ITWas Constantine Fitzgibbon famous before the publication of this novel? He’d written other books that were well-received. The reception of When the Kissing Had To Stop, especially when a television film was made in 1962, enabled him to refer to himself thereafter as a “fascist hyena,” citing a critic.
The novel answers the question posed in Browning’s “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”:
As for Venice and her people, merely born to bloom and drop
Here on earth they bore their fruitage, mirth and folly were the crop:
What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?
The setting is England. The novel is full of kissing, mostly adulterous, while in the background a neutralist government comes to power, throws out U.S. missiles, and invites the Soviets in to inspect. As a new order takes shape, characters rise or fall depending on their ruthlessness. The portrait of the policeman, Pendergast, who rises, is particularly interesting. By the end, the survivor among the principals is the cuckold, now known as Captain Felix, resisting the Russian occupation from the mountains in Wales and dealing harshly with collaborators.
The first line of the last chapter prompted a friend to imagine a copy editor taking exception: “Mr. Fitzgibbon, shouldn’t it read ‘quickly,’ because grammar demands an adverb here.” The line as published reads, “When the guillotine comes down, it comes down fast.” A grammarian might also take exception to a comma in the novel’s final line: “It was a wet autumn and cold winter, in England.” Fitzgibbon knew his craft, and his recent history.
January 17 2016