Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Friday, 7 January 2011
Re your interest in Douglas Hayes - in case you haven't found out any more about him: 'Tomorrow the Apricots' is part of a - largely autobiographical? - sextet called overall, 'The History of a Selfish Man' - beginning with 'My Father in his Dizzerbell' and ending with 'Quite a Good Address.' His most famous novel, 'The Comedy Man' possibly the truest, least sentimental and funniest novel ever written about the lives of jobbing actors was filmed with Kenneth More and Angela Douglas in the cast. The film is fun, but the book is better. I too have tried to find out what became of him. A dust-jacket blurb claims that he walked out of the cast of a West End play in the mid-1950s and went to Australia, implying that most of his novels - nine altogether I think - were written while globetrotting and living out of a suitcase. I can't find out whether he is alive, but haven't yet gone to the lengths of looking up wills and death certificates. The last trace I've seen is a letter to The Times in the mid-Seventies complaining about the derisory proceeds of the public lending right and stating that he was currently working in a meat-packing factory. Abelard-Schumann who published 'Comedy Man' are no longer in business. When I made enquiries of Macmillan who published the sextet, they said they had been taken over since they published those books, and their records lost. - I hope this is useful: if you do find out more about this elusive author I'd be grateful for any information.
Anybody out there know anything more?
Thursday, 6 January 2011
Back by popular request from last year, some more opening lines for you. Book and author, please.
1. "Was there anything quite so under-rated in this shallow, plastic, global-corporate, tall-skinny-latte, kiddy-meal-and-free-toy, united-colours-of-fuck-you-too world than a good, old-fashioned, no-frills, retail blow-job?"
"The Sacred Art of Stealing", Christopher Brookmyre
2. "ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First ..."
"American Psycho", Bret Easton Ellis
3. "The only advice I can offer, should you wake up vertiginously in a strange flat, with a thoroughly installed hangover, without any of your clothing, without any recollection of how you got there, to the police sledge-hammering down the door to the accompaniment of excited dogs, while you are surrounded by bales of lavishly-produced magazines featuring children in adult acts, the only advice I can offer is to try to be good-humoured and polite."
"The Thought Gang", Tibor Fischer
4. "When the shower of shit, which he welcomed, spattered over his chest and belly Professor Pfeidwengeler was thinking about his worst enemy, Dr. Ruth Neumark."
"Brown-out on Breadfruit Boulevard", Timothy Mo
5. "Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason."
"The Bell", Iris Murdoch
6. "Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw', that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs."
"The Secret History", Donna Tartt.
7. "The waiter, who had slipped out to make a quick telephone call, came back into the coffee room of the Goose and Gherkin wearing the starry-eyed look of a man who has just learned that he has backed a long-priced winner."
"Ring for Jeeves", P.G. Wodehouse
8. "Gerald Middleton was a man of mildly but persistently depressive temperament. Such men are not at their best at breakfast, nor is the week before Christmas their happiest time."
"Anglo-Saxon Attitudes", Angus Wilson
9. "September 3rd, 1939. The last minutes of peace ticking away. Father and I were watching Mother dig our air-raid shelter. 'She's a great little woman', said Father. 'And getting smaller all the time, I added'. Two minutes later a man called Chamberlain who did Prime Minister impressions spoke on the wireless; he said: 'As from eleven o'clock we are at war with Germany' (I loved the WE). 'War?' said Mother. 'It must have been something we said', said Father.
"Adolph Hitler: my part in his downfall", Spike Milligan
10. "Whether or no she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation."
"Can you forgive her?", Anthony Trollope
Next, some questions concerning business and finance. In each case, supply the name of the character, the name of the book (if appropriate) and the name of the author.
11 Whose stockbroker was called Mr Mammonchance?
Lucia, E.F. Benson
12 This merchant sits at the centre of an international web of business and finance. He plots a revolt against the civil power while fathering a love-child with the narrator's girlfriend. His wife has affairs with two men who may be able to expose the plot in order to spy on them. His tongue-tied brother turns out to be a gifted orator. Their mother is a beautiful woman who is horribly disfigured by a dreadful disease.
Nessim, "Cleo" (Alexandria Quartet), Lawrence Durrell
13 This very wealthy man of leisure and refinement becomes even more wealthy as a result of shorting the market before the Wall Street Crash. Appointed a count by the Pope, he leaves his immense fortune when he dies on the Riviera to his niece, so that her husband can try to reconstruct his father's investment firm which failed during the crash.
