(A crime thriller of 88,000 words)
Elevator pitch – Displaced and Denounced
Two of Charles Dickens novels reworked to give them modern settings and language. Not produced to be a more woke version, but to illustrate that his story-telling and characterisations do still resonate today. Removing the barriers of almost two-hundred-year old language and their Victorian settings, clearly reveals his skills as a story teller.
Displaced: Olive is based on Oliver Twist.
Olive Turner has been lost deep within today’s modern care service. She stoically prepares for transition into work and adulthood, but find she wants more. She escapes with a fellow resident, but finds herself dumped.
Olive decides to travel up to London, but on the way, Savvy befriends and grooms her into a Bulgarian gang. They train her in begging and shop-lifting, but she is arrested. Meanwhile, in the background, competing family connections emerge that have different ambitions for her.
She is taken back by Georgi, Savvy and Sally into the fold. Dragan plots to have her become embroiled in a burglary, to discredit her. She is attacked during the burglary and abandoned by Georgi. She seeks help from the house they burgled, and is made welcome.
Sally hears of threats against Olive and tips off her friends. This triggers violence and death and sparks the denouement of Olive’s tale.
Denounced: A Tale of Two Courtsd is based upon A Tale of Two Cities.
Darius Mason is an Irano-British language teacher who is at the centre of A Tale of Two Courts.
The story begins with the release of Mehdi Ghassemi from the notorious Evin prison of Tehran. He has been imprisoned for eighteen years. His daughter, Tara Argon, arrives to find him in a weakened physical and mental state and escorts him backto London
Later in London, Darius finds himself at the Central Criminal Court facing a spurious charge of treason and espionage. The case is thrown out on the basis of a discredited identification. Those involved in the court case become regular companions as Mehdi improves.
Darius cautiously asks for Tara’s hand, recognising the exceptional closeness of father and daughter. He wishes to reveal his family connections in Iran, his family name. But Mehdi makes his wait until the day of the wedding, clearly worried about this fact.
True to his promise Darius tells Mehdi, the wedding takes place and they honeymoon. Mehdi falls back into the fugue state he was in on his release. He recovers before their return and life moves on.
It is his family connections that lure Darius back to Iran. A zealous couple, the Dehdaris, denounce him into the Republic of Iran legal system. He is committed to Evin prison which had previously taken eighteen years of his father-in-law’s life.
Mehdi and Tara also travel to Tehran, and Mehdi uses his fame as a notorious Evin prisoner to have Darius freed. However, the Dehdaris are tenacious, they condemn him with new evidence and this time Darius is condemned to a public hanging – the next day!
His friends and family work feverishly to save him.
Jump forward to synopsis for Denounced: A Tale of Two Courts
Synopsis – Displaced and Denounced
This is a modern retelling of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The tale is still relevant today in that social care continues to fail many of its recipients, But Dickens Victorian settings and complex use of language can be something of a barrier to many modern readers.
The novel follows Olive Turner, abandoned by her parents she is admitted into the care system. Moved around many facilities, until at sixteen she is placed into a sort of half-way house populated by a group of interesting individuals.
The facility finds her jobs as a hairdressing junior, but she asks for more. She is moved to a new role as a trainee barista at a coffee shop. but Olive is bullied by another orphan. As a result, Olive rather falls through the system again. Another resident gives her the impetus to run away, but then dumps her, so she strikes out alone for London.
She hitches, and with no real goals in London she is smoothly ‘hooked’ at an M4 motorway service station by a chancer, Savvy Rowe. They share a hitch into London, but Savvy is already plotting a crime using. Ed Warden their lift.
She is delivered into a Bulgarian gang run by Dragan and his fixer, Georgi Stoykow. They set out to groom her. Olive is first taught to beg but requests more. She is promoted into their shop-lifting gang, but new measures at an Oxford Street store means she is arrested and charged.
The court despatches her to a south London home where she meets a volunteer worker, Fiona Greening, who in some manner feels drawn to help her. But Dragan tracks her down, fearing she will reveal his location and the gang’s occupations. He arranges for Georgi, Savvy and Sally to grab her.
Georgi has a planned burglary south of the Thames, but it needs someone small to get them in. Dragan has ulterior motives for proposing Olive, he is working with some mysterious individual who wants Dragan to have Olive clearly implicated in crime. She does the break-in but is injured. Georgi abandons her. she goes back to the house, where she is cared for by Rose and her aunt, Mrs Wright.
Georgi has put Savvy’s discovery, Ed Warden, in hospital because he was asking too many questions. Dragan meets with Georgi to discuss this loss of the potential for further burglaries. He asks Georgi to get Sally to investigate Olive’s situation, still fearing she might betray them. Sally overhears Dragan’s conversation with the mysterious individual, Brotherson, who has some interest in Olive.
Later, Sally overhears Brotherson and seeks out Rose Gardener to tell her Olive is being threatened. Rose pleads with Sally to let her help her, but she refuses. Rose offers her money but this too is refused. They agree to meet up again.
Olive has caught up with Fiona who agrees to help them. He and Rose decide to meet up with Sally, who fails to make their first chance of a meeting. Dragan has become suspicious of Sally and has someone follow her to the second appointment. Dragan tells Georgi of Sally’s betrayal. He storms off and kills Sally in a rage.
Fiona has Brotherson brought to her office and reveals his back story. Fiona threatens him with police action unless he unravels his plot against Olive.
Dragan’s ‘association is raided, those who scattered meet up in Brick Lane where Savvy is holding court. First Buster, his dog, and then a distraught Georgi arrive. The police raid the location and Georgi falls while escaping. He is hit by a night bus, the driver finds Buster either licking or feeding on Georgi’s crushed skull.
