Informative message

Access your eBook by downloading the Glassboxx app and typing in the email address you used for the order. Find more information on our About Ebooks page.


Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers

Peter Benson
Publication Date: 
Monday, June 20, 2022
No votes yet

Fargo Hawkins dropped out of school. Now he is a gardener. He’s twenty years old, and works for Harry Swaine, an abusive butcher with a chain of shops on the south coast of England. After witnessing a fight between Harry and Anne (his wife) Fargo steals a car and together he, Anne and a dog called Radar go on the run. They have £9,653, a bag of apples, a penknife and three bottles of wine. An incandescent Harry, a firm of private detectives and their emotions chase them across the country. In no time they are a newspaper headline – Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers.

After a series of close calls, near misses and other adventures Anne and Fargo pitch up at a caravan site in North Wales, where they find work and lie low. But a man as possessive as Harry is not to be denied. Their westward journey has become one of revelation for all three of them as their relationships move from pure emotion to something more contemplative. Journey’s end for Fargo and Anne is the Llyn peninsula and the cottage of late poet R.S. Thomas. For Harry, it is somewhere darker.


Review by Niall Griffiths, Nation Cymru

Monday, September 5, 2022

He’s got an impressive pedigree, Pete Benson; Guardian Fiction Prize, Betty Trask Prize, the Whitbread, the Somerset Maugham Award. First published in 1987. Twelve novels, other writings.

My first encounter with his work happened a few years ago, when I was on my way to St Helena and half-arsedly planning a (to be aborted) book about Britain’s last remaining colonies and I read his A Lesser Dependency, about the largely forgotten atrocity committed upon the Chagos Islanders by successive UK governments.


I was struck by the book’s fluency and anger and lyricism and disgust and it’s bivouaced in my head ever since so reading his latest, the essentially gentle and sweet-natured Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers (great title), came as something of a surprise; a surprise, but not a disappointment.

He’s become underrated. Of course he has; He’s straight and white and middle-aged. He lights up no tendentious demographics. So it – in a society enthralled by momentous marketability – goes.

Anyway. We begin in Broadstairs, where Fargo Hawkins is the young gardener to the butcher Harry Swaine – ‘Beat Our Meat’ – who owns Hyde Hall and is more porcine than his prize-winning sausages.

He’s a monstrous man portrayed not without dark humour, with a touch of the Hilary Briss.

His beaten wife, Anne, absquatulates with Fargo, thirty years her junior, and takes us on a chase narrative, road trip, vengeance-will-be-done kind of caper, a tale comprised of more ingredients than those in the genetic map of Anne’s mongrel Radar, who she takes with her, because ‘what did matter was the impulse of love’.


For the most part, it’s deftly done, especially in the depiction of the intimacy between Anne and Fargo, this mismatched pair; essential stuff is left unspoken, suggested through acute detail and hint.

There is a moment of physicality between the two that is coyly, brilliantly portrayed in a kind of extended euphemism: ‘if that picture looks like a picture it’s not because it’s a pillow and a song or a ferry, and take that ferry and come back from the island where the rocks grow and sit in that chair if you want but don’t get comfortable because I’m falling for you’.

This is an almost Objectivist tic of Benson’s which recurs just the right amount of times and I find it quite beautiful.


Harry employs a PI, Derek Muir, to track down the elopers.

Derek is part of a national network of spooks and spies that he calls on and the extended cast of these secondaries and ancillaries cries out for closer editing, especially in the figures of Abi and Bert who could, and should, have been elided into one.

Nor do I see the necessity of withdrawing Derek from the narrative, even if his forced substitution is obviated by blackly hilarious happenstance, like a Robin Askwithian 70s sex comedy gatecrashed by Aileen Wournos.

Nor do we need Ray Craske. I take the point – that the tabloidy, curtain-twitching, sanctimonious and judgmental nosey-parkery of the British public is dismayingly prevalent – but this book is not mimetic; indeed, it’s almost cartoonish in its approach and texture.

Benson’s evident joy in and fondness for story-telling and words themselves ‘that roll across her lips like a special tongue’ perhaps needs taming somewhat by the imperatives of technique.


And it is, in essence, a joyous book.

The conclusion possesses a type of deliverance and redemption which lifts and expands; why this needs to take place at RS Thomas’s house above Porth Neigwl (unnamed, but easily recognisable) I don’t know, but it somehow fits.

Such are the mysteries of story-telling, as baffling and beatific as love between two ostensibly oppositional people, or the fidelity of a mongrel dog, or even in ‘eyebrows like panic in a wire factory’.

He can write, Pete Benson. We’re lucky that he continues to do so.

Review by Rhianon Holley, Buzz Magazine

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

As Fargo begins working as a gardener for Harry Swaine, owner of a large house and chain of butcher shops he witnesses a violent altercation between the butcher and his wife Anne. This leads to an impromptu decision, and Fargo and Anne decide to leave the south coast of England for a trip to north Wales, with the dog in tow. The ensuing chase from Harry, a private investigator and the public all leads to some eventful shenanigans.

The premise of this Kidnap Fury Of The Smoking Lovers may not seem unique – scorned husband, younger lover, wantaway wife – however, the plot features a wealth of drama, complex characters and extreme situations. The relaxed pace and humorous output all combine in such a way that lends itself to the author’s nuanced style of writing that works extremely well. Engaging and entertaining, it’s the perfect read to provide a bit of escapism.

