Jottings Logo - John Fraser

Found Pages: The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969.


The notes have been added piecemeal and soon cease to follow the sequence in which the topics come up in the text. The ones marked NEW were added starting in February 2007. The others mostly went online in February 2006.

Apart from No Orchids, works without authors’ names attached are all by or attributed to Kelly.

For some secondary works that I’ve found helpful, see Backgrounds.

Note 1. Reputation

So far as I know, the only article on Lady—Don’t Turn Over, or on Glinto in general, is Malcolm Chapman’s 295-word book review in The Missing Page, the quarterly Newsletter of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society, November 2001, vol 1, no.12, which consists almost entirely of a summary of the action.

Apart from several pages in George Ryley Scott’s Into Whose Hands? (1945), the references to Kelly/Glinto in books, such as Steve Holland’s, Lee Horsley’s, and Clive Bloom’s, are little more than a naming of a title or two. He doesn’t even, so far as I can see, make it into books about censorship and significant court cases in Britain, such as C.H. Rolph’s and Alec Craig’s.

But the Lady of 1940, withdrawn from distribution after the 1942 court case, had obviously been the quintessential “naughty” paperback, this side of porn, for a lot of young British readers, and you can sense its aura in Richard Hoggart’s pastiche of the genre in his 1957 The Uses of Literacy (don’t tell me he hadn’t inhaled in his working-class youth), and in the Hancock episode “The Missing Page.” in which Tony is reading Lady—Don’t Fall Backwards by Darcy Sarto.

“Darcy Sarto” is a fusion of the names of Darcy Glinto and Ben Sarto, who under his real name of F. Dubrez Fawcett (which really sounds like a pseudonym), I now see with surprise, was the author in 1952 of the 279-page hardcover Dickens the Dramatist on Stage, Screen and Radio. How many other gangster Hydes doubled as Dr. Jekylls, I wonder?

Hoggart’s passage (see Sidebar 8 ) is actually more violent than anything that I have encountered in Glinto’s own writings.

I suppose Hancock himself could have read the slightly bowdlerized 1949 reprint of Lady. But if I had to bet, I’d put my money on the scandalous first edition.

Note 2. Biographical details

Several of Kelly’s heroes and heroines have Irish names, and there is a sympathetic Irish seaman, with credible-sounding speech, in Monkey Goes Home. But I would opt for Protestant Irish.

“Harold,” “Ernest,” and “Hector” aren’t Catholic-Irish names, and in Tough on the Wops (Buck Toler) the principal police officer is an Ulsterman, John Bonar, when it would have been more natural to refer to him simply to “a big Irishman.” The best-known bearer of the surname “Carson” (as in “Lance Carson”) was Sir Edward Carson, an Ulster Protestant passionately against Home Rule for Ireland. “Lurgan” (cf the pseudonym “Bryn Logan”) is a town in Northern Ireland. An anonymous columnist in the final issue of City Mid-Week (Oct 19, 1932) wants to know “Why the members of the Irish Republican Army went to Belfast to lend a hand in causing trouble.”

Mountainous, hilly, or rocky configurations recur in Kelly’s Westerns, which again makes me think of Ulster. In several of them, a town is by a river and you ascend from there fast. “Mountainous” may suggest too much altitude, but there is a lot of rockiness and trails winding up and down. Could he have derived it all from movies?

Horses are described with deep and knowledgeable affection in several of the Westerns. In England, unless one was fox-hunting gentry or involved in racing, it would have been difficult to gallop a horse. Kelly doesn’t feel like gentry to me. I can’t imagine his having been a public-schoolboy.

With respect to the Ring, we have the connection with former champion wrestler George Hackenschmidt and a number of closely observed full-body-contact fights, as distinct from the customary hands-and-feet ones. As for ships and boats, there is a finely described storm in Monkey Goes Home, a fair amount of water business in Curtains for Carrie, and affectionate items in London Cameos, especially “Officers All.”

As to Kelly’s family, the “disciplining” of young Kit by Marshal Slavin under the eyes of his mother in the The Trouble-Kid Quits has a noteworthy intensity. Still guessing, I would surmise that Harold had been rebellious from early on, that Hector was a younger brother, and that Harold was and remained a hero to him. (See Hector’s signed dust-jacket blurb for London Cameos quoted in Note 15.)

As to Kelly’s possible graphic skills, and a possible sister, John Parson’s Give the People Homes (1945), with a drawing of houses on the cover, is identified by two major libraries as being by Kelly, and feels like him to me. John Parson’s book of playful, elegant, and mildly satirical cartoons, Innocence is No Protection, appeared in 1949 and was dedicated to “My Sister Monica Lewis.” There could have been two John Parsons, just as there are several John Frasers, but I am leery of coincidences. However, see Steve Holland on John Parsons in Supplementary.

In guessing that he was in the Great War, I’m partly thinking of the interest in combat that he displays, the restless kinetic energy of the heroes in his Westerns, and the feistiness of City Mid-Week. Would he, as a youth, have wanted to stay on the sidelines? There’s also, in Gambler’s Epitaph, a convincing rendering of the experience of being wounded. I recognize that he could have learned about that in conversation or from the printed page.

As to Canada, in Give the People Homes, the author writes, “Any traveler knows how snug a Swedish or Canadian wooden house can be in the hardest of weather.” The phrasing suggests first-hand experience, in contrast to “Any traveler will tell you….” The action in the 1964 Hank Janson novel Sex Angle, attributed to Kelly, takes place in Timmins, Ontario, and a principal character in Deep South Slave is called. Ella Timmins.

The first Glinto series, 1940-42, which began when Kelly was about forty, doesn’t feel to me like the work of a married man, not back then. Lance Carson’s The Troubl-Kid Quits (1951) gives us a man who’s finally enabled to return from a species of embittered exile by meeting the right woman.

Blue Blood Flows East (1947) contains the dedication “To Kathleen,” one of only three dedications that I’ve seen in works attribiuted to Kelly. My guess is that she was his recently married wife, or wife-to-be, and that her presence in his life contributed to the presence of women like Carrie and Connie in the second series of Glintos.

[In an e-mail, Steve Holland says: “I stumbled across Hector Kelly’s address in the phone (after a lot of digging) and got a nice reply from him which I quoted from in Trials of HJ [The Trials of Hank Janson]. He was my basic source of pseudonym info. on his brother.”

Evidently Hector didn’t provide biographical information, so the matters that I speculate about in Introduction and this Note are still anybody’s guess, absent the discovery of an obituary of either of the brothers or the locating of someone who knew them personally. Which wouldn’t be impossible. Someone who was twenty-five in 1960, say, would be only seventy-one now. But the records of the Kellys’ publishing ventures have probably long since been pulped or incinerated or gone to landfill.

Absent that kind of supposed certainty (memories can be fallible, documents can be ambiguous), all one can do is construct “educated” hypotheses that are open to discussion.

Some hypotheses hold up better than others—have more in the way of plausibility and evidentiary support.]

HOWEVER, as I’ve acknowledged in “Introductory,” the game has now changed with the emergence of the facts that Harold was born in South London and Hector (indeed his junior) in Bristol, along with some other family details. See Note 55.

The possibility of Harold’s having served in the Great War is increased, the likelihood that Kathleen was wife or fiancée diminished. He now seems more likely to have been born Catholic. But apart from Note 55, it’s still pretty much all guesswork.

But could he have spent some time in North America in the Thirties after the City Mid-Week fiasco? The U.S. highways of Road Floozie feel real, as does, even more, the South of Deep South Slave.

Note 3. Early copies of Lady—Don’t Turn Over and No Orchids for Miss Blandish


The earlier of my two copies of Lady is dated 1940. The cover (paperback) shows a scared-looking blonde in a green slip and transparent green negligee, not the sexy fan-dancer on the 1952 reissue. A handwritten note about the trial that came with the copy is dated 1942.

But facing the title-page we have, “By the same author: No Mortgage on a Coffin, Snow Vogue, You Took Me—Keep Me,” and Yours Truly, Hoodlum.” Except for You Took Me, they and Road Floozie also appear in the list of Wells Gardner titles on the back cover.

All of them, so far as all the evidence indicates, were published after Lady—Don’t Turn Over.

So this must be a second impression from before the trial.

If this is a second impression, I wonder if the first printing had the same stylish double covers and quality cover art as No Mortgage on a Coffin and “Snow” Vogue.

For information about cuts in the 1949 edition, see Sidebar 8.


I also have what I take to be the first paperback edition of No Orchids for Miss Blandish. The text runs to 255 pages, as does the 1939 Jarrolds hardcover, which isn’t surprising since they are printed from the same plates. Evidently the paperback appeared in 1940 or early 1941, after Chase’s The Dead Don’t Care and Twelve Chinks and a Woman, and before Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief brought the outraged majesty of the Law hammering on the front door of Messrs. Jarrolds (founded 1778) in Paternoster Row.

The book too, like No Mortgage and Snow Vogue, has a double cover—semi-stiff thin card (plain) wrapped in a paper cover glued to the spine, with inside flaps.

The front cover is a delight. A neatly coiffed Varga-type redhead with a delicately defined unsmiling face (eyebrows plucked, forehead high) leans lightly against a panel on the right, her purple-green transparent negligee flowing down over her long, long legs in a smooth cylinder to the darker bows on her sandals, which echo the bow on her smooth high-cut panties of the same colour. The faintly green-tinged background is empty.

On the right panel, which her right hand overlaps, we have, in lower-case cursive, “31st thousand” level with her hair at the top and referring, I take it, to the total sales. Below it are the title and then the author’s name, and at the bottom “the toughest novel you ever read.” Price one shilling.

The back cover is a packed and ugly jumble of mismatched fonts containing lots of information about Hutchinson’s Universal Book Club, serving nine publishers, with Hutchinson at that time “the largest publishers in the world,” and purveying respectable middlebrow fare by writers like Philip Gibbs and Rafael Sabatini.

Maybe Jarrolds was hedging its bets?


Inside is a trove of information.

The blurb on the front flap announces that:

This is a tale of a girl kidnapped by ruthless gangsters told with incredible and sustained brutality. That the story will shock and horrify must be faced, but this is an age of realism, and the author is determined to reveal “the big shots,” “the tough guys” and “the killers” in their true light. He shows them to be outlaws lacking in all human qualities; pitiless monsters delighting in the harshest and bitterest cruelties. Slim Grisson, the chief gangster in the tale, will haunt the mind long after the book has been laid down. He is as fascinating to watch as a black mamba, and twice as vicious.

A James Whittaker, from whom I’ve quoted already, writes that,

There is an inevitable and inexorable quality in this murderous tale to be found in death itself. The atmosphere is rank poison …it is deadly and as dangerous as the most lethal poison gas … one whiff and you’re gone …gone completely.

The Manchester Evening News says, “It’s tough and not for the sequamish.” The Liverpool Post says, “It is doubtful if the vile ruthlessness of gangdom has ever been more vividly presented in fiction. The sufferings and ultimate fate of the kidnapped Miss Blandish leave one gasping.”

I note with interest that on one of the back pages a reviewer for the left-wing New Statesman and Nation says of The Dead Stay Dumb (1941) that, “After the usual popular fiction, Mr. Chase is a welcome puff of foetid air on a windy heath. His specialty is psychotic and unmitigated toughness. With sadism at the helm, entrails twined round the prow and blood running in the scuppers.”

The Observer, the then best of the two “quality” Sunday papers, remarks of Lady—Here’s Your Wreath by Raymond Marshall (Chase again), “Terrific beatings up of both sexes. Excellent surprise finish with surprise twist.”

George Orwell, a failed novelist himself, and disturbed by the book’s contents, probably found both comments unenchanting.

The 1942 edition of the novel was a revised one. Was this in response to the heavy fining of Chase and Jarrolds for Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief, on which see Sidebar 8.?

Later there would be at least three further revised editions of No Orchids. See Sidebar 1.


The earlier of the two hardcover edition that I have is undated and carries no information about copies sold, in contrast to an otherwise identical one that contains the words “5th Thousand” on the title page. So I assume it’s a true first edition (without dustjacket), obtained for not all that much. At the back, in addition to sixteen pages of ads for other Jarrolds books, there is the following “Postscript.”

The Publishers, Printers, and Readers of No Orchids for Miss Blandish are still convalescing from shock. They thought they could take it until they ran into Slim Grisson . . . [ellipsis thus]

James Hadley Chase has another burst of electricity in store for them, and in store for YOU.

