The Closed Circle
The Closed Circle
The Rotters’ Club was never intended to be a stand-alone novel. It began life as an idea I’d had when I was still a schoolboy, and the plan was always to make it the first volume of an enormous roman fleuve along the lines of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. In fact, when I began to work seriously on this idea in 1997, my intention was to write six novels involving the same characters. The first one was provisionally entitled The Learning Curve, and the last one was always going to be called The Closed Circle. The idea was that the covers of each book should have an arc of a circle on them, and when you arranged the books into a rectangle, and put the covers together like the pieces of a jigsaw, a completed or ‘closed’ circle would be revealed.
Perhaps this plan was always too ambitious: in any case, I quickly decided that I would only write two of the projected sequence – volume one (now called The Rotters’ Club) and volume six. The Closed Circe is often referred to (including by me) as a ‘sequel’ to The Rotters’ Club, but a better phrase might be ‘companion piece’; or better still, ‘mirror image’. I don’t know, for instance, if many people have noticed that the two novels have exactly the same number of chapters, but in The Closed Circle they are numbered in reverse order; or that the last words of each of the three sections of The Rotters’ Club are also the titles of those sections, whereas in The Closed Circle, the same is true of the first words of each section. These were among a number of devices I used to ensure that the two novels ‘reflected’ each other as precisely as possible.
The Closed Circle originally ended with a chapter numbered ‘0’, which consisted solely of a cutting from a financial newspaper making clear that the quartet of businessmen known as the ‘Phoenix Four’, who seemed to have come to the rescue of the failing Longbridge factory, were in fact taking alarming sums of money out of it in the form of pensions and payments for themselves. (£42 million according to some reports.) This chapter was removed – slightly to my regret – because early readers of the novel found it too downbeat and pessimistic.
Things do not work out too well in The Closed Circle for Benjamin Trotter, my hero and alter ego. His misfortunes weighed on my mind in the years after publishing the book, and it was partly to give Benjamin some luckier breaks that I decided to revisit his character for my novel Middle England more than a decade later.