GOING BACK by Roy Chatfield (RUNNER UP)

The action alternates between Basingstoke, the first six months after Jules’s release as a hostage and Central Africa, during the six years of his captivity. After six years as the hostage of African rebels, Jules, a fitter of mining equipment, is back home, determined to pick up his life where he left it. But home has changed. Tammy, his adoring daughter, is now a teenage eco-warrior; Penny, his emotionally dependant wife has been campaigning for his release. Six years earlier, he had come under the protection of Kalisa, the rebel’s idealistic doctor, nostalgic for Prague the city she grew up in. Jules inadvertently mentions her name in an argument with Tammy, but dismisses her as someone of no importance. He is uneasy about Andy, Penny’s socially maladroit campaign helper, who seems to have played a large part in her life while Jules was away. Andy is determined to stay one of the family, despite the two men taking a dislike to each other when they meet. Jules suspicions are fuelled by his own uneasy conscience, as he has slept with Kalisa. He had wanted to believe he had no choice. However, when Kalisa, realising she may be abusing her power over him, offered to break the relationship, Jules could not let her go. Jules accepts work at a new mine in Ghana without consulting Penny. She is horrified that he is going any near Africa. Andy sees a chance to ingratiate himself by interfering on her behalf. The resulting row forces Penny to break with her friend. When she realises she has not been told the whole truth about Kalisa, she presents Jules with an ultimatum – Ghana or her. Jules finally realises there is no going back to how their life was before. Unable to give up the job which is his identity, he tries to save their marriage by promising to tell Penny the whole truth. However, there are some things he dare not tell. At his last meeting with Kalisa he agreed to help the rebels mine blood coltan as the price of his release – a deal that would horrify Tammy. Worse, he begged Kalisa to leave with him, only to discover she was the daughter of a rebel leader. With Kalisa gone, he can’t face losing Penny. He prepares a version of the truth, which he hopes will satisfy her.

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