Look out for THE DEAD STAY DUMB, the new James Hadley Chase novel to be published shortly. It is very tough indeed!

I take “Readers” here to mean the publisher’s readers who appraised the MS when it was first submitted.

Note 4. What women want(ed)?

At the thought of the Sheik a sick feeling of fear ran through her. …She tried to put him out of her mind. She had escaped from him and his cruelty, it was a nightmare that was over. The effects would remain with her always, nothing would ever be the same again, but the daily dread, the daily contamination would be gone, the helpless tortured feeling, the shame of submission that had filled her with an acute self-loathing that was as intense as her passionate hatred of the man who had forced her to endure his will. The memory of it would live with her for ever. He had made her a vile thing. Her cheeks scorched with the thought and she shivered at the remembrance of all that she had gone through. She had been down into the depths and she would carry the scars all her life. The girl who had started out so triumphantly from Biskra had become a woman through bitter knowledge and humiliating experience.

E[dith] M[aude] Hull (1877?-1947?), The Sheik (1921), ch. 5, a bestseller still in print.

Note 5. Death Tolls

The following site is packed with information about the numbers of deaths in 20th-century conflicts, and exemplary in its handling of the question of how to estimate them.

Note 6. Dachau and the art of intimidation.


The information about altitude and climate comes from Bishop Johannes Neuhäusler’s What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau (1973). There is more from that and from other sources in Barbara Distel and Ruth Jakusch, eds., Concentration Camp Dachau 1933–1945 (1978)

The cliché image of skeletal inmates and swaggering black-garbed SS is too reassuring morally. It is all so strange and elsewhere, and permits of an easy self-approving identification with the liberating forces of Democracy. WE, us nice individuals, would not have succumbed to the Nazi temptations and intimidations had we been non-Jewish Germans ourselves, would we?


Sonnenburg Camp, 1933
Sonnenburg Camp, 1933

When you risk experiencing serious pain, and incarceration, and career-ruin, and you cannot turn to a lawyer, or to the media, or any organization for help, and there is no court of appeal, and persons like yourself are constantly being vilified in the media and by members of the government, and other people are reluctant to associate themselves with your case because of possible sanctions to themselves, and anything that you may have to say will be heard only by your captors (simultaneously police and judges), and you are accused of disloyalty and an indifference to the common welfare and of being the equivalent of a carrier of a dangerous disease, how likely are you then to stand up and be counted?

Academics are not, at least in my experience, moral heroes when it comes to going against the ideological stream and simply risking being accused of racism or sexism. And antisemitism is getting a new lease on life.

Work Makes You Free
Work Makes You Free

The two-volume I Will Bear Witness; a Diary of the Nazi Years, trans. Martin Chalmers (1999), by the historian Victor Klemperer, residing in Munich under the frail umbrella of his military service in WW1 and his wife’s not being Jewish, makes clear that one must not smugly demonize all the Germans of those years. Until near the end, he isn’t talking about “Germans” but about Nazis—their rhetoric, their brutality, their obsessive anti-Semitism—and about individuals infected, to varying degrees, by their poison, particularly young ones.

Dachau PR 1933
Dachau PR 1933

He was, after all, a German himself—a Jewish German—and proud to be one. Again and again he notes down, with pleasure, instances of decent behaviour to him and his heroic wife Eva by individual gentiles, and genuine-sounding expressions of dislike of “them”—of the government, the ruling party.

We also see how relatively little of what we now know as the Holocaust was common knowledge at the time even among Jews. There are far more references to Therienstadt, a holding camp, than to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and none to the other five camps in Poland. The references to gas are few and unspecific.

Dachau PR 1933
Dachau PR 1933

Near the end of the second volume (p. 493), after Germany has surrendered, Klemperer speaks of overhearing a couple of women referring to prisoners freed from Dachau in their striped costumes as “convicts.” Not “prisoners, not “inmates.” “Convicts.” Criminals, dangerous people, agents of disorder, enemies of you and me. How many “good” Americans live in comfortable proximity to prisons in the huge American gulag, including infamous Pelican Bay, ignorant of, and incurious about, what goes on inside them?

Dachau PR 1933
Dachau PR 1933

The Nazis had gone out of their way to “sell” Dachau at the outset, with its emphasis on political re-education and “Obedience—diligence—honesty—order—cleanliness—temperance—truth—sacrifice—and love of one’s country.” (Barbara Distel and Ruth Jakush, eds., Concentration Camp Dachau 1933–1945, 1978, p.71). Publicity photos make the shaven-headed inmates, engaged in cooperative tasks in their white garb, look like men who have been spending a good deal of healthy time in the open air.

The three images opposite with accompanying text come from the Münchner Illustrierte Presse (Munich Illustrated Press) (weekly?) 1933. The first bears the words “The truth about Dachau.” The four faces in the second are obviously those of the kinds of degenerates who will benefit from a firm hand. The third is headed “Recreation hour in the re-education camp.”

The new German State cares for the well-being of all, you can see.


As to the supposed innate wickedness and differentness of Germans and Austrians, the following testimony deserves noting:

In 1918 there could be no question of a systematic anti-Semitism. I still remember the difficulties one encountered if one so much as uttered the word Jew. Either one was stupidly gaped at, or one experienced the most violent resistance. Our first attempts to show the public the real enemy then seemed almost hopeless, and only very slowly did things begin to take a better turn. … At all events, in the winter of 1918–19, something like anti-Semitism began slowly to take root. (Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim, Boston, 1943 (?), pp.560–561.)

You would think he would know.


Richard J. Evans’ The Third Reich in Power 1933–1939 illuminates the elaborate programme of social transformation that the Nazis were attempting in the Thirties.

He reports of the well-publicized existence of the camps, and the oath of silence enforced on the many released prisoners, that “What happened in the camps was a nameless horror that was all the more potent because its reality could only be guessed at from the broken bodies and spirits of inmates when they were released.” (p.95)

Apparently conditions in Dachau and the three other camps in the later Thirties were especially brutal, the SS men in charge being mostly young working-class males whose natural callousness had been reinforced during their own brutal training, and who, located away from cities and socially bored, took out their resentment on their charges, aided by the elaborate systems of rules whose infraction could be severely punished.

However, “In the summer of 1937, … the overall number of political prisoners in the camps paled into insignificance in comparison with the 14,000 officially designated political offenders who were held in state prisons.”

It was news to me that “the Gestapo was a very small organization with a tiny number of paid agents and informants,” and that, “Far from being the fanatical Nazis of legend, these men were generally career policemen who had joined the force under the Weimar Republic or in some cases even earlier.” (p.96)

A fascinating and educative book, with a substantial section on the universities.

Note 7. James Hadley Chase and French criticism

After saying what I did about Chase, it was encouraging to get hold of Robert Deleuse’s A la poursuite de James Hadley Chase (1992) and find him likewise skeptical about The Postman Always Rings Twice having influenced No Orchids, and seeing a relationship between No Orchids and Graham Greene’s A Gun for Sale and Brighton Rock. Apparently Chase held his cards uncommonly close to his chest, and said conflicting things in the few interviews that he gave, and other eyebrows have been raised about the six-weekends claim.

Deleuse’s book, while mercifully free of jargon, and helpful among other things for offering a list of Chase’s twenty-four best novels (out of eighty-six), is fascinatingly “French.”

There are pages of ingenious speculation devoted to the questions that have apparently been raised about whether Raymond was in fact the author of his books, but no mention of the 1942 trial at the Old Bailey in which Raymond and his publishers were handsomely fined for Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief. There are reachings out to Balzac, Flaubert, and Dostoevsky for the purposes of friendly comparisons, but no mention of the out-and-out echoes of Jonathan Latimer, or of the obvious importance of Latimer’s The Dead Don’t Care for No Orchids. (See Sidebar 1.)

Glinto, unsurprisingly, isn’t mentioned. If he has ever been been mentioned in the evidently vast number of French pages devoted to crime-fiction, it hasn’t been in a way that compels attention. No book of his is listed in the catalogue of the Bibliothèque Nationale.

On page 51 of Deleuse a significant autobiographical statement by Chase is quoted (in French) from a 1959 interview: “It was wartime. I was attached to the Air Ministry, where I had to turn up each morning at 8.30. So, to go on writing, I got up every day at 5.30.”

He attained the R.A.F. equivalent of the rank of Major. But glamorous as the words “Squadron Leader” sound and appropriate as Chase’s moustache looks in the handful of photos of him, there was obviously no way in which a thirty-three-year-old would have been inducted into the RAF in 1939 for training as a pilot.

René Brabazon Raymond was Admin. After a while, he and the cartoonist David Langdon took over the editorship of the Royal Air Force Journal and really made something of it. Their names, both of them Squadron-Leaders, appear on the title-page of Slipstream, a 1946 anthology of pieces from it

For more on Chase, see Sidebar 1.

Note 8. Relative worth of currency

For this all-too-often irritatingly neglected topic (what might it be like now to be living on the annual income of one of Jane Austen’s characters?), I’ve gone to the excellent-seeming “How Much Is That Worth Today?” ( as well as pondering figures in novels and personal memories, and seeing what’s suggested in two or three books of history.

A rough rule-of-thumb for late-Thirties–early-Forties might seem to be, multiply by thirty for pounds and—what?—for U.S. dullars.

As to Jane Austen’s time, in his marvelous Seize the Fire (2005) about the Battle of Trafalgar, Adam Nicolson says multiply by fifty or sixty.

But money is odd. In Jonathan Latimer’s 1938 novel The Dead Don’t Care, detectives Bill Crane and Tom O’Malley pass a building in downtown Miami with a sign on it reading “Five course dinner—25¢” and settle down in a comfortable bar where a Scotch and soda costs 50¢ and consume, on their expense account, at least three double-triple Scotches apiece.

In 1931-32, according to the pages of Kelly’s City Mid-Week, a typist in the City of London earned three pounds a week, and a quality, tailored, double-breasted lounge suit cost two pounds ten shillings. So when the paper was put out of business by a judgment of fifty-thousand pounds against the owners in a libel suit, it was real money.

In An Underworld at War; Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War (2003), Donald Thomas, who ought to know, multiplies by 40 and puts the results in brackets after the figures from back then.

Which would make Kelly’s fine of a hundred pounds in the 1942 court case even weightier than I had supposed.

However, in the 1943 Buck Toler paperback The Bronsville Massacre, the Mitre Press gives twelve shillings and sixpence as the price of its annual anthology The Spring Anthology, which, at twenty shillings to the pound, would make it pretty pricey if the multiplier is forty.

Note 9. Housing shortage

In her richly informative London 1945 (2004), Maureen Waller reports that:

Housing was to be the first problem of the peace and, in many people’s eyes, the key issue at the general election in July. … The war had destroyed 50,000 houses in the County of London and 66,000 in the rest of Greater London. Another 1,300,000 were in need of major or minor repairs. In addition, there was a huge backlog.

She quotes a town councilor as pointing out that “During the war two million couples have got married and will want homes soon after the war.” (p. 150)

Note 10. Crime facts

The figures about crime before the war come from Fergus Linnane’s very readable London’s Underworld; Three Centuries of Vice and Crime (2003), p.267.

