the Biafrans, for example, the Nigerian central government got crucial military support from the British (and the Soviets). It took the southern Sudanese over half a century of armed struggle to obtain their own state.
What is the device used by the African infiltrator to communicate with his compatriots?
A simple wireless telegraph set. Something like this:
If the book is already available as en e-book and a paperback, why are you still looking for a publisher?
SNUG has been put out as a promotional but professional edition by the publishing arm of the Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency in Barcelona. The decision to do this was made by Antonia herself, given the scarcity of responses from UK publishers to the novel and her own estimate of the novel’s quality. The version currently available on Amazon has been fully corrected and beautifully published, but is still hoping to attract interest from larger UK publishers and so get into the bookshops.