Published by Head of Zeus
Available in Ebook, Hardback and Paperback (8 February 2018)
Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Behind Her Back for its final day. My thanks to Clare at Head of Zeus for the tour invite and for the extract.
| About the Book |
In a TV station run by men, how do the women make themselves heard?
Liz Lyon is a television producer at StoryWorld, the UK’s favourite morning show. Her job is stressful and demanding, but she is determined to show her teenage daughter that women can succeed.
Then a new female colleague joins the station. In this predatory climate of toxic masculinity Liz and Lori should be helping each other. But when Lori starts secretly building her power base with the bosses, Liz is desperate to know what’s going on behind her back…
EARLY AUGUST Chalk Farm flat, Sunday, 2 p.m.
As soon as we got in, Flo looked for Mr Crooks our cat and started to panic when he wasn’t in the flat or our garden. She was straight on her mobile to Janis who reassured her that he’d been fine when she’d been in to feed him this morning. He had probably gone for a wander.
I stuffed dirty clothes into the washing machine, two weeks’ worth, some of which were still powdered with sand from the beach at Bordighera. For the first time in years, having Simon as my deputy had allowed me to have a complete break from StoryWorld and I had returned with a good tan and a hole in my finances.
I was heading back to work on Monday and needed a briefing from Simon. I made a mug of tea, black because I’d forgotten to buy milk, and called him.
‘Welcome back. Was your flight OK? Heard there were delays at Heathrow,’ he said.
‘We didn’t fly. We were on the overnight train from Ventimiglia and it was brilliant, though I didn’t sleep much.’
‘Fantastic. Pasta and ice cream to die for and we swam in the sea most days. How have things been?’
‘Fine, really, no mishaps to report, and Ledley is going from strength to strength.’
‘Glad to hear it. Fizzy is back next month, you know.’
‘So I heard. He’s taken to it so well. Maybe he’ll find it hard going back to a weekly slot,’ Simon said.
Ledley, the StoryWorld chef, has been sitting in for our star presenter Fizzy Wentworth. She’s been on maternity leave and he’s been a hit with our viewers. Fizzy had her baby in late May and is only taking three and a half months off. She’s determined to be back on the sofa at the beginning of September. She’s worried that if she stays away longer Ledley will get too entrenched in the anchor role.
‘And Lori Kerwell arrived last week,’ Simon said, and there was something in his voice, the verbal equivalent of rolling his eyes.
‘What’s she like?’
‘She’s scary; really scary. All pent-up energy and dead eyes.’
‘She insisted on coming to the morning meetings and by the second day was commenting on the output.’
‘I hope that’s a short-term thing. It’s an editorial meeting,’ I said.
‘Yeah, but she said it will help her understand where she can develop business tie-ins.’
‘And is Julius OK with that?’
‘Not sure. He put her in her place on Friday.’
The gossip at the station was that Julius Jones, our director of programmes, was not overjoyed at the appointment of Lori Kerwell to develop sales and marketing. She had been appointed by the MD, Saul Relph. He is the money man at StoryWorld. Julius, who is the ideas man, was not involved in her selection and employment. There is often conflict between the editorial and the business sides in television.
‘Can you talk me through the running order for tomorrow?’ I said.
‘Loula is our celebrity interview of the day.’
Loula was the latest winner in ITV’s blockbuster talent show.
‘That’s a good signing.’
‘Harry got her for us. And Molly’s story is on FGM.’
Female genital mutilation was a challenging topic for my researcher Molly to have chosen.
‘How did she cover that?’
‘She found this young Somalian woman, Beydaan, very brave. She shopped her parents to social services because she doesn’t want her younger sister to go through what they did to her. Liz, she was seven years old when she was cut.’
‘I know. Molly had to shoot the interview so you can’t see her face. And we’ve changed her name, of course.’
This was making me uneasy. Ours is a morning show and we have to be careful about the content we put out.
‘And who will Ledley talk to about it?’
‘We’ve booked the officer from the Foreign Office who runs the FGM Unit.’
‘That’s a good call. Are you sure Ledley is OK with this?’
‘Molly briefed him at length on Friday.’
‘Well, huge thanks, Simon, for all you’ve done. Let’s both sit in the gallery tomorrow and we can go to the morning meeting together.’
‘It’s good to have you back.’
I unlocked the French doors and stepped into our garden. Dead blooms and leaves had accumulated and it needed a good sweep. I have a tiny shed in the corner and I rummaged out the garden broom. My beloved hollyhocks needed water too. I filled the watering can and gave them a good soaking. Their large pale pink and yellow blooms rested against the warmth of the back wall. There is something satisfying about watering plants. The hollyhocks are too big really for our small patch but I love them so much and looking at them lifts my spirits. The washing cycle had finished so I pulled the clothes out and hung them over the drying frame which is a job I hate doing as the frame is not large enough. I wondered if I should call Ledley and talk through the FGM story with him. It is not the easiest subject for a male presenter to deal with. But I had left Simon in charge and I trusted him. The cat flap clattered and Mr Crooks emerged, blinking, into the sitting room.
When he saw me he let out an outraged yowl.
‘Flo, Mr Crooks is back and he’s got the hump,’ I called out.
Flo came out of her room. She had stripped down to her panties and a white T-shirt and I admired her long tanned legs as she walked across the kitchen and picked up Mr Crooks. My rosebud was turning into a rose.
| About the Author |
Jane Lythell worked as a TV producer and commissioning editor before becoming Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA (as Jane Clarke). She experienced first-hand the sexual and power politics of the TV industry which have hit the headlines recently.
This is her fourth novel, and the second title in the StoryWorld series. Jane lives in Brighton.