In his 1955 memoirs, Boss of Britain’s Underworld, just-retired gangster Billy Hill (or his ghost-writer, the remarkable crime reporter Duncan Webb) recalls of the first year of the war that

It seemed that London had got over the first shock of the war and had now adjusted itself to a new and strange existence. To a great extent the black-out and a depleted police force increased the opportunity for crime. So did the loose money which was flying about the country. The result was that the West End became a roaring square mile of bustling prosperity and activity. Women flocked from all over to walk the streets and haunt the hotel lobbies, bars and clubs. Good-time girls became brazen tarts, ordinary wives became good-time girls. Small-time tealeaves turned into well-to-do operators. In the netherworld of pubs and clubs, of speilers [gambling dens] and dumps, you were assessed by two things, the amount of money in your pocket and your connections on the black market. As you know, a pair of nylons could buy a woman’s body, a diamond ring could buy her for life—or as long as you wanted. (p. 76)


Not only my own mob, but all thieves were so prosperous that they adopted a sort of competitive spirit to display their wealth by dressing up their wives and girl friends in as expensive jewelry and clothes as they could buy—from the black market of course. By common consent, Monday was regarded as truce day. It was the day after week-end working, when most screwing [burglaries] goes on anyway. It was the start of the week. Usually we all had bombs [tons] to spend, and we congregated in a club in Archer Street. What with all the villains in their genuine Saville Row suits and their wives and girl friends wearing straight [honestly acquired] furs and clothes by the best West End dress-makers, that club looked like the Ascot of the underworld. (pp. 75-76)

By the end of the war, Maureen Waller reports in London 1945: Life in the Debris of War (2004),

When the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis wrote his annual report for Parliament for 1945, there was no mistaking the fact that crime was rampant and, worse, on the increase. London, as ever, was the capital of crime. Criminal gangs flourished. The Piccadilly Commandos and Hyde Park Rangers—prostitutes in the West End—plied their trade with impunity .… Robberies from warehouses and hijacking of lorries fed the black market . … Deserters without papers roamed the streets, preying on the public to survive. … Sleek in their Saville Row suits, their molls dripping with furs and jewels, London’s underworld kings were having the time of their lives. But there was also a new breed of criminal abroad: ruthless young men, armed robbers, who meted out gratuitous violence with casual ease. … By 1945 the country was awash with guns, illegally sold by American servicemen at twenty-five pounds for a handgun or brought back by British servicemen from abroad. … Jewel heists and safe breakings were frequent. … London was a thieves’ paradise. It was brimming with opportunities for crime. Nearly everything was scarce or unobtainable [by legal means]. (pp. 242-3, 245).

According to a reporter at the end of that year,

The [London] crime wave for which the police have been preparing ever since the end of hostilities is breaking over us. Armed robberies of the most violent and vicious kind feature daily in the newspapers. Even the pettiest crimes are, it seems, conducted with a loaded revolver in hand. And well-planned robberies, reminiscent of the heyday of Chicago gangsterdom, have relieved Londoners of £60,000 worth of jewellery in the past week alone. Hold-ups of cinemas, post offices and railway booking offices have become so commonplace that the newspapers scarcely bother to report them. To deal with the situation the police are being forced to adopt methods more akin to riot-breaking than crime detection.

In his excellent Smash and Grab;Gangsters in the London Underwolrd, 1920–60 (1993), Robert Murphy points out that “The police had not fared well during the war. Between 1940 and 1944 their numbers were reduced by 14,000 as the younger fitter members of the force were drafted into the services.” (p.89)

Curiously, however, “In 1945 there were only 35 known murders in the capital—that is, known murders .” (Linnane, p. 248)

Note 11. She Gave Me Hell and … (1950)

Naked and helpless, his hands bound, hoodlum Derek Steele, the narrator of She Gave Me Hell and … is methodically beaten and degraded in a cellar while gang-boss Fricker and his amused female companion watch. (We aren’t given the details.) At the start of the next chapter we read:

I thought about the cops and I forgot about the cops. If that sounds screwy, well, I guess I wasn’t so far off screwy back in those days after what happened back in Fricker’s cellar. I needed forty-eight hours to get over the beating I had taken. But that was a small thing. It was the beatings my feelings had taken which had made me in a daze that was different from any other I had been in. It wasn’t that I was woolly about what I was doing or what was going on around me. The dazed feeling came from having so much going on inside me and going on at such an intense pressure. I take credit that I did not completely let go control of myself. I was so shamed and humiliated that I wanted some way of ending everything. I could look ahead and see myself feeling just the same year in and year out for as long as I lived. I believed I never would be able to get a slant on what they had done to me, that would let me be cool, calm and collected about it, and I reckoned life was not going to be worth living with that feeling of humiliation always there like a great scaled patch deep down inside me. Maybe if I had not been feeling so sick from the actual beating in the first twenty-four hours I would have found some way of giving myself the big last curtain drop.

But that was only part of it. There was the rage I felt. I guess I can’t begin to give any real description of the way it kept boiling up inside me, almost choking me. I would get a few moments easing of it while that sense of shame took charge. But automatically, with the scalding sense that I had had that done to me—and with Fifi looking on laughing—with the knowledge that it was something that could not be undone and I would never be able to look at myself, as it were, with the clean self-pride a man is entitled to have about himself, came the thought, “They did it.” (Ch III, pp. 81-82)

No, not deathless prose, but probably a better approximation to an ordinary guy’s thought process than is to be found in a lot of tidier Gold Medal Book writing.

Moreover, given Kelly’s concern with shame elsewhere, this feels like a very personal passage. He and his unnamed partner (could it have been brother Hector?) had been stomped into the ground at the Old Bailey in 1932, along with their fledging weekly City Mid-Week, by the colossal damages awarded a large financial corporation that had brought suit against them for libel.

Ten years later, Kelly was kept in custody (a.k.a. jail) until he had paid the heavy fine, equivalent of at least $5000 now, levied on him in the same court for having authored the “obscene” Lady—Don’t Turn Over and Road Floozie.

Note 12. Closing down the Robin Hood operation

In a letter to Steve Holland in 1983 quoted in The Trials of Hank Janson (p. 221), Hector Kelly recalls that in “about 1953 … we were summoned on two occasions for publishing obscene literature, and this so sickened me that I packed up entirely. Apart from which, I had no wish to go to prison, as many quite respectable people did for the same reason.” 1955 was the last year in which Robin Hood titles appeared, and the last official year of Harold Kelly as Glinto.

Note 13. Imre Hofbauer

Monkey Goes Home, 1949
Monkey Goes Home, 1949

According to the dust-jacket of Hofbauer’s children’s book Panna (1991),

Imre Hofbauer (5/11/06–5/1/89) will be remembered as the brilliant, internationally known, artist whose designs won him the top awards in many competitions … Hungarian by birth, he came to London in 1936 because of Nazi reaction to his cartoons.

A number of books stand to his name, as author, illustrator, editor.

His cover for the 1947 edition of Curtains for Carrie is in Maurice Flanagan’s British Gangster and Exploitation Paperbacks of the Postwar Years (Leon Books, 1997), p.13. It was replaced with a sexier one on the 1953 edition. He also did the cover for The Stables to £1,000,000 (1948), and in 1949 collaborated with Kelly on the children’s novel Monkey Goes Home, probably simply as illustrator.

Despite an AbeBook entry, Kelly had nothing visible to do with Hofbauer’s Bababukra (1947), a children’s book about a horse in nineteenth-century Hungary written and illustrated by Hofbauer.

Note 14. Eugene Ascher

To Kill a Corpse, 1959
To Kill a Corpse, 1959

A passage like the following from There Were No Asper Ladies, aka To Kill a Corpse, does not immediately bring to mind the author of Lady—Don’t Turn Over.

The night was very dark and in the room was an unrelieved blackness. I could hear all the faint suggestive noises of an ancient house. The little cracks as burdened timbers yield the minutest fraction more to the weight they bear, or lose another atom of their substance under the friction of the passing centuries. Small fallings as stout masonry sheds flakes and chips in its infinitely slow crumbling. Sighs as the wandering draughts float through the spaces beneath floors and behind walls. The quick scrapings and patterings of mice. The slower thud, thud as an old rat, moving along his familiar run, slaps down his thick warted tail.

However, in Kelly’s London Cameos, the collection of sketches originally published in 1931-1932 in City Mid-Week, we have:

There are also the noises of night. All the strange, furtive sounds of deserted buildings. A rustle when some small prowling thing finds a promise of loot. A scamper as its hypersensitive alertness senses a movement of a sound other than its own. The seemingly tired sigh of a door-jamb or window-frame as it settles into the infinitesimal void left by the contraction or expansion as the day’s heat gradually gives way to night’s chill. A creak as an old wooden rafter yields a fraction more to the burden of weight it supports. (p.83)


There is very little action in the book and very little about the physical world except for some set-piece descriptions of country-house interiors. Large stretches are taken up by descriptions of elusive states of feeling. The Nineties-ish disquisitions about “planes,” manifestations, psychic energies, and so forth evidently arose out of Kelly’s own serious interests.

In a piece in the final issue of City Mid-Week, October 19, 1932, about fake spirit photos, someone, whether Harold himself or with his editorial approval, had written:

That spirit bodies exist, no reasonable person will deny.

The evidence is too overwhelming, and does not depend on the modern enquiries of the Psychic Research Society and the spiritualist movement. All through the ages, the majority of mankind have believed without question that at death there is a spirit body which is released from the physical body, and continues its existence in another plane.

In countless instances, that spirit body has been seen by living people. (p.4)

The back of the dust jacket of the 1952 Lady—Don’t Turn Over is occupied by an ad for The Other-World Book Club, including the words, “Do you believe in spirits, re-incarnation, and the great mysterious world of the occult? Then you must believe that love, romance, and adventure, are not bound within the limits of this short life.”

Its address is the same as for the Robin Hood Press.


In an extended episode, recalling a couple of pages in chapter 5 of Joris-Karl Huysmans’ quintessential defining of aestheticism A Rebours/Against Nature (1884), the vampire Asper attempts a psychological seduction of the researcher Lucian Carolus by exposing him to the vibrations of his collection of instruments of torture and his vast library of images of human agony.

We are into the Nineties-ish concern with intense states of feeling here, and the text gives the impression of Kelly himself knowing a good deal about the subject. But it’s occurred to me that he might have derived most of it from an acquaintance with that curious researcher into more or less taboo areas George Ryley Scott, author of A History of Torture throughout the Ages, on whom see Note 25.

Near the end of the book, as he readies himself for the destruction of the vampire and the release of his current victim, Lady Angela, Lucian recalls how “The profound privacy of her life’s own inner sanctum [ had been ] violated” (145), and, after the vampire is dead, “She knew that she had suffered bouts of—as she believed—terrible dreams, but fortunately none of the details remained with her”.

Note 15. London Cameos


Here, as a sample of the prose, are the first four of the six paragraphs of “Glory in Mud,” a sketch chosen literally at random.

This is the glory and the tragedy of civilization, that nature is always just behind. The City of London is the apex of man’s progress from the primitive, yet Queenhithe is in the City, and in Queenhithe twice in every day one man labours to repel encroaching nature.

His talk is an epigram of life, a summing up of human achievement. It is futile—obliterated almost as soon as completed—yet it serves its purpose. Its failure is its necessity and justification. It succeeds because it fails.

There is a square in Queenhithe set with uneven cobbles and fenced with old houses. To-day is there in the motor lorries, the whine of electric hoists, the whip of belting, and hum of machinery. Yet the cobbles send back defiant echoes of the clattering engines, and the houses, though they have become warehouses, refuse to look the part. They still remain residences of another age, and in the droop of their window frames and doors they seem to sneer at all this up-to-date bustle going on around.

But from one corner of the square an old wooden stairway leads down to a basin, a small bight in the river bank, and down there time would seem never to have moved at all, except that this is where the man of futility works. Without him there would be nothing but deep impassable mud, for his work is to sweep the concrete bed clean of mud after the tides. (pp.38-39)

There was a time when this, in contrast to the Glinto “trash,” would have been considered Literature.

But the Cameos are a love-song to the historically deep-rooted City of London and its variety of types and functionaries, mostly “little” men—window-cleaners, clerks, beadles, shopkeepers, bell-ringers, gardeners, etc.

For the tycoon, however, recalling the awe that he had felt at the outset of his career for figures like the one that he has become,

the memory adds no savour to his position. He notices the respect and attention that surround him, but the gulf between him and those who practice it is too great for him to analyse it. As he was once one with the detail he is now one with the control.(p.81)

The loving celebration of tradition in London Cameos puts me in mind of the celebrations of English tradition by Ford Madox Ford, author of The Soul of London (1905), which I’ve read, and H.V. Morton’s The Heart of London (1925), which I haven’t.

The emphasis on the important of “little” people reminds me of G.K. Chesterton. The widow of Chesterton’s brother, Mrs. Cecil Chesterton, contributed to the first issue of City Mid-Week the opening column in what may have been a series of hers about how women should dress for the City.


Here is the complete text of the dust-jacket blurb, signed by Hector Kelly:

“London Cameos” is the kind of book a publisher finds a special gratification in publishing. It is something more than merely one more item on his list. He finds himself ushering it through all the various processes from manuscript to finished volume with the loving care deserved by something precious.

From the first I have felt myself fascinated by these word pictures of characters and settings. They are not only written in beautiful language not far removed from poetry, but they are also permeated by a profoundly philosophical understanding and carry a rich appreciation of the human significance in the architectural and historical whole which is London—London, the greatest, and perhaps the most universally loved, city of all time.