Review by Alistair Fitchett, International Times

Saturday, July 2, 2022

A few weeks back I re-read a selection of Peter Benson novels and re-appraised the music of The Waterboys from 1984 to 1991.* It didn’t take long to decide that all were terrific and well-worth revisiting. In the midst of all this I also read Benson’s 2019 novel The Stromness Dinner, which struck me as a beautifully judged piece of poetic fiction with a realist backbone. Lots of handsomely worked language about landscape and the pleasures of food. Finely wrought but staying the right side of rococo, delicious filigree and shadow. In summing up The Stromness Dinner and Benson’s other novels I noted that nothing ever really happens in his books. Or rather that it does, but it doesn’t really. Even in something like the marvellous 2012 Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke where there are drug dealers and murder, car chases and falling in love with hippie girls, it feels as if those cartoon episodes of action are just that: cartoons punctuating an afternoon spent watching Pasolini films on Channel 4. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck infiltrating a Truffaut season on BBC2. What lingers most are the deceptively light observations on the worlds that we pass through, the lives we lead and the loves we love to love. Darkness, sorrow, and loss, too. Inevitably.

Well, just to prove that I’ve likely been talking out of my arse, Peter Benson has only gone and written a new novel where everything happens. Here the cartoons are the main feature, a psychedelic madcap race into oblivion where the pauses for breath allow the recharging of energies under the guise of philosophical reflections. Fidelity. Loneliness. Boredom. Justice. Mediated obsession with everyone else’s business. Actually not giving a fuck about anyone else’s business. Tuning out the hate and turning onto love. Deep breath and on we go again. Foot to the floor and take to the backroads where no-one will find us.

Now there was a time when Peter Benson might have been seen to be, if not on the M4 of literary ascendency, at least on the A303. This would be back when Benson’s debut novel The Levels was winning The Guardian fiction prize and when books like Riptide sported quotes from reviews in the Daily Mail. If it’s something of a shame then to suggest that subsequent books such as Two Cows, The Shape of Clouds, The Other Occupant, A Lesser Dependency and A Private Moon might have dropped him off even the A303 into the backwater lanes of the Blackdowns, perhaps that’s been to the reader’s benefit. It’s certainly true to say that each of these books has been a treasure of intelligent, measured prose untarnished by whatever the literary fashions of the days might have been. Not that such metaphorical travelling around in the backroads, reversing up for tractors and milk tankers, will have helped pay the bills. But perhaps it’s allowed Benson to build a body of work that is impressive in its wealth of intelligent prose. And there is, in all of Benson’s work, an indulgence in the luxury of words that is immensely pleasurable but never cloying and that never outstays its welcome. A certain pragmatism is always ready to curb pretension when it threatens to get above itself. Mind how you go, poet wanker.

If there was a delicate restraint in The Stromness Dinner then in Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers Benson really lets it all hang out. There is a spontaneity to the language here that feeds off the narrative and vice versa. At times it feels almost out of control, a wild and wicked stream of consciousness on the road to nowhere, which might be North Wales or might be anywhere else but here today. Running away to get away. Paul Haig doing Sly Stone. Peter Benson doing David Goodis doing William Burroughs reading R.S. Thomas whilst listening to Paul Haig doing Sly Stone. Albert Ayler wailing in the background. And then, and then, and then.

Pause. Breathe. Punctuate with an asterisk like a Big Flame change of pace and direction. Just so.

Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers is a comic thriller, a dystopian modern fairy tale searching for enlightenment in the richness of words and the white light of unexpected love. ‘End of the fucking world’ meets ‘Harold and Maude’, perhaps. It also recalls something of the wickedly funny series of novels featuring Peacock Johnson that Stuart David has been writing these past ten years or so: books that simultaneously remind us that striking the right comedic balance in a novel is a tough act to pull off, yet still make it seem so effortless. Bastards.

It’s not entirely smooth running though. There are some stumbles that might be intentional nods to what’s gone before or might be examples of a writer forgetting that past and losing their place. So there’s the same perfume (the one Marie Antoinette wore) that crops up in The Stromness Dinner, and there’s a familiar anecdote about a bishop and a diplomat from the south seas discussing the inherent impossibilities of religion and belief. Perhaps an editor said ‘Benson, have you lost your shit here?’ and Benson replied, ‘can’t you see the signposts of connective narrative that I’m threading through the cosmos?’ Or perhaps not.

As in his previous books, Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers showcases Benson’s gift for the gab. His exchanges between characters are eminently believable, quick fire, barely broken up with ‘he said, she said’ markers. It’s easy to get carried along, sometimes forgetting the place. Who’s this? What’s that? Doesn’t matter. Onwards!

I love this about Peter Benson’s books, and about Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers in particular. They are quick and easy reads, this one more than most. A tabloid headline turned against itself, Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers is about knowing when to say fuck you and fuck off and when to shut up, shut down and lose yourself in love. It raises you up on its shoulders and carries you away. Quick and easy, but not easy easy. Simple not stupid, stupid. It’s so difficult to do that. Stripping things out to leave just what’s required. Kidnap Fury of The Smoking Lovers then is the sound of a Modernist doing improv. Blowing wild and searching for peace.

User Reviews

Sorry there are no reviews yet for this book