Elliott Templeton, "The Razor's Edge", Somerset Maugham
14 The heroine rejects this man's proposal of marriage when he is rich and she is poor, but then marries him later when he is poor and she is rich, using her unexpected inheritance to re-start his mill. In the meantime she has lied to him in his capacity as investigating magistrate in a murder enquiry in order to protect the black sheep of the family, her brother, who is a deserter from the army.
John Thornton, "North and South", Elizabeth Gaskell
15 Named after his ability to conjure up his favourite breakfast right there in the dealing room, this character is one of a cast of dealers sitting high in the fog and low clouds of San Francisco. Unlike his colleagues, he succeeds in breaking out of the endless cycle of contracts and options which keep them chained to their desks but prevent them from ever actually becoming rich.
Eggs Igino, "Bombardiers", Po Bronson
16 This unfortunate young man is simultaneously sent down from university and loses his small inheritance. Impoverished, he becomes engaged to a wealthy businesswoman. However, innocent of business matters, he neglects to realise that the business in question actually consists of running brothels. As he sits down to his pre-wedding breakfast the police arrive and arrest him.
Paul Pennyfeather, "Decline and Fall", Evelyn Waugh
17 Whose long and successful career as a prosperous local merchant and civic dignitary is haunted by the guilt of having sold his wife to a stranger at a country fare as a penniless and drunk young man?
Michael Henchard, "The Mayor of Casterbridge", Thomas Hardy
18 This character loses all his money by investing it with the rogue banker Mr Merdle, and is imprisoned for debt. Ironically he has himself in the meantime restored the fortune of a man long imprisoned for debt at the same prison, having been made aware of his plight by the man's daughter. Released when his business partner's affairs prosper overseas, he marries the daughter.
Arthur Clennam, "Little Dorrit", Charles Dickens
19 One of the central characters realises that he has been used as a pawn in setting up a new company, buying lots of goods on credit, then selling them all quickly for cash and moving on without trace. The term applied to this particular type of fraud is also the title of the book.
"The Long Firm", Jake Arnott
20 This financier and man of property gets into a protracted dispute with an architect whom he has engaged to build him a house. Though ultimately successful in court, it proves a pyrrhic victory since the damages are paid for the architect by an elderly well--wisher. In what rapidly becomes a very tangled story, the architect is in love with the financier's wife, but later dies tragically in a traffic accident, distracted by hearing some dreadful news.
Soames Forsyte, "The Man of Property" (The Forsyte Saga), John Galsworthy
Having had questions about the sea and the navy last year, it seems only right to have some questions about soldiers and airmen this time round.
21 The eponymous hero of this book succeeds in fighting for the army of two different countries during the same war. He later makes an advantageous marriage, but throws away his carefully won social status in a moment of blind rage. His young son is killed in a riding accident. He later unwillingly fights a duel with his step-son.
Barry Lyndon, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon", Thackeray
22 This character eventually dies in hospital from an unspecified disease, allegedly exacerbated by a fellow officer smuggling whisky into the ward at his request. Prior to meeting his end, he fights a protracted campaign of deception and skull-duggery over an ancient portable toilet known as a thunderbox with a fire-eating senior officer who claims to be able to kill a man with a spoon.
Apthorpe, "Men at Arms" (Sword of Honour trilogy) Evelyn Waugh
23 This young militia officer tells our heroine that he has been wronged by a wealthy man who is staying in the district. She taxes him with this news, and is upset when he refuses to discuss it. When the officer later elopes with her younger sister, to the imminent ruin of her entire family, she is forced to revise her views of both men.
Mr Wickham, "Pride and Prejudice", Jane Austen
24 This young flier falls in love with a Polynesian girl, Full Moon (perhaps partly because she saves him from drowning), while loyally serving his legendary companion during some ripping adventures in the Pacific, battling an evil Corsican. His companion was unlucky in love, falling for a beautiful woman after a forced landing when his magneto shorted, only to discover subsequently that she was an enemy spy. Understandably, he was awfully cut up about it.
Ginger (Hebblewaite), "Biggles in the South Seas", Captain W.E. Johns
25 Hated by his men, this leader turns on one of them who has spoken of a "fair fight" with the words "That is a filthy, obscene, disgusting word, and I will not have it used by any man in my squadron." A consistently successful ace, he is shot down one day after realising that he has fallen in love with a nurse he met while in hospital.
Major Woolley, "Goshawk Squadron", Derek Robinson
26 A figure of fun at school, this officer rises rapidly through the ranks during wartime and subsequently becomes a Member of Parliament, a Peer of the Realm, and a University Chancellor. He falls in love with and marries a most unsuitable woman who is famously sick in a vase.