Then there are the drawings. They have not been executed with a finicking preoccupation with detail and exactitude. Truth to atmosphere and emotion has been their aim, and they achieve it, often with a quite touching fullness.

It is perhaps in keeping with the mood and purpose of the cameos that some of the characters drawn have almost certainly been swept away by the onrush of Time and Change and the devastation of War. If they have, they have only gone to enrich the great tradition that is London.

This book is offered, as the Foreword says, to “lovers of London”, everywhere, and it carries with it not only the author’s and artist’s sincere love of our great metropolis and her people, but my own pride and affection. I have laboured to make it a production worthy of the matter, and hope I have succeeded.

Note 16. Space-Time Task Force


The five-page “Supplementary Scientific Note to ‘Space-Time Task Force” reads like something from John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction in the days of the Dean Drive (see Google), before the ‘zine modulated into Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

To me it is wholly opaque, but here, in case they make some sense to someone, are the first three paragraphs,

The scientific basis of this story is sound, even though it goes beyond the point at which our most advanced orthodox physicists have arrived. In fact, physics today is somewhat bogged down in the maze of the (so-called) electric field which constitutes the microcosmic macrocosm of the atom. For the atom, with its whole family of nuclear constituents is a macrocosm. It is also a finishing, not a starting point. Even Mass has its first-stage ending here.

But the whole approach of orthodoxy is too empirical. It is research run a posteriori mad, with a priori study relegated to the outer darkness of heresy. But let us see the whole thing from an a priori approach.

Call it by any name you choose, the power establishing the nuclear “electric field,” the power that has made practical politics of the atom bomb, is Energy. Since the Space-Time Continuum exists this Energy must have a quality of self-assertion. Let us accept the usages of the term Dynamism, and say that it is dynamic. This is to say that the Energy, which alone, at basis, is the Space-Time Continuum, is Dynamic Energy. (If Energy could possibly be anything else). It cannot remain static, but must always flow out, or tend to flow out, into Expression. Such a dynamic flowing out, however, if it were met by no form of resistance, could end only at one point, Infinity. But a flowing-out to Infinity would constitute a self-annihilation, not Expression. A dynamic potency’s utter self-expenditure in and to Infinity must of necessity be formless. Formlessness must, of necessity, be devoid of characteristics. Expression, on the other hand, must have characteristics or it could not express (i.e. state the value and nature of) the potency from which it derives.


The novel is essentially a novel of ideas in which Commodore Regan and scientist Fremont cope more or less successfully with the complex rules of unfamiliar technologies (including arriving back from a nine-month trip before they left), the wholly literal dealings with language, up to quite a high level (including scientists), of a specialized synthetic work-force, and the hide-bound vanity and stupidity of upper-echelon humans.

Regan and Fremont are not described physically, apart from a sentence or two early on. The details of an appalling and unforeseen trek are disposed of in a single sentence:

With a desert to cross and an impassable mountain range to skirt for hundred of kilometres, rivers to swim and forests to penetrate, with Regan’s limited supplies of ammunition making it necessary often to carry along such supplies of game as he was able to shoot, Regan and [Fremont] traveled for eighty-seven days without a sign that any other life of their own kind existed in the whole of the universe. (p.96)

It would be interesting to know what was going on in Kelly’s mind when he perpetrated that sentence.

Subsequently, after a brief chain of reasoning—kill the scale-covered, gnome-like intruders with clubs, since those will not be perceived as weapons by instruments attuned to coping with technological ones—Lamont and Regan’s practical-mindedness saves the human world, which would otherwise have been lost forever because of upper-echelon officials as dumb and unimaginative as the monkey rulers in Monkey Goes Home.

In the introduction to London Cameos the year before, Kelly had spoken of how

Discovery and invention have gone leaping and bounding ahead and left a somewhat bewildered humanity labouring behind, struggling to adjust its, feelings, thoughts, and habits of life to the dictates of its own frankensteinian creations.

Note 17. Textual “signature”

A small point in favour of Hell-Driver on Nowhere Trail’s being by Kelly is that it shares a curious stylistic signature with several works that clearly are by him, namely beginning the next step in a dialogue at the end of the preceding paragraph:

“That’s okay, Garth. I figured the first mad feeling would be so sharp your hand would go automatically to your gun. Take it easy.” Garth said:

“Once this convoy is through, Logan, there won’t be room in the world for you and me.” Logan said:

“That’s another river we can cross when we come to it.”

When the print is faint, it can make for misdirection.

The technique is a particularly distracting in Buck Toler’s 1943 The Bronsville Massacre..

The absence of this feature should not be taken as indicating that a work is not by Kelly.

It is present in Road Floozie and Deep South Slave.

Note 18. A word about critical principles.

Though London Cameos (1951) is Kelly’s only book over his own name for adults, I haven’t lingered over it, and not just because that kind of belle-lettrism makes me feel queasy.

Since these literary sketches first appeared in 1931–32, this is in effect his first book. I didn’t want the illusion that I was in some way glimpsing the “real” Kelly, the mind that would continue manifesting itself, in various guises, in the books to come.

I have tried to read his works for their individual selves, and with an eye to that still unavoidable concept “quality,” resisting preconceptions about the height of the cultural glass ceiling above them, and not trying to make him more respectable by discerning an authorial “mind” at work.

Actually this wasn’t hard to do, since the books came my way randomly, thanks to AbeBooks, e-Bay, and a couple of major libraries. A Western from 1953 might be followed by a gangster novel from 1941, followed by a science fiction novel from 1944, followed by, well, London Cameos. And the works themselves are so extraordinarily varied that at times one can have doubts about the authorship.

An advantage to this multifariousness, at least for me, is that it inhibits a binary reading, particularly the kind in which, after disentangling, as one thinks, the author’s conscious intention and latent “position,” one proceeds to show how this position is undercut and put on the defensive by other things in the works themselves.

Noticing things about an individual or a work that have been suppressed in the interests of a self-image has its charms, of course. How nice to feel that one is smarter than someone else in some respects, particularly if one doesn’t have to be speaking explicitly from a position—Freudian, Marxist, etc—that might itself be subject to interrogation.

But a concern with the binary, particularly of the deconstructive kind, seems to me, if I may say so, peculiarly “French.”

It simply doesn’t fit literary works, particularly those of Shakespeare, that are themselves a complex, multi-layered dialoguing that is more than binary—works in which “positions” are themselves being scrutinized, with facts of consciousness and social morality being allowed into existence in ways that can’t be simply subsumed under this or that pre-existent ideology.

F.R. Leavis and other Scrutiny writers were doing part of the “task” of Deconstruction in the Thirties and Forties, without jargon and with considerable cultural sophistication.

But no, I’m not comparing Kelly with Shakespeare apart from there being no supposedly privileged windows into their minds in the way of letters, diary entries, reported conversations), so that one really does have to focus on what is done in this work, and this, and this. Anyone who presumes to have figured out what Shakespeare “really” believed simply doesn’t know how to read the works.

Many years ago, Leavis pounced on a description in one of Matthew Arnold’s sonnets of Shakespeare, like a mountain, “planting [his] steadfast footsteps in the sea,” with “its ludicrous suggestion of gigantic, ponderously wading strides” (Education and the University, p.75). It was the product, he said, of a mind simply not seeing things clearly.

There are places in Kelly where an editor might have suggested some different phrasing. They are not of that kind, though, but simply display the looseness that can occur when one is writing fast and not revising closely, let alone rewriting to make the whole book more three-dimensional.

Some of the looseness and roughness are like those in the novels of B.Traven or Richard Jeffries, features of a “talked” prose to which one soon becomes accustomed. At other times, particularly in the egregious Space-Time Task Force, we simply have bad writing.

But Kelly never settles down into the efficient banality of James Hadley Chase’s later novels or run-of-the mill Gold Medal or Ace paperbacks. You can never, the first time through, know where he’s taking you. And at times, particularly in the Westerns, there can be stretches of vibrancy that it is tempting to call—well, why not go for it?—“Shakespearian.”

Note 19. George Hackenschmidt

Born in Estonia and known as The Russian Lion and, more informally, Hack, the German-Swedish Hackenschmidt (1878-1965) had been “among the greatest in the history of wrestling” (Britannica Online), winning over 3000 free-style bouts between 1889 and 1908. His books promoted what would now be called a holistic vision of a strong and intelligently exercised body, good diet, and a creatively focused will.

In Gerald Kersh’s Night and the City (1938), low-life Harry Fabian (English and very different from Richard Widmark) complains of the public’s ignorance about wrestling. “The only wrestler they ever heard of is Hackenschmidt.”

It seems to me likely that Harold and George were or became friends, and that George’s organically grounded optimism and affirmativeness helped Harold to come back up from whatever pit he had been thrust down into by the savage (legal) crushing of City Mid-Week. George himself knew what humiliation was like, having in 1908 suffered the unexpected loss of his world heavyweight championship at the hands of the tricky and brutal Frank Gotch.

In several of Kelly’s novels there are substantial descriptions of closely observed full-body-contact fights. I would guess that he was present at wrestling matches in Hack’s instructive company.

In a Google entry, Geoff Thompson says of Hackenschmidt, “He always had time for those less fortunate. He touched and changed many lives for the better, often with as little as a comment or a compliment or a piece of advice.”

In a substantial article in, David Gentle says that

‘Hack’ ” was never mean, vindictive or unnecessarily rough in his wrestling bouts, contrasting his physical prowess and fighting skills with a quietness of spirit. George Hackenschmidt was the epitome of calm self-assurance and inner peace, with full awareness of his own capabilities and thus like all masters of combat found no need for machoism or outward aggression. He spoke softly, so that you were forced to listen and pay attention, rather than raise his voice to be heard. His serenity was ‘catching,’ calming all those in attendance at his lectures…and it was a developed calmness.

Hackenschmidt died in 1968, Harold Kelly the following year.

Note 20. Give the People Homes

Give the People Homes, 1945
Give the People Homes, 1945

I have a photocopy of probably the whole of this pamphlet in the Library of Congress, comprising the pictorial cover (builders at work in a garden-suburbish street) and thirty-one pages of text, on the last of which one reads, “Printed by the Alcuin Press, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, for Francis James Publishing Co., London, by arrangement with the Liberal Publication Department. The words “Kelly, Harold” are handwritten just above the title on the cover.

The booklet is divided into seven untitled chapters, and appears to have been commissioned by the Liberal Party with the approaching General Election of 1945 in mind that put the Labour Party massively in power, partly as overdue payback for Conservative incompetence in the Thirties, partly in the expectation of a juster social order, and partly, no doubt, from a hunger for change.

The prose is admirably lucid (the former freelance journalist at work?), and the tone is that of practical idealism, not uncommon back then. The big-picture emphasis is on a sufficiency of decent housing as essential to the mental health of the nation, because permitting the establishment of more essential families in their individual homes. It is a hymn to the family.

It is also a summons to dealing with the present housing shortage “by comprehensive and drastic means,” continuing the same kind of public and private, managerial and workforce co-operation as obtained in wartime, and progressive technology.

No house should go up now without a sun-trap room or loggia, laid on hot water, and some form of central heating. These are no longer luxuries. They can be made commonplaces with hardly greater cost than the building of an old style house. Many think that refrigerators and water-softeners should take their part among the indispensable fittings (p.16).

I detect the same kind of emphasis here on vision and more or less heroic cooperation in the realization of it that we get in Kelly’s, at least I take to be his, 1948 translation as Gordon Holt of a major manifesto by one of Le Corbusier’s principal associates. As he observes, “a Housing plan with genius behind it could get the problem into something like control almost after the first couple of years.” (p. 16).


A brief paragraph may be of considerable biographical importance:

[T]here is no doubt as to wooden houses being capable of becoming a home in the fullest sense. Some of the parts of the world where they are most widely used—for example, Sweden, Norway, and North Russia—have extremes of temperature unknown to this country. It only requires that the heating system shall be in keeping with the type of house. Any traveler knows how snug a Swedish or Canadian wooden house can be in the hardest of weather. (p. 11, italics mine).

That sounds to me like someone speaking from personal experience.

No name is given for the artist who did the cover picture. In theory it could be on an unphotocopied page. But this was the England of strict paper rationing, and the text starts with “Give the People Homes (It Lies With You)” at the top of page 2. So I would guess that the cover illustration is considered to be page 1.

