I’m genuinely delighted to welcome Anne Fletcher and Jon Teckman to Linda’s Book Bag today. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jon here and of reviewing his novel, Ordinary Joe here so it’s high time I redressed the balance and had a chat with Anne too!
Staying in with Anne Fletcher and Jon Teckman
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Anne and welcome back Jon. Thank you both for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thank you for inviting us Linda, it’s great to get the chance for us both to stay in with you!
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
Anne: We’ve bought along a book each and it wasn’t until we started to pack them for you that we realised their similar starting points. It hadn’t occurred to us before that we’ve both written books where the central character, Joseph, is desperate to save his family and a journey to the French Riviera becomes a crucial part of that quest.
(Oo. That’s spooky!)
Jon: But that’s where the similarities end! They are very different reads.My novel Ordinary Joe, is the story of a mild-mannered Jewish accountant working in the film industry. He’s an unremarkable man in a very exciting industry who makes a dreadful mistake.
(And having read and thoroughly enjoyed Ordinary Joe, I know ALL about that!)
Anne: My book, From the Mill to Monte Carlo, is non-fiction and it’s the true story of my great, great, great uncle Joseph Hobson Jagger. He who grew up in great poverty, working in the mills of Victorian Bradford but when his family fell into destitution and was threatened with debtors’ prison he came up with an ingenious scheme to save them.
(He sounds quite a character!)
Jon: We’ve chosen these books because they are very personal to us. Mine draws on my years working in the British film industry..
Anne: And mine is my search for the truth behind a family legend.
Jon: They also happen to be the only books we have written so far!
(Maybe you should co-author a book together…)
What can we expect from an evening in with Ordinary Joe and From the Mill to Monte Carlo?
Jon: Ordinary Joe is a comedy which tells the story of Joe West and his desperate attempts to avoid the consequences of a stupid, impulsive act that could destroy his life. He is an ordinary, middle aged accountant but it’s this very ordinariness that lures the attention of glamorous movie star, Olivia Finch,who is disillusioned with the fawning attentions and spiritual emptiness of Hollywood. Following a night of unexpected passion Joe realises that all his fantasies may have come true but his life has turned into a nightmare. The book follows him from New York to London to Cannes in his attempts to shake off the obsessive celebrity whilst trying to hide his infidelity from the wife that he is desperate to keep. It’s a black comedy which in some places may, or may not, draw on people I met and situations that I found myself in whilst working in the movies!
(I think you might need to explain a bit more about those people and situations later after this blog post Jon!)
Anne: Except the infidelity though he assures me! It is a very funny book but also has quite a few challenging themes. It’s caused quite a lot of conversation about Joe’s character and what would be the right thing to do in this situation. We could have a good chat about that Linda!
(I think we could. I’ve read scores and scores of books since Ordinary Joe but I can still remember him VERY clearly.)
My Joseph is quite different. I grew up on his story; my Dad used to tell me it as a child, and after he died I decided to research it properly. What I discovered was an incredible rags to riches story. In his desperation to save his family, Joseph worked out a legal and infallible way to win at roulette, travelled to the Riviera and became the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. He returned to Bradford a multi-millionaire.
(Wow! That’s quite a story. I have to read From the Mill to Monte Carlo as soon as I can now!)
I’m not going to tell you how he did it because I don’t want to spoil the book. But it’s a real detective story. For someone who did such an extraordinary thing he left very little trace and so it’s taken me years to track down the truth behind the family story. The book is as much about my search as it is about what Joseph did and I’ve been thrilled in particular by the historian Tracy Borman’s review of it:
‘An utterly compelling and deeply personal account of a working class Victorian man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. In telling the remarkable story of her ancestor, the author brings to life one of the most transformative periods in British history. Her painstaking research is as fascinating as the tale itself. Not to be missed.’
(My goodness, that’s quite an endorsement!)