Finally, Olive learns of her family history.
DENOUNCED: A TALE OF TWO COURTS
This is a modern retelling of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Here the two cities are London and Tehran, the guillotine becomes a public hanging by mobile crane.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. We are first reminded of the stark contrast between the Shah’s rule and life under the Republic of Iran.
Tara Argon, real name Tahmineh Ghassemi, is assisted by Gil Corry, an Iranian-British journalist, to greet her father, Mehdi Ghassemi an Iranian chemist, back to freedom after eighteen years imprisonment in the notorious Edin gaol of Tehran.
Mehdi has been released into the household of Ebrahim and Soroya Dehdari, a carpet seller a carpet seller with Republican sympathies, but who had known Mehdi before his prison term. They find Mehdi subdued and monosyllabic after his imprisonment. His daughter takes Mehdi back to London where he can be rehabilitated.
Later in London, Darius Mason appears before the Central Criminal Court, or The Old Bailey. He too is Anglo-Iranian and charged with treason. Represented by Alexander Fischer Chambers we learn that he is working as a language tutor in London.
Darius had been approached by two British intelligence officers, asking for details of his father, his uncle and their friends. When he was not forthcoming, they became threatening and had trumped up these treason charges.
The case fails based on the identification of Darius. Alexander’s second was Theodore Churchill, with a striking resemblance to Darius. When Alexander points this out, Darius is freed. Theo is a world-weary drinker, bright but not at all sociable. he is cynical about social life. Theo ponders whether one should like someone who resembles you?
In Iran, the uncle of Darius, Mahmoud Mazandarani, is running his ‘surgery’ in Sārī. He leaves in an armoured Range Rover for his villa in the north. Exiting the car, he sees someone at the gate who shouts, ‘The Devil awaits you!’ Mahmoud greets his nephew to the villa. They have an awkward conversation andy part on bad terms. That night Mahmoud is murdered and Darius rejects his inheritance, wanting it to be used for the good of the locals.
Life moves on for the Ghassemi household in London. Mehdi appears now to be back to normal though his friends fear a relapse. Darius settles back in London and approaches Mehdi to enquire if he may ask Tara to marry him. Mehdi agrees but there is an issue.
Back in Tehran the Dehdaris are provoked by a British spy who tells them of Tara’s plans to marry in London and reveals her husband-to-be as the nephew of Mahmoud Mazandarani. Ebrahim Dehdari travels up to the Mazandarani villa, plunders and burns it and takes captive Asraf Turani who had been left in charge of the villa. In his role as leader of a militia Ebrahim also enters Evin, seeks out Mehdi’s cell and discovers a document in the mattress.
The marriage proceeds in London. On the morning of the marriage Darius makes good his promise to tell Mehdi his true name. The ceremony proceeded, but when the couple departed on their honeymoon, Mehdi collapses into the fugue state that had affected him when released from Edin. He fortunately recovers before they return, but Miss Pickle and Gil are worried about his future fragility.
Darius seeks to dissuade Gil from going to Iran because it has become a dangerous place. While at his office he finds a note addressed to Daroosh, and Darius offers to deliver it. He opens it to find it is a letter from Turani who had been imprisoned and is threated with execution for the sins of the Mazandaranis.
Darius feels obliged to go back to Tehran to save this loyal servant to his family, but it proves to be a trap set by Dehdari, to have him imprisoned and executed. We learn that he is the target of a vindictive woman, Dehdari’s wife, who has sworn to expunge his whole family.
On arrival at Tehran airport, he is arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Tehran Guidance Patrol. He argues his case, but is committed to Edin. He does prevail upon Dehdari to tell Gil he is here.
Gil is shocked by the arrival of Mehdi and Tara, stunned that they are in Tehran. Mehdi draws on the popular support he has as a released Evin prisoner. He marches at the head of a supportive group to Evin to try to release Darius.
Mehdi shows Tara a place where Darius might see her at a particular time of day. She goes there every day in her chador and occasionally takes her daughter and her father with her.
Darius appears before the Revolutionary Council. Mehdi has worked hard and when he speaks in defence of Darius this swings the public gallery. Darius is released and escorted by a cheering crowd back to their rental property. But later that evening a group arrives to arrest Darius again.
In Tehran, Miss Parsley encounters her brother, Cyrus, who as a spy is operating as an Evin guard under cover. Theo Churchill insists on some time alone with Cyrus.
The Court hears the case against Darius. Dehdari has passed the document he discovered in Mehdi’s mattress at Evin. The letter tells a dreadful tale of the death of two young people. Mehdi reveals that as a result he was denounced by the brothers to ensure his silence. In the note Mehdi also condemns ‘the brothers, and all members of their family, for these heinous acts.’
Denounced by his friend and father-in-law, Darius is sentenced to be executed the next day. Mehdi leaves to see his contacts to try to get a reprieve for Darius. Theo travels around Tehran setting his plans in place. When he visits the Dehdari carpet store he overhears Soroya’s vehemence.
Darius is trying to rationalise his death, scheduled for tomorrow, he writes to Tara, Mehdi and Gil. He contemplates the actuality of execution. It is a shock when Theo arrives in his cell. Theo drugs Darius, exchanges clothes, and has Cyrus wheelchair Darius, in his clothes, out of the jail.
Gil has all the necessary documents to rush the family out of Iran, but the tension during their departure is intense. Soraya is trying to build her case against Mehdi and Tara and goes to their rental to find them gone. She loses her temper and, in defending himself, the rental owner accidentally kills Soraya.
The five condemned prisoners are led out onto the makeshift gallows. Theo assists one of the others then looks around at those gathered to watch the event. He is calm, and thinks,
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’