So, could the illustration be by Parsons (Kelly) himself? And, if so, what about the illustrations in London Cameos (1951)? They are attributed to Edward Perry, but when one is in the land of pseudonyms … (See Note 9)

The same note is struck early on as was struck in London Cameos:

There must be comparative comfort so that [ the ] home represents to the members of the family a pleasant oasis of retirement from the bustle of life as a whole. There must be a sense of freedom and security within it so that it stands always as a sanctuary where the forces from without cannot penetrate.

With a slight twist, one might suggest that the security and penetration of “sanctuaries” is a concern in the novels.

Note 21. The authorship of Wild Blood

In The Trials of Hank Janson, Steve Holland reports that “Although the [Duke Linton] by-line was created by [Stephen] Frances, …the stories were not. ‘Immanuel wanted me to write for him,’ recalled Frances. ‘I had no time. Instead I got others to write for me, edited the manuscripts, and then sold them to Scion.’” (p. 101)

I haven’t been able to access Duke Linton’s Crazy to Kill (1950), which Steve Holland says was the first printing of the text of Wild Blood and attributes to Frances.

But without his attribution, it wouldn’t have occurred to me for a moment that Wild Blood was anything but an uncommonly fine Glinto, belonging right in there with Curtains for Carrie (1947) and No Come Back from Connie (1948), with the same kind of admirable heroine, a development of what we saw in the first-series Glintos (See Sidebar 3).

We also have the problem-solving thinking-ahead that we see there and in the Hank Jansons that Kelly (I’d better say reportedly) authored, and the menace, as in the first series and in Curtains, of a dangerous man’s obsessive hunger to dominate. The tone and style are absolutely right.

Moreover there’s the same curious layout signature that I describe in Note 17, and the same odd use of “to bell” as meaning “to phone,” as in, “He belled the lawyer.”

However, if Frances were credited with all the Lintons as well as the Jansons (I keep forgetting to pronounce it “Yanson”), he would have published seventeen novels in 1950.

I know that he could write astonishingly fast. But Wild Blood is really worked, with lots of loving detail and no signs anywhere of haste.

Nor is there any of the passive suffering that figures in the ten or a dozen books by Frances that I have read, or the near-compulsive peek-a-boo mini-thrills, not even when at one point Cora removes her coat and shirt-waist for a very practical, non-sexual reason. Wild Blood is not, in the conventional sense, an erotic novel.

Kelly had three Glintos coming out in 1950 with Robin Hood, and may well have felt that there could be too much of a good thing. I very much doubt that Frances needed to do any editing.

The title Wild Blood picks up on references in the text to Cora’s having wild blood in her veins. Crazy to Kill misrepresents the narrative.

After writing the foregoing, I e-bayed a copy of Blue Blood Flows East (1947) and discovered that Wild Blood is a reissue of it.

Which would appear to settle the matter.

Note 22. Blue Blood Flows East

Rich, beautiful, fast-living New York socialite Rosa Van Sennes picks up (literally) the young hoodlum Garry Banner who’s been knocked out, and takes him back to her apartment, which he assumes belongs to her “meal-ticket.”

A genuine fondness develops between them, with Rosa unbothered by his criminality and Garry still assuming that she’s a classy kept dame.

Flashback for forty pages to Garry as a member of big-time Dropeye Grimson’s gang, where he’s promoted to major responsibility and then abruptly turned against by paranoid Grimson, who’s afraid of anyone’s getting too close to the throne.

He escapes and starts his own gang, cutting in on Grimson’s protection racket and doing a bit of white slaving (organized prostitution) until he miscalculates and ends up unconscious in the ditch where Rosa found him.

Back to the present, with Rosa still his lover and his gang doing reasonably well. He’s in the good books of tough night-spot owner Ma Hickson and, following in Grimson’s footsteps, has bought a share in Police Captain Malleson.

But then he miscalculates and lands in hospital with a fractured skull for an extended stay, and Grimson is obviously set to reclaim his lost territory. Now the novel really lifts off.

Still incognito, Rosa pays Malleson to take her into Grimson’s lair, so that it can be explained to him that a gang war will be in nobody’s interests.

Brave, likeable, shrewd, plain-speaking Rosa—our heroine! A bold pre-emptive move that looks at first as though it’s going to pay off.

But then the meeting starts going wobbly in a gripping narrative of three-way dialogue and mental calculations as the very dangerous Grimson’s lust for her competes with his awareness of the reasonableness of what she and Malleson are saying.

Malleson begins to lose his aura of authority, and Rosa starts glimpsing the outlines of what may await her as a surrogate for Garry.

You can say she was playing for a life and death stake because she was quite clear in her mind that it only needed her having to stay in Dropeye’s joint for twenty-four hours for everything that mattered in her life to come to an end. After Dropeye had had his way with her for twenty-four hours she would not care what happened to her so long as it brought a quick end. (p. 121)

In Glinto’s fiction there are no magic shields, no guarantees that members of approved groups will wind up OK at the end (though also no convention that they won’t). One genuinely doesn’t know how things will turn out as Rose (like Modesty Blaise) clamps down on the panic rising within her, and coolly does play for her life.

I don’t recall so psychologically intense an episode in any other thriller.

Note 23. Tough on the Wops 1947


Thrilling to be reading an ultra-rare copy of this book on loan from the Library of Congress, the pages brown and brittle, the print small, the margins narrow to save rationed paper, the cover incompetent and ugly (the upper half of a figure with contorted face, right foreground, and a small face above a smaller tommy-gun in the back window of a car below left.

It opens unpromisingly—a dreadful pseudo-tough tone, absurd gangster names (but with detailed descriptions of, ugh! Lugs Heimer, Fluther Raggett, Tank Pella, Zack Crow, Bilt Loder, Chin Santo, and Nils Berg), and an unnecessary opening episode involving gang-leader Heimer and a trouble-maker.

I would surmise that Kelly, working at top pressure, was writing his way in and left the draft essentially unrevised, which would also account for at least one absurdly long paragraph at the start of a chapter.

But once the gang has moved from Milwaukee into so-called Woptown, a district in State City, things click into a higher gear as the gang start to make things what the title says, with a protection racket. Young Angelo’s restaurant is shot up and vandalized at some length, heartless pressure is put on him in a conversation with Fluther to hand over $5000 bucks outside a movie theatre, a police stakeout goes wrong, and Angelo is tommy-gunned.

His loving, lovely fiancée Francesca, who witnesses the slaying, is heartbroken, but sets out for revenge, becomes a street-walker (first in imitation, then in fact) in order to get a chance of seeing his killers, and is picked up by Fluther, who has taken over from Heimer after the stakeout failure. It takes her a while to figure out that he’s a hoodlum (he’s not without appeal), but it’s only after he takes her back to the hideout as his mistress and introduces her to the boys that she realized what a minefield she’s in.

An old former FBI man, John Bonar, is tracking the gang by a different route, working back via the cars they used. After a high-powered robbery of money being transferred from train to bank, described with a topographical density entirely lacking in Lady—Don’t Turn Over, Francesca briefly accepts his help, but then goes it alone to an emotionally satisfying conclusion.


What makes the novel gripping once Francesca sets out on her quest is that you do not know how things are going to go.

Glinto has already come up with uncertainty in the episodes of young Patrolman Terry Vogt in the gang’s headquarters which he’s stumbled into unawares (will he or won’t he be able get back out?) and Fluther’s take-over of the gang from the dangerous Heimer.

The thin Fluther looks like an obvious loser going up against Heimer, who’s bigger and tougher than he is, and incapable, hitherto, of giving up on anything even when temporarily thwarted. But Fluther beats him in a fight with unexpected moves (spitting, kicking an ankle, deft ruthless work with a bottle), and then, against gangland tradition (as Glinto points out), keeps him on, temporarily cowed but hungry for revenge. Heimer does in fact say, “ ‘I’ll see yuh in hell first.’ The only thing was, he didn’t say it as if he meant it.”

Terry fights well with Loder, whom he takes to be alone, and beats him. But there’s been an ominous little reference to his ignorance of what the gang is capable of.

When the other gang members show themselves, Loder beats up Terry in return and makes his teeth meet in his tongue. But he keeps his head and tries to talk his way out. So we assume that he has, hasn’t he? earned the fictional right to escape, particularly from men capable of saying (and meaning). “Try him with the end of your cigarette under his eyelid.”


But for all our rooting for him, here is what actually happens to Terry Vogt. Heimer says:

“Turn on the radio, Zack. Shut the window, Nils.” They did. The radio was playing swing, with a hot-momma vocalist. She was bawling: “Dat ole black coon, he makes me swoon, ebery time he looks ma way, an’ he makes me go all oh-de oh-do, in the movie show, when the lights is low, but Ah neber know, what scares me so, till Ah feel his arm come stealin’ …” Heimer said:

“I said turn it on—turn it right on. I need it loud.” Zack said:

“You c’n have it so goddam loud … ” He turned the volume control right round. The hot momma’s voice sounded as if it was liable to push the room walls out. Heimer got up. He had his gun in his hand. He suddenly grabbed Vogt’s arm and jerked him around so he could put a bullet into his stomach from a foot away. The patrolman started twisting round in his chair, and curling up his legs, and grabbing his singed pants, and screaming with pain. But what was his screaming against the hot momma’s howling? He died slowly. They mostly do with a bullet in the belly. But the bunch liked it that way. Loder liked it that way, especially. (pp.50-51)


So, how does that augur for Francesca?

Francesca is brave, and lovely, and timid, and inexperienced, and numb inside, and we do not know how she’s going to manage her vengeance, and neither does she, and she has to keep improvising.

This is a novel where things don’t go in straight lines. The piece of stiff wire in the expensive clasp that Fluther has given her does not, as it would have done for Modestly Blaise, prove adequate, despite her lengthy attempt, for picking the lock of the cupboard containing ammunition for the gang’s tommy-guns. But she hangs in there.

And we believe in her grief for lost Angelo. Here she is before the troubles start:

The big thing was the kind of character that went with Francesca’s swell shape and lovely face. She had no notion about either she or Angelo being lucky. Luck seemed a lot too casual, too small a thing, against the feeling she had for him and believed he had for her. That was so big it got her a bit scared at times. She knew with the same kind of dead certainty as she knew about having two hands and two feet that they belonged to one another. She knew there was nothing on earth he would ask her that she would not try to do, nothing she had, from her few hundred dollars of savings to her name, her body, even her life, that she was not ready to give him just whenever he needed it. When she thought about it, it seemed she had already given him her life. She knew that being herself, Francesca Colabella, could never mean anything any more. By itself it could never mean anything. It only counted that because she was a girl, and just the kind of girl she happened to be, she could be Angelo’s wife. That was what scared her a bit. If anything happened to him at any time and he was not there any more, it would be just the same as being dead herself.

So, what will Toler’s private sense of the interplay between the desirable and the possible dictate for her?

Note 24. Wartime reading


The general run of crime-thrillers that came my own adolescent way during the War were by writers like Edgar Wallace, Sydney Horler, Bruce Graeme, “Sapper,” Anthony Armstrong, Leslie Charteris. All were perfectly respectable.

So too, as I recall, was the paperback novel by Theodore Roscoe with tommy guns in it, and (I think) a kidnapping, maybe in a Southern setting, that I bought off a railway bookstall in 1942. I forget the details of another paperback, first-person-narrated and purporting to be true, about an Englishman who had been in one of the American gangs.

I suspect that the tough “Yank Mags” that Orwell speaks of in his 1936 review of Paul Cain’s Fast One were ones like Black Mask and Dime Detective. The copy of Black Mask that I bought in Reading in 1944 was pretty mild.

Was there hotter stuff in scruffy newspaper shops?I’m always a bit bothered, and intrigued, by the idea of an unspecified multitude.

Here is Orwell in “Raffles and Miss Blandish” (1944):

There exists in America an enormous literature of more or less the same stamp as No Orchids for Miss Blandish. Quite apart from books, there is the huge array of “pulp magazines,” graded so as to cater to different kinds of fantasy, but nearly all having much the same mental atmosphere. A few of them go in for straight pornography, but the great majority are quite plainly aimed at sadists and masochists. Sold at threepence a copy under the title of Yank Mags, these things used to enjoy considerable popularity in England, but when the supply dried up owing to the war, no satisfactory substitute was forthcoming. English imitations of the “pulp magazine” do now exist, but they are poor things compared with the original.