Jon: We’ve had quite a few readers say to us that both books would make great movies. Obviously we agree! We’ve had a bit of fun imagining who we’d cast as our two Josephs. I think Sam West would make the best Joseph Hobson Jagger as he has a Bradford connection (his father Timothy was born there). He wouldn’t be a bad Joe West either although I could also imagine him being played by someone like David Mitchell or Martin Freeman – opposite Scarlet Johansson as Olivia, of course.
(Actually, I think Martin Freeman would be perfect for Joe West…)
What else have you brought along and why?
Anne: The Riviera is central to both of our books and so I’ve bought along a roulette chip that I won in the casino at Monte Carlo. I played in the very room where my ancestor won his millions which was the most incredible part of the whole writing experience for me. Of course I didn’t have an infallible winning strategy like he did but at least I won this!
Jon: Well Joe West has quite a large chip on his shoulder so perhaps that would do for me too, although I know you wouldn’t even let me through the door if I wasn’t wearing a pair of Mr Silly socks. As you know, Linda, they play a significant part in Joe West’s story – everyone else will have to read the book to find out why!
(They will indeed!)
Thank you both for staying in with me this evening. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing about both Joes and wish you every success with Ordinary Joe and From the Mill to Monte Carlo.
From the Mill to Monte Carlo
This is the story of a man who went from Yorkshire mill worker to Monte Carlo millionaire. Amongst the men ‘who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’, Joseph Hobson Jagger is unique. He is the only one known to have devised an infallible and completely legal system to defeat the odds at roulette and win a fortune. But he was not what might be expected. He wasn’t a gentleman or an aristocrat, he wasn’t a professional gambler, he was a Yorkshire textile worker who had laboured in the Victorian mills of Bradford since childhood.
What led a man like this to travel nearly a thousand miles to the exclusive world of the Riviera when most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born? The trains that took him there were still new and dangerous, he did not speak French and had never left the north of England. His motivation was strong. Joseph, his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was only two, faced a situation so grave that their only escape seemed to be his desperate gamble on the roulette tables of Monte Carlo.
Today Jagger’s legacy is felt in casinos worldwide and yet he is virtually unknown. Anne Fletcher is his great-great-great niece and in this true-life detective story she uncovers how he was able to win a fortune, what happened to his millions and why Jagger should now be regarded as the real ‘man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.
A brilliant, fast-paced comedy about life behind the scenes in the film business, and how to survive when your greatest fantasy comes true and threatens to wreck your perfectly ordinary life.
After the movie, when the credits roll up you might see his name flash past: ‘Joseph West’ and think nothing of it. Not an actor, not a director, Joe is just one of the money men, kept at arms distance from the talent. Until one night in New York the talent comes calling.
Olivia Finch is lit from within, an actress who was born to it but can’t stand the superficiality anymore. Now all she wants is a real conversation with an ordinary guy – and Olivia Finch always gets what she wants. Cue Joe, married, ordinary accountant, Joe.
And then cue a snowball of deception, acting and confusion that puts Joe in the limelight, his marriage in trouble and a dead body on the ground in this hilarious caper.
Published by Borough Press, Ordinary Joe is available for purchase through the links here.
About Anne Fletcher
Anne Fletcher read history at Oxford University. She has a successful career in heritage and has worked at some of the most exciting historic sites in the country including Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Bletchley Park and Tower Bridge. She is the great-great-great niece of Joseph Hobson Jagger, ‘the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’ and the subject of her first book From the Mill to Monte Carlo. Her search for his story started with only a photograph, a newspaper article and the lyrics of the famous song. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband Jon and their sons Joseph and Matthew.
You can follow Anne on Twitter @Annecfletcher.
About Jon Teckman
He served as an advisor on film policy to both Conservative and Labour governments before becoming Chief Executive of the British Film Institute in 1999. He now lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with his wife Anne and sons Joseph and Matthew. Ordinary Joe is his first novel.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @Jontwothreefour.