Kenneth Widmerpool, "A Dance to the Music of Time", Anthony Powell
27 A carelessly signed fuel chit blights this officer's career. He later becomes a successful novelist, fathers a child by the young wife of a hereditary aristocrat, lives with a retired high-class prostitute, and helps thwart a plot by an evil schoolmaster to possess a beautiful boy.
Fielding Gray, "Alms for Oblivion" Simon Raven
28 Having fallen out with the general whose favourite he previously was, this young Lieutenant is posted by the General in a fit of pique to command a platoon on a dangerous combat mission. Resented by the platoon sergeant, there is no happy ending.
Lieutenant Hearn, "The Naked and the Dead", Norman Mailer
29 This soldier is shell-shocked and can remember only a distant past. Returning to country house society, he is the object of two different women's attentions. Narrated by another female, who acutely observes what she sees around her. A psychiatrist helps him to face a difficult choice. Perhaps an inspiration for number 30 (below).
Chris Baldry, "The Return of the Soldier", Rebecca West
30 A working class lad who becomes an officer, but never feels accepted in the officers' mess. Shell-shocked, he is treated by a psychiatrist alongside fellow patient Siegfried Sassoon. Bisexual and promiscuous, he eventually gets engaged to a young munitions worker.
Billy Prior, The "Regeneration" Trilogy, Pat Barker
Finally, can you identify these detectives and/or their companions and associates?
31 This detective falls in love with the daughter of a duke while investigating a murder at a stately home. He is later quizzed as to his intentions by her brother, himself a celebrated sleuth.
Inspector Parker, "Clouds of Witness", Dorothy L. Sayers
32 This detective with a biblical name has a partner who does not need to eat, and who goes on to star in a non-detective role in a famous series of books by the same author.
Elijah Baley, "The Caves of Steel" and others, Isaac Asimov. Partner is R. Daneel Olivaw.
33 Despite being able to fly, this police office is captured by the villain of the piece, but manages to escape with the help of a flatulent secret weapon, and get the better of him. They later become first uneasy allies, and then friends. She does not tolerate fools gladly, and is constantly in trouble with her superiors.
Holly Short, "Artemis Fowl", Eoin Colfer
34 This detective is described as not using his own name (or title), and lives in a flat above a London police station. Blond and languid, he at one stage has a pet jackdaw. In one story his Romany connections come in useful.
Albert Campion, "The Crime at Black Dudley" et seq., Margery Allingham
35 We first make the acquaintance of this detective as he investigates the death of a young actress in an Oxford college. With everyone else convinced that she committed suicide, his main challenge is to prove that in fact any murder has been committed at all. An unusual ring worn by the woman serves as a plot device, as well as featuring in the title of the book. In this and all the books in which he goes on to feature there are numerous cultural references, which some find eclectic and entertaining, and others puzzling and pretentious.
Gervase Fen, "The Case of the Gilded Fly", Edmund Crispin
36 The blowing-up and killing of this detective is described at the beginning of the first book detailing the cases which he and his partner have solved over the years. He has a penchant for antique boiled sweets and white magic. Pipe tobacco and pints of bitter also feature heavily. His partner is elegant, charming, and a great hit with the ladies.
Arthur Bryant, "Full Dark House", Christopher Fowler
37 After a detective sergeant from Scotland Yard fails to solve the mystery of a stolen diamond, this man determines to crack the case himself. Sinister Indian jugglers lurk in the background. An evil doctor and a misappropriated trust fund also feature.
Franklin Blake, "The Moonstone", Wilkie Collins
38 This detective, created by an author who is better known in a different genre, has his office in a fashionable part of North London, and his investigations head off in directions which appear totally irrelevant to the matter in hand, running up huge expenses claims in the process. Another detective who does not use his real name, perhaps because of some scandal in his past while at university. A leather coat and a red hat make it difficult for him to blend into the background.
Dirk Gently, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", Douglas Adams
39 This lady detective unexpectedly acquires a fine home and a housekeeper. Fond of quoting the bible and Tennyson, she has good relations with the police, as is only to be expected since she was once the Chief Constable's governess.
Miss Silver, "The Case is Closed" et seq., Patricia Wentworth
40 We first meet this detective in a case that involves an orchid hot-house, murder, blackmail, missing persons, and an enigmatic Jewish woman in a bookstore. Claiming to be able to speak English if he needs to, he goes on to feature in several further books.
Philip Marlowe, "The Big Sleep", Raymond Chandler