I include a taste of such forbidden fruit in Sidebar 13.

Noticing for the first time the apparent extensiveness of Orwell’s reading in this area, I wonder if there isn’t some aesthetic law to the effect that to criticize a genre intelligently, you need to have enjoyed aspects of it yourself, in order to know how things work.


Here is George Ryley Scott, writing in 1945:

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, a demand was created for cheap paper-covered novels, especially of the type known to the trade as “sophisticated fiction.” The result of this demand was seen in the appearance all over the country of these paper-bound volumes, mostly published at a shilling, with alluring picture covers of scantily-clad “glamour” girls. In particular, tough American gangster stories were prominently displayed and enjoyed enormous sales.

He reports that among the other books indicted, not always successfully, during what he calls “The Attack on the Booksellers, 1942” were:

I’m surprised that Scott’s own unwholesome 1942 historical novel (hardback) in dreadful prose about the tortures and sexual goings-on in an Inquisition prison, Voluptuous Inquisitor, wasn’t included in the sweep. Or was it? The dust-jacket, whatever it was, might have made a difference, I suppose.


Presumably the titles listed on the back of the original edition of Lady—Don’t Turn Over would have been among the “paper-bound volumes” that Scott speaks of:

On the mildness of the contents of several of them, see Sidebar 3, section III.

But back then, given the reader’s powers of imagining, a few lines here and there would have been enough to make a novel erotic, like the humorous Thorne Smith novel Turnabout (1931) in which at one point a French maid’s precious jupe (skirt) is snatched away by an invisible hand, leaving her blushingly exposed in her step-ins. The pocket-size magazine Men Only was a bit risqué.

I wonder, though, whether the tough American gangster stories that Scott speaks of weren’t mostly the ten or so, by 1942, of Glinto and Chase, plus a few by Peter Cheyney.


A tip of the hat to the tuppenny lending libraries (by which I don’t mean Boots), as represented by the one in the market town where I endured my wartime schooling. It was a cornucopia of exactly the kinds of books that I wanted to read at that time—French Foreign Legion memoirs (ostensibly non-fictional), Albert Richard Wetjen’s Shark Gotch books, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter on Mars books, and others that I’ve forgotten. Were there gangster novels? I don’t recall reading those. But it was all a magic garden into which to escape, at tuppence a volume, from an under-heated, under-feeding, and over-exercising boarding school.


I now (June ’06) have Steve Holland’s long and characteristically scholarly “A British Crime Noir Chronology,” which takes us through novels, short stories, and British-made movies from 1927 to 1947. When I look at the entries for 1940–1944, I am simply not seeing the patterns that Orwell and Scott talk about.

Admittedly there are names there that I had never previously heard of—John G. Brandon, Jerome Ellison, Robert Reeves, Jackson Budd, William Darrell (a possibility), William J. Elliott (another), Earl Franklin Stafford (another, William J. Elliott (again), Rine Gadhart (again), and, having obtained a couple of texts, I can see how Gadhart and Elliott could be nominees. But a number of names are appended to books first published in America by reputable publishers like Knopf and Lippincott.

For the rest, it’s usual suspects like Butler, Chase, Cheyney, Halliday, Woolrich, Greene, Chandler, plus, of course,Glinto and Toler.

I guess there could be a lower layer invisible to any radar. But paper was severely rationed after the conflagration of warehouses during the Blitz and the loss of Norway’s softwood for paper pulp. The first six Glintos were published by a long established and reputable firm that presumably had its foot in the door for paper stock.

There used to be faintly disapproving references to the “alcoholic” school of detection in the Thirties, from which you might infer a carnival of drunks in the city streets (drunks, not drinkers).My own impression now is that things pretty much boiled down to Hammett’s The Thin Man and the four principal Latimer novels about Bill Crand and Co.

I wonder if the S. & V. epidemic, as reported in the Press by persons who may never have read a single example right through, wasn’t similarly a matter, largely, of Chase, Glinto, and Latimer’s Solomon’s Vineyard.

Note 25. George Ryley Scott


George Ryley Scott, born in 1886 and starting to publish at the end of the Twenties, was Britain’s principal worker in a field where a variety of sexual activities and concerns overlapped—birth control, sex manuals for the (in Britain almost inevitably) ignorant and anxious, nudism, censorship, the history of sexual practices, and the sublimations into cruelty in a variety of forms (torture, flagellation, cock-fighting).

His histories of corporal punishment and torture were displayed in the windows of several of the less respectable Charing Cross Road bookshops in the 1940s. My sense of him now, based on those, is that he was fascinated by cruelty (he did a lot of research) and/but also an unequivocal enemy of, and exposer of, the horrors and stupidities, at times verging on insanity, of official cruelty. I would guess that his books, which of course were “interesting” reading, contributed to the phasing out of corporal punishment.


In 1942 he perpetrated the sadistic and badly written novel Voluptuous Inquisitor that serves as a demonstration of what we do not have from Kelly at that time. (See that year in Violence Inc., Part 1.)

So far as I know, it wasn’t prosecuted. Being in hardcover may have helped.


It occurs to me that in the episode in There Were No Asper Ladies in which a slightly doped Lucian is introduced by Asper to his vast collection of images of torture, Kelly may have been drawing on an acquaintance with Scott.

Which, if so, is reassuring, since it would mean that Kelly himself had not been engaged in the extensive collecting or at least investigating needed in order to provide that account.

He took me to another room across the landing and now that I look back on it with my blood free from the taint of that strange wine, I find it almost impossible to reconcile the humane, sensitive person I know myself to be, with the monster of indifference who could view what he showed me as casually as if I were a visitor being shown the family portraits. He had collected thousands of drawings, engravings, and photographs, depicting every kind of suffering—floggings, tortures, unaesthetised surgical operations, starvations, horrible abnormalities and deformations, the effects of accidents. No form of pain possible to man or woman was unrepresented. And with many of the pictures, particularly the most realistic—those I judged to have been copied from the actual incident while it was in progress—the same visible and audible images were conjured up as I had seen in his torture room. I saw an operation for the stone performed upon a bound and screaming criminal prisoner for the edification of a seventeenth century French king. I saw men and women flogged with rods, knouts, and wire-thonged whips; I heard the mouthings from unrecognizable bodies warped and distorted in the final stages of starvation, and witnessed the last sufferings of minds and bodies whose limbs had been pulped or mangled in horrible mechanical accidents. There was still that faint protest from some remote depth of my consciousness, but it was never able to surge up and make itself apparent in the surface levels of my mind.

In 1945, talking about the 1942 trial at the Old Bailey, Scott opined that Lady—Don’t Turn Over and Road Floozie had no literary merit.


The appearance of Scott’s histories of, respectively, flagellation and torture in 1938 and 1940, the fruits, presumably, of several years’ reading, is a further testimony to the anxieties of those years.

His History of Torture was recently reprinted by Columbia University Press. He obviously hated cruelty, including cruelty to animals, but was fascinated by it, his hatred coming in part, perhaps, because of his knowledge of its appeal for himself.

He deserves an article—not by me, I hasten to add. Maybe there’s already one somewhere.

Note 26. R.C. Publishing

I do not know what this operation was, but obviously it was Kelly-related. In my copy of The Deputy of Squaw Rock we have, facing the title page, “Other titles in this [Peverill Westerns] series.”

I’m morally certain that Medicine Man is not by Kelly (see Sidebar 9).

Note 27. Translation in the Le Corbusier book.

Two Gordon Holts publishing in the same year would be too much, and in fact there are only two entries for that name, one below the other, in the relevant British Library catalogue.

The book, an important Le Corbusier title first published in France in 1942, consists of an approximately 24,000-word manifesto by a disciple of his, followed by about a hundred pages of architecture-related annotated sketches by the Master. Kelly (“Holt”), who translated the manifesto, was obviously at home in French, at least of the formal variety. (Ascher’s 1954 translation of the dialogue in Jean Gaston Vandel’s Enemy Beyond Pluto is dreadful.)

Moreover, one can see in Pierrefeu’s words some of the concerns that Kelly voices elsewhere over his own name—dislike of a too-speeded-up environment, the belief that “The City is created to liberate the human person, so that he may achieve fulfillment” (p.16), and the intolerableness of work-force slavery in “the bare and somber prison which our machine age began to substitute for the city of tradition and the homes of our ancestors. (p. 19)

Alas, the article, with its lyrical hymning of the powers of sun and light, develops into a summons (in Vichy France) to what sounds like a total top-down transformation of society under the aegis of super-architects. But that can’t be laid at the door of the translator. Piquant to find Pierrefeu enquiring at one point, “Where is the adventurous spirit of the descendants of the conquerors of Canada, India and Nova Scotia?” (p. 26)

In November 2007, Julian Osley wrote:

I am undertaking some research into the architect Le Corbusier and have come across your investigations into The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969, in which you suggest that one of his pseudonyms was Gordon Holt, translator of Le Corbusier's The Home of Man [1948]. Gordon Holt also wrote a number of articles on Le Corbusier and other architectural matters, and I am wondering whether there is any further proof that Harold Kelly wrote under the name of Gordon Holt or Gordon H.G. Holt.

Both Alan J. Hubin and the British Library catalogue give Kelly as the author of the racing novel, The Stables to £1,000,000, published in 1948 by the Robin Hood Press over the name of Gordon Holt. Presumably it was the actual Gordon Holt who authored the translation. It seems unlikely that he also wrote the racing novel, though in the Borgesian world of Kelly pseudonyms anything feels possible at times.

My thanks to Julian for the correction.

Note 28. Innocence is No Protection (John Parsons)

The comments by Steve Holland in Supplementary (John Parsons) leave virtually no room for doubt that my attribution of this book to Kelly was wrong. But since “Found Pages” is partly “about” the process of exploration, I’m leaving the note in for the time being. The book is mildly entertaining.

Innocence is no protection, 1949
“Innocence is no protection”, 1949

The fine-point, linear ink-drawings illustrate twenty-six proverbs, including, “All are not saints who go to Church,” “Dancers are thought mad by those who hear not the music,” “Great wealth and contentment seldom live together,” “Innocence is no protection,” “Might overcomes right,” “Vice often wears the raiment of virtue,” and “Zeal without knowledge is the sister of folly.” The clothing styles are mostly late-Victorian and Edwardian, and the figures high-bourgeois or upper-class. Parson is good with faces.

The attitude expressed in the title of the book accords with what we have in Monkey Goes Home in the same year. The titles that I’ve quoted seem to me consistent with Kelly’s anti-establishment attitudes elsewhere. But the tone of the drawings isn’t angry.

Two books with a socio-ethical emphasis published by two different John Parsons in Britain within four years of each other seems a biggish coincidence.

In the British Museum General Catalogue the word “Artist” has been added by the library after the author’s name. But since the book consists of images by Parsons, this may have been a simple extrapolation rather than conveying extra-bibliographical knowledge.

There is no other John Parsons, artist, in the British Library catalogues that I have found.

In the title drawing, a soulful-looking, slightly plump, long-haired maiden in a long dress is kneeling beside a large droopy-looking St. Bernard with a little chair tied on his back, on whose head she is about to place a floral wreath. They appear to have come from the cottage in the background. A lion, not particularly sinister-looking, is galumphing towards her from behind.


Here is the complete list of proverbs:

Note 29. One More Nice White Body

An unwed girl, Ruth, bears a child in a “special” clinic that will conveniently take it off her hands, and is taken for a ride when she demands it back. (“’One more nice white body for a nice black mortuary slab.’”) Tim Bray, its young newspaper-reporter father, gets on the dangerous trail with the help or hindrance of Lena, Sonia, Kathleen, and Maisie, the last two floozies.

The book is voyeuristic, with several strippings, both in and out of clubs, a blue movie, and displays of underwear, Kathleen’s panties being “filmy and two colored, black over the hips with white center panels back and front, with lace edging at the loose legs which were so short that they were hardly legs at all.” (p.72).

But whoa, two reversals. Kathleen, who seems like an earth goddess healing Tim after his loss of Ruth, is revealed as not nice. And in an oddly touching ten-page section, Tim takes destitute, desperate, sick, starving, exhausted, and genuinely decent Lena back to his apartment, strips her, bathes her, gets a little nourishment into her—she all the time insisting that she’s all right and would like to leave, thank you very much—and keeps her in bed for three days, recovering, without the least charge of erotic feeling or titillation, simply a decent man doing what he figures out to be sensible things. It’s better, because less self-congratulatory, than one or two comparable Travis McGee episodes.

