The Thuggery Affair


The Thuggery Affair is a deeply odd book, one I didn't read until I was well and truly an adult. It's not a favourite among Antonia Forest fans, largely because it doesn't feature our usual protagonist Nicola at all, but it does have some moments of superb writing and moments of high, cinematic drama, despite its flaws.

This re-read was prompted by a read-through by the most excellent Ann Philips on the Antonia Forest Facebook group, and as usual it was hugely enjoyable. It is so much fun to read a book collectively, different people pointing out things you've never noticed before, drawing links and highlighting references that have passed you by. I always enjoy The Thuggery Affair because, though Nicola is missing, her twin Lawrie, my favourite character, is very much part of the action, and I enjoy seeing Lawrie in action and also glimpsing inside her head. Probably the main reason why Thuggery isn't as loved as Forest's other books is because the gang of youths, the 'thugs' of the title, speak in a heightened, elaborate slang, which can be fun to decode, but is also a bit of a drag on the action.

'Suppose I switch this ring to a flutter that's an also-ran, then it's the also-ran's ring I hand Maudie. 'N if I tell Maudie this was a flutter as was strictly the clipped-wing-world-without-end, due to be culled -- you reading me? So Maudie's the squarest. Maudie digs the integrity racket like she's crazy for it. If Maudie's told he's a clipped-wing, Maudie won't claim.'

Oh, did I mention that the gang is smuggling drugs via pigeons? (Apparently this isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.) All the action takes place over a single twenty-four day, something that didn't register with me until my second reading, and some chapters read like breathless, Technicolour film scenes. I would actually love to see this as a movie... But a movie of an overlooked, obscure 1960s young adult crime thriller? That's never going to happen.


  1. Thank you for the 'Bill and Ted' reference / compliment! TTA would definitely make a good film - though the script writer might need to tone down the slang of one group and the privilege of the other.

  2. Yes, there is a LOT of unexamined privilege in this book! But still a lot to relish. Thanks again for pointing it out!