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Dark, sexy and dangerous: How author Hilary Boyd ended up in a casino

Author Hilary Boyd’s latest novel examines how gambling can come between those in love

25 August, 2017 — By Peter Gruner

Hilary Boyd

HILARY Boyd has already written a surprise best-selling “gran-lit” book, based in Archway, which is being made into a film starring local actor Charles Dance.

Now she unravels the story of a 54-year-old family man secretly hooked on gambling in her latest novel, A Perfect Husband.

With the huge rise in betting, particularly among the middle-aged and elderly, and the increasing numbers of gambling outlets, Hilary’s latest work is particularly timely.

Lily is a widow, who, for two-and-a-half years, has been trying to cope with the sudden death of her beloved husband Garrett. She meets Freddy, a friendly and outgoing music executive based in Soho, and they like each other.

Gently, cheerfully and with good humour, Freddy is able to persuade Lily that there is life after loss. It helps that he’s good-looking, has a nice penthouse flat in the West End and appears to be financially comfortable.

But don’t be deceived. Freddy may seem confident, and with all the trappings of success, but he harbours an obsessive, self-destructive addiction to casino gambling.

Speaking this week, Hilary said: “So many people’s lives have been ruined by gambling. Whether it’s the addictive terminal machines in the betting shop where you can lose up to £2,000 in a day, or the luxurious casinos where you think you can win back your cash with one more throw of the dice. The trouble is, unlike drugs or booze, there are no physical signs for a gambling problem.

“You can’t help someone unless they are sure that they have a problem and want to be helped. In Freddy’s case he wasn’t even sure he needed help.”

Hilary’s descriptions of a casino in action are fascinating. She revealed that she went to a well-known establishment in London as part of her research.

“I have to admit I was very impressed. I can see why people enjoy the experience of a casino. It was quite dark and sexy inside and people looked glamorous. Even I got excited on the roulette wheel. But you see people losing tons of money.”

We learn that Freddy also bets on horses. It’s something he learnt from his father as a child, although he always promised himself he’d never do the same.

Hilary writes: “He (Freddy) experienced a sudden flashback of the sleazy betting shop, glimpsed as a boy, when his mother had dispatched him to fetch his father.

“He would put his head round the door to be confronted by the familiar shuffling desperation of a room full of no-hopers. The pungent miasma of booze and fags, the despair – almost tangible, even to a child – in the litter of discarded betting slips.”

At first Lily and Freddy establish a good relationship, full of passion and fun. Freddy teaches Lily to love again after the death of her husband. But then almost overnight Freddy becomes tense, snappy and distracted. Lily fears he is having an affair.

Her son, Dillon, who is about to get married, complains that Freddy had happily offered to foot the bill for the £17,000 wedding venue. But with just days to go Freddy hasn’t paid the bill and the wedding may have to be called off.

It seems Freddy has lost at least £66,000, mostly on the roulette wheel, including Lily’s own money. He also owes thousands to loan companies and has even been helping himself to money from his own company.

It’s easy to criticise poor old Freddy. He is, of course, very stupid to think he can beat the odds. But gambling is like an illness. It only requires one good win to think that you are invincible, which Freddy isn’t.

Hilary’s previous work, Thursdays in the Park, which was favourably reviewed in this paper in 2013, is also a story of mature people falling in love and struggling against the odds at a time when they should be settling down. It’s the romantic tale of a 60-something woman who meets the man of her dreams while looking after her grandchildren in Waterlow Park. The woman’s marriage is loveless, but rather than conform to elderly stereotypes, she discovers her attractiveness and sensuality, albeit late in life.

The film, which has faced delays, is now due out late next year and is expected to put Archway on the cinematic map.

A Perfect Husband. By Hilary Boyd, Quercus, pre-order the paperback at £7.99 or hardback £18.99.


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