Also Tim isn’t hotshot in his investigation. He misreads character at a couple of important junctures, though energetically escaping harm on another, and he and Lena, who has let him make her pregnant for the purposes of the investigation, are only saved from sadistic deaths at the end by Maisie&rsquop;s having a change of heart and bringing in the cops.

The clinic, it turns out, has been providing babies for rich women, one of whom needs one in order to come into her inheritance.

According to the blurb, “Novels like ‘Road Floozie’ have already made Darcy Glinto world famed as an exposer of little known social evils.”

Except for Straight-Up Girl, the six titles listed at the back are all from before the 1942 trial.

Initially, because of copyright restrictions, I could only obtain photocopies of the first twenty-nine and the last thirty pages from the British Library,

But those, I wrote in my first account of the book, “were truly awful, the prose plodding along without a moment of credible dialogue or psychological insight and with no echoes of earlier Glintos. The thinness of the plot suggested that it had been written fast.”

Note 30. Wenda Malleson

In a couple of e-mails to me after “Found Pages” went online, Steve Holland, who is The Man in this area of British pulp, said apropos of his fascinating suggestion that “Wenda Malleson” might be yet another of Harold’s pseudonyms:

Wenda Malleson is a pure guess based solely on “her” publishing history—how many other authors switched from writing for Hector Kelly to Ward Lock?

But it’s seeking out these little quirks that has led to identifying pen-names quite a few times and I’m pleased to say that I’ve been right more often than I’ve been wrong. On a scale of 1 to 10, and without ever having seen anything written by “Malleson” it’s an “8” that “she” is Harold Kelly.(June 9/’06)

I have now read, in a French translation Malleson’s A Heart Unconquered (Une Etrange Fille). Despite the four-to-one odds, I cannot see this a Kelly. Here is what goes on in it.

A nice middle-class suburban London girl, age twenty-one, asserts herself against stuffy-but-decent parents and fiancé and goes alone on vacation to a quiet French resort town on the Med. There, a young man who's been to Oxford and is now, he insists, a Writer (unpublished) of genius, latches on to her and sponges on her pitifully small holiday allowance.

He is what her father and a zillion similar fathers back then would have called a dreadful chap—the weak-chinned, weak-charactered charmer that we also see in Agatha Christie novels entre les deux guerres, and other detective novels,and who lies to her about the money he extracts from her. I kept saying to her, "Don't, don't, don't!"

But he's ROMANTIC and different from anything she's known and she enjoys being with him and comes to fall in love with him. Do they have sex? I simply couldn't tell.

I kept waiting for disaster, but no, after she gets back to England she liberates herself further, gets a job with his literary agent, finds that he has indeed written at least one play that was rejected, reads it, decides that he is indeed a genius, and persuades a hard-nosed producer and his wife to let her read it out to them after dinner at their place—the whole thing, rejected by him earlier—so as to bring out the beauty of the messages in it about the greatness of Humanity and the harmful effects of patriotism. After which, the producer accepts it.

By this time Alleyn is back in London, broke and feckless as usual, writing bad cheques (even though she's giving him money of her own and saying its royalties from earlier works) and ending up in the Bow Street magistrate's court, where she gives an impromptu speech that persuades the magistrate not to send this genius to jail for nine months. Presumably if he’d been balky she’d have read him the play.

But the play is, or will be, a hit, and they’ll marry, and she’ll cope, and maybe it will all work out, though I wouldn’t bet on his staying faithful to her or learning fiscal common sense.

I can detect no trace of Kelly here. Could the book (admittedly a long shot) have been by the pseudonymous Sarah Prentiss whose Robin Hood novel Shane had Glinto’s endorsement?

Note 31. The Sabinis

In his 1994 memoirs, that natural-born recidivist “Mad” Frankie Fraser recalls:

I was about nine when I met the Sabinis, who controlled the racecourses and the clubs during the Thirties. There were six brothers led by Charles who was known as Derby, or “Darbo” to his real friends. They fought for the control of the racecourses, getting rid of Billy Kimber and his team from Birmingham and then another firm called the Cortesis. This was before my time of course. Now they ran the bookmakers on the courses in the south of England. If the bookmaker wanted a pitch he had to pay the Sabinis. They sold him the tissues on which he put up the names of the runners, they sold him chalk to write the odds, and they had little bucket boys who brought a sponge round to wipe off the odds. Of course the bookmaker could have done it just as easily himself, but he wasn’t allowed to. It was good for the Sabini’s image for the punters to be able to say, “Aren’t they good, looking after that little boy?” …

“Darbo” would tap me on the head and say, “Take this home to your Mum,” and I’d say “Thank you, Darbo.” He took a chuckle from it because he knew I was copying what I had heard; saucy little kid, but with the right style. “Darbo” didn’t have a menacing sort of style, just a nice man, but he didn’t look a mug either. To me, even then, I could tell he was something special.

Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime, as told to James Morton (Warner, 1995, pp. 13–15

Note 32. Chrysler “Airflow”

According to a website,

Despite its commercial failure, Chrysler’s brave attempt at innovation may well have been the most important vehicle of the 1930s. Not only did the Airflow lead the way in terms of aerodynamics (or “streamlining” as it was then called), it was the first mass-market car in the world to use the “modern” architecture that has now become standard.

Note 33. The Third Degree

At the end of his lucid and reliable-feeling account of American police attitudes and practices in The Third Degree (1930; British edition. 1931), crime-reporter Emanual H. Lavine says,

I have written to little purpose if I have not demonstrated that the third degree is much more than merely an occasional or a secondary weapon in the hands of the police; it is actually the main reliance of the police in obtaining information from stubborn prisoners. In its use the law is candidly, cheerfully and consistently violated by those who are sworn—and paid—to uphold it.

To judge from the incidents described, there was nothing subtle about it at that time. It appeared to consist of hitting the prisoner as hard as possible with fists, blackjacks, nightsticks, rubber hoses, etc and kicking him when he was down. The roughneck recipients of the treatment seem to have been, for the most part, incredibly tough and stoical, in some instances evidently having a high pain threshold.

In one case, after an eighteen-year-old tough has been steadily beaten for two hours to no avail, a detective ties his forearms to the arms of a chair, has his head pulled back by the hair, takes out his blackjack, and strikes him

across his Adam’s apple with all his strength. I thought the lad would have an apoplectic attack. He shuddered and shook, and his body strained against the ropes that bound him, not in an endeavor to escape, but an attempt to get his breath. Blood spurted half way across the room. What seemed like minutes elapsed before he was able to get some air flowing down his mouth and throat. (pp.82-83)

Incredibly, he endures two more such assaults before giving in. Chase may have drawn on this episode (without the blood) for the interrogation in No Orchids.

The book is interesting, and not out of date, in its unpacking of the workings of police corruption, the code of silence, the power of crooked politicians, and the retributions against police trouble-makers.

Note 34. Prewar thrills

The only copy of a pulp ‘zine that I can remember buying before the War, in the newspaper shop up the road from my North London day-school, was the February-March (and only) issue of The Octopus, now a very serious collectable. Girasol Collectables have included it in their series of impeccable facsimile reprints.

From what I can see, very little of it imprinted on my ten-year-old consciousness, apart from (in Randolph Craig’s novelette “The City Condemned to Hell”) the use of ultra-violet rays to turn people into hideously deformed monsters. The hero—, a man-about-town who moonlights not only as the mysterious Skull Killer but as good gray surgeon Dr. Skull—covers himself protectively with bandages and lashings of make-up and passes as one of the monsters.

I hadn’t even remembered the (illustrated) incident in which he and the heroine whom he’s rescuing come upon a scene in which

A young girl’s nearly nude body was hanging taut and suspended by the wrists from a rope in the ceiling, her feet barely grazing the floor. Her body was pitted with little black holes—and it was only too obvious what had caused those holes.

The gruesome Thing with its waving tentacles stood beside the girl; she could see the dark blood on the rim of the knife-like circular section cup of its tentacles. On the girl’s other side stood a deformed monster, drawing still more of the life-fluid from the white body, by means of a sharpened metal pipe which he had inserted in the victim’s side. (p. 60)

Did I feel guilty about the purchase? Probably not, though I don’t suppose I waved it about when I got home. My reading wasn’t monitored.

I see that the facsimile reprint contains ads for companion issues of Dime Mystery and Horror Stories. In the latter,

Down … down … the labyrinth that Horror built and paved with Death, fled lovely Babs. And even as fickle Fate showed her the door to Life, that door shut tight—to seal her in a slaughterhouse where human flesh was rendered for a purpose without name! For Babs was one of the Girls for the Devil’s Abattoir.

Did those issues make it into the local Woolworth’s, I wonder?

In any event, I had very little weekly pocket money, and there were cheap sweets and boys’ weeklies like Hotspur and Wizard to acquire. The America of The Octopus and the lone set of American Sunday funnies that I saw in 1936 in a farmhouse was still a bit too grotesque and strong-flavoured, like W.C. Fields. My heart was with Bulldog Drummond, and Richard Hannay, and Sanders of the River, and the heroes of those boys’ weeklies of which George Orwell disapproved, preferring the hideous Greyfriars school stories from his own youth.

But an octopus would grab me every time. In a Hotspur serial one was reared by a villain in the basement swimming-pool of an empty skyscraper. Individuals who sneaked in for a dip didn’t come back out again. (Imagine jumping into a darkened pool and … !) In the end, the villain turned his protegé loose on the city to create a panic so that he could do some looting, but wound up being carried by it into Lake Michigan as the cops blazed away. Chicago!

There was an incomparable octopus, too, in the increasingly tattered bound volume of Chums, circa 1910, that had come down to me from my father’s childhood. In the serial The Rovers of Black Island, a kind of Treasure Island intensified the way Sergio Leone intensified normal Westerns (it had three pirate ships competing for buried treasure), the youthful hero struggles desperately in the grip of a nest of waving, anaconda-thick tentacles trying to drag him below the surface of a narrow deep rocky pool among vegetation into which pirates have cast him, armed only with a knife. Apparently it had wandered in there when little and become a kind of pet of theirs. You couldn’t see its body, though, just a shadowy large eye. In A Sort of Life, Graham Greene speaks of reading the same serial. Did octopuses figure in his adolescent sessions with the psychoanalyst, I wonder?

The same volume contained two other archetypal illustrations. In one, a youth gripping with one hand the balustrade above a small dome holds with the other the sleeve of the jacket that he has cast as a life-line to another youth clinging desperate to the curve of the dome, with the street visible far below. The other gives us a youth waving desperately on a tiny flat rock on which another sprawls unconscious, while round it protrude the fins of circling sharks.

In 1940, in the loft of the stables of the house to which my first boarding school was evacuated, I came upon a mound of pulps, in one of which a hoodlum was punished for some act of gang indiscipline by having wedges delicately tapped under the fingernails of an immobilized hand and a woman was given an updated version of the strappado so severely that her arms were ripped from her body.

Action pulps (cowboys? air aces?) were probably there too, since I don’t remember a lot of horror. I would guess now that the trove belonged to a son of the house, off elsewhere in uniform.

The previous summer, in a seaside boarding house, there was a French ‘zine containing three, I think three, sharp-focus photos of a Grand Guignol production in which a blind man in a living-room puts out another man’s eye with some kind of implement. You see the victim afterwards, with the eyelid tight over the empty socket. What did “Guignol” mean? It was an incentive to acquire more French!

A desire for adult knowledge can begin with a craving for the arcane, the sinister, the forbidden.

My mother, bless her, tried in vain to persuade a cashier to ignore the H-for Horror, adults-only, Kids-Keep-Out rating and let me in to see King Kong one afternoon.

The Most Dangerous Game 1932
The Most Dangerous Game 1932

Frankenstein and Dracula were out of the question, of course. But at least I got my sister’s part-time nanny to take me to The Most Dangerous Game, retitled The Hounds of Zaroff and slightly cut. When we entered the theatre, the most appalling screaming was coming from a pitch-black screen, and I wondered if I wasn’t getting in over my head. However, this was a fox in among the chickens in a short-subject documentary.

How had I known about the Schoedsack and Pichel classic? The school grapevine, maybe, or a trailer. There were exciting previews back then, what with movies like The Son of Frankenstein, The Tower of London, The Black Cat.

