Love Books Love Travel - "Dodger"

In the creative hands of author James Benmore the enigmatic “Dodger” is plucked from his timely demise and whisked away on an thrilling ride that dashes around old London on a rip-roaring romp.

Fictions most beguiling villain returns on the race for his life. Literally.

It's a gem of an idea, picking up the baton from Charles Dickens. 6 years on in the Artful lads bleak future and he’s now the underdog, on the ropes and unaware that he’s about to finally get top billing in his own action adventure story.!james-benmore-/c195d

Jack Wild’s interpretation of Jack Dawkins in the classic musical “Oliver” stole more than a few silk handkerchiefs, he stole the show. It’s his distinctive delivery, fizzing with Cockney swagger and speech - “aint-cha’s” “coves” and “govnr’s” abound that the author uses to narrate the story.

But why would we want cheer on a villian?

This is England of the 1800's. The forgotten street children are pushed into a workhouse, up a chimney or into a life of crime. Survival is hard, it's the have's and the have nots and if you are not born from money you have no expectations let alone great ones.

Dodger’s views on Fagan's thievery corporation might morally be a bit skewed but it’s apparent why as James Benmore puts the spotlight on a rather nasty character skulking in the shadows. Kat Dawkins, Jack’s mother. She’s some piece of work, making Fagan seemed like parent of the year in comparison to this whoring harpy.

Poor old Dodger, left out to dry by Dickens. In the book Oliver Twist he’s condemned by the court and carted off on a convict ship down under for stealing a silver snuff box. Pages before Fagan is hung and before Bill Sykes bludgeons Nancy to death on route to his own sticky end.

Fagans Saffron Hill gang's reign of theft and nuisance is over, but news does not travel fast in the 1800’s, neither does a ship to Australia. Here we find Dodger in the dark, but under the burning outback sun enduring hard labour sheep sheering.

But strings are about to pulled to get him back to London and he unwittingly becomes the puppet to the mysterious Lord Evershed a powerful man, hunting for retribution, and a stolen treasure. Fagan the wily trickster has left a parting gift, “to remember me my dears”, Dodger’s ticket back to London…. if he makes a deal with the devil.

James Benmore adds another distinctive voice to the story, all be it a quiet one, in the guise of Warrigal, an aboriginal tracker who trails alongside Jack to ensure his mission is successful. It’s misplaced trust and confused camaraderie between the feuding pair that adds much of the humour to the book, and woe betide all who get in their way from the Peelers on the beat to the women under the sheets.

Dawkins is a true romantic. A magpie lust for hearts as well as shiny trinkets and now he’s back on his old stomping ground there’s plenty to catch his eye, like Ruby Solomon the only girl from Fagan’s old gang, all grown up she’s perfected a trick or two of her own. She’s aware that, like a cursed penny banging into Dodger means someone’s going to end up hurt.

You can’t get more of a dynamic action character as the Artful Dodger against the odds, and is reminiscent of the old first person narrative classics like "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" just with added spice for sauciness.

It’s a page turner full of wit and verve and I can’t wait to catch up on the next saga as “Dodger of the Dials” has now hit the streets running.

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