The Evening Standard Book of Strange Stories and Switch On the Light, the latter containing a frightening Hands-of-Orlac-type story and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls,” were on the bookshelves at home. Also Edgar Wallace’s Terror Keep, a couple of episodes in which were truly terrifying. Also Francis Beeding’s The Six Proud Walkers, in which a conspirator who fails to assassinate a Mussolini figure has the skin stripped from his hand like a glove, which apparently was one of the Bolshevik specialties, done with boiling water.

Strand Magazine, 1910
Strand Magazine, 1910

The bound volumes of the Strand Magazine at my grandparents’ house down in Wiltshire contained incomparable illustrations to Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Most scary of all was the moment in Doyle’s “The Terror of Blue John Gap” when the narrator, having pursued deep underground a mysterious glimpsed hairy Something that has been decimating local sheep herds, finds himself and his lantern in an immense cavern with, towering over him on its hind-legs, a shaggy blind creature that has made its way up from a hypothesized Underworld..

There was also an illustration to an article about the judicial practice in ancient Rome of torturing a man’s slaves in preference to torturing the owner. In the foreground a naked (male) slave is seated on the stone floor awaiting his turn while a fellow slave is being racked in the background and irons are heating in a brazier.

Well, yes, now that you ask, the slave was white.

I have now discovered with pleasure that Switch on the Light was one of the Not at Night series of anthologies by Christine Campbell Thomson, over half of the contents of which came from Weird Tales.

So the venom of American pulp was entering my veins in the bosom of what must have looked like a very “English” service-middle-class family.

I think the book must have been acquired by my mother, who loved the Astaire-Rogers movies and milk-shakes and waffles, and bought a reproduction of a lovely painting of Indians in a golden Western landscape for my bedroom, and had seen Frankenstein with my father and would have liked to see King Kong with me.

Note 35. Tinhorns on the Tilted ‘K’

Young Terry Cullum arrives incognito in Skewhorn Bend to find out how his father (whom he’d lost touch with for several years after a quarrel) had died, his ranch being subsequently acquired by Culver Brand. Jennie Sinclair and her crippled father Andy, hold-outs against Brand’s take-over of the region, are in Terry’s corner.

We have: good opening rough stuff in a saloon; a fine five-page (ca 3000-word) fight between Terry and Brand’s huge, brutal, cunning Gruner; an extended episode in which a drunken lynch mob surges through the Sinclairs’ ranch where Terry has sought refuge (Kelly likes defining the loss of individual consciousness in mobs, with their water-like eddies and flow); and a prodigious, intricately detailed five-page knife-fight to the death which Terry, who doesn’t know knife-fighting but is intelligent and fuelled by hard cold anger, haselected in order to settle things permanently with Gruner, who has never lost a fight and hates him.

Jennie is a swell heroine, unperturbed by guns, and intelligent in the kind of absolution she gives Terry in his unhappiness about the ruthlessness that has welled up inside him in his dealings with Gruner and Brand. Actually he uses almost military cunning and misdirection in his handling of his temporary M-Bar-O “troops” so as to minimize bloodshed.

There’s a nice bit of dialogue with Jennie about the secret strategy with which he’s going into the final stretch. He speaks first:

“Will you do a little thing for me?”

“You know I’ll do everything for you.”

“Then jist don’t ask me about this right now. I have figured this thing I aim to do purty carefully, and I don’t have to tell you that the prospect of stayin’ alive looks a whole lot better to me than it’s liable to look to most hombres. I never asked you yet if you would be Mrs. Cullum and come out hyar and run the Tilted-K with me.”

“No, you nary asked me that.”

“I’m askin’ you right now, Jennie.”

“Waal, the answer is, surely I will, Terry.”

“Waal, with that to look forward to, you don’t fancy I’m liable to take any single risk I don’t have to.”

“I wouldn’t know, you’re purty reckless.” (p.119).

Note 36. “Confession by Jury”

Confession by Jury”, ca. 1943

Harold Kelly, “Confession by Jury,” pp. 5-9, in Tales of Mystery and Surprise. Everybody’s Books, (nd, but Everybody’s was started by the Kellys in 1943), 32 pp., 6 1/2 x 4"

Also included are Richard Westlake, “Tongues of Death,” Arthur Armstrong, “The Doctor’s Fingerprints,” Sydney Denham, “What Flynn Saw,” Kent Barnett, “The Man Who Defied Death,” and Sidney [sic] Denham, “The Disappearance of Mr. Heavyside”

A jury is deadlocked eleven-to-one in a murder case, based entirely on circumstantial evidence, in which the lone member holding out against a guilty verdict finally agrees to go along—and then announces that it was he who actually did the murder.

The stock of the cover is blue-grey, the paper grayish, with no deterioration. On the front cover, in addition to a panel at the top with the titles, and another towards the bottom with “Six Gripping Mystery Stories by Master Writers,” we have four black-cowled figures seen from right rear and, in front of the right side of the lower panel, a skull in profile, with “6d” and “Everybody’s Thriller” in cursive on a black background.

Could Kelly have drawn the cover?

The contents are listed on the inside of the front cover and again on the back cover.

The inside of the back cover is occupied by an ad for Everybody’s Bookshops offering to buy second-hand books regardless of condition, provided that no pages are missing, “No Quantity Too Small or Too Large,” paperbacks including Penguins, Lilliput, and Men Only. There is no mention of the War or the Armed Forces.

The address of Everybody’s Books is 4, Denmark Street, Charing Cross Road.

I suspect there are enough clues there to date it.

My own guess is 1943 or 1944, depending on when Everybody’s Books was launched. Listing the contents of this miniature 32-page collection on both the back cover and the inside front cover is a waste of wartime space and suggests that Everybody’s didn’t yet have other books to list. The same ad appears in the 1943 Bronsville Massacre.

Note 37. Wartime thievery

Here is “Mad” Frankie Fraser, who claims to have invented the stocking mask and did the cutting job on Jack Spot and was in a position to know:

The War organized criminals. Before the way thieving was safes, jewellery, furs. Now a whole new world was opened up. There was so much money and stuff about—cigarettes, sugar, clothes, petrol coupons. I was a thief. Everyone was a thief. People who I’d known before the War at the races who were villains but who weren’t thieve —now they were. They’d been called up and didn’t fancy the Army so they were on the run. They couldn’t make money at the races because that was the first place people would look for them, and so they’d turned to thieving. And some of them turned out to be very good thieves and all. So it was a whole new world. …

You could nick a car, take the back seats out, take it into the West End, do a job, and the chances of getting caught were just about nil. I’ll never forget one in Hanover Square. It was a gentleman’s tailor’s, a very high-class one at that. We had on wardens’ helmets with the letters “A.R.P.” on them, and armbands. We smashed the windows in with the car and when people came looking asked them to stand back, saying, “Control, please stand back.” People were helping to load the car up.

If there was an air raid going on then better still.

Frank Fraser, Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime, as told to James Morton (Warner, 1995, pp. 26-27

Note 38. Mayo, Mother India

The incidents that undoubtedly penetrated deepest and lingered longest in Western readers’ minds, along perhaps with practices like breaking draft bullock’s tails so that twisting them was an instantly effective goad, were those involving child brides.

The following comes from Appendix I, and concerns evidence offered in a 1922 meeting of the Indian Legislative Assembly.

In 1891, by the western women doctors then practicing in India, united to lay before the Viceroy, in a petition for intervention on behalf of the children of India, the following list of cases. It is made up, they affirmed, entirely of instances that have come under the hands of one or another of their own number, and whose like are continually revealed in their ordinary professional experience.

A.—Aged 9. Day after marriage. Left femur dislocated, pelvis crushed out of shape, flesh hanging in shreds.

C. —Aged 9. So completely ravished as to be almost beyond surgical repair. Her husband had two other living wives and spoke very fine English.

D.—Aged 10. A very small child, and entirely undeveloped physically. This child was bleeding to death from the rectum. Her husband was a man of about forty years of age, weighing not less than eleven stone [154 lb.]. He had accomplished his desire in an unnatural way.

E.–Aged about 9. Lower limbs completely paralysed.

K. –Aged about 10. Condition most pitiable. After one day in hospital, was demanded by her husband, for his “lawful” use, he said.

M. –Aged about 10. Crawled to hospital on her hands and knees. Has never been able to stand erect since her marriage.

(pp. 411–412)

The exact source in the Legislative Assembly Debates is given.

The list is reprinted in the University of Michigan edition of the book (2000/ New Delhi edition 1998)), along with the complete first two parts and selections from the other three less disturbing ones, abridged and edited by Dr.Mrinalini Sinha, who provides a scholarly 62-page introduction bringing out the author’s biases (anti-Hindu, anti-Brahman, anti-Indian-nationalist, and pro-British) and her downplaying of the already extant protests by Indians, particularly women’s groups, against the abuses that she chronicles.

But it would appear that most of the physical facts themselves were not substantially in dispute, and that the book was a powerful energizer in India in the long-haul campaigns against the abuses. What Mayo reports about her own experiences, observations, and conversations (I mean, that she witnessed those things, had those conversations, etc) also feels credible, as do some of her incursions into the psychology of narrow-angle self-interest—whence, perhaps, some of the male fury against the book.

The British, in her account, come across as encouraging the Indianization of administration and trying to promote better medical and sanitary practices, better agricultural procedures, and the education of girls, and to lessen some of the worst abuses, but doing so with the recognition (informing the book itself) that they were dealing with a complicated religion-permeated culture with its own ingrained habits and internal dominance systems, and reluctant (the British) to offend against local mores.

These are not Romans and Rome’s legions confidently imposing “civilization” on Celtic Gaul—or, for that matter, on the province on the far side of the Channel that they called Britannia, of which Conrad’s Marlow, at the outset of Heart of Darkness, would muse, “And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

Note 39. “The Missing Page”

The 1960 episode in Tony Hancock’s TV series has no connection with either Darcy Glinto or Ben Sarto apart from the names Darcy Sarto and Lady Don’t Fall Backwards. The mystery novel whose final page is missing deals with private-eye Johnny Oxford, who, we’re told, has a convertible and lots of girls, and concludes with the traditional assemblage of suspects, leading to the (missing) naming of the multiple murderer. It’s a come-down, at least as heard on vinyl, from the great radio days of the show, and feels like a bit of sturdy British resistance to Americanization. But the initial mention of author and title gets an instant loud laugh, and evidently they have a charge of meaning for writers and performers. The 1940 Lady does in fact end so abruptly that you wonder if a page isn’t missing.

For more, see Steve Holland

Note 40. Kelly portrait?

'If you don't speculate...', 1948
“If you don't speculate…”, 1948

In Imre Hofbauer’s book of drawings and watercolours The Other London (1948), there is a drawing of four men and a youth at the dog-races, as signified by two tiny sketches of speeding greyhounds in the bottom-right corner. The drawing, like a number of others in the book, is obviously a composite, with sketches of individuals worked up and arranged later. To judge from the upward-thrusting hand of a standing figure in the shadowy bank of spectators behind them, this is a climactic moment in a race.

My instinct tells me that the broad-shouldered man holding the field glasses is Kelly. Like almost all the figures in the book, this is obviously a portrait from life, and this sketch is the only one in which the figures aren’t all obviously working-class.

Hofbauer did the cover for Kelly’s Curtains for Carrie in 1947, The Stables to £1,000,000 in 1948, and collaborated with him on Monkey Goes Home (1949). The Stables to £1,000,000 is about horse-racing. The binoculars would have been handy there too.

Hofbauer and Kelly thought highly enough of each other for a poem by Kelly to serve as a prelude in this book.

The man on the left side of the drawing, looking up at the standing figure’s face, holds what appears to be a large sketch book. (Thanks for pointing this out, Rob.) With some wrenching of perspective, the front cover seems to be sticking up vertically beside the head of the man to his left, and that man, if those are his finger tips that we see, has reached across the page preparatory to turning it. To judge from the photo of Hofbauer as a young man on the back of his posthumously-published novel Panna, this could, I think, be the artist at age 43, and the modest self-presentation would be appropriate.

If so, who is the man on the left? Could he be brother Hector, for instance? I don’t see any likeness, and he appears the older of the two, but it’s not impossible. It was simply a guess of mine that he was the younger. And what about the two figures in front? It would be odd to have two perfect strangers presented in such detail, and with some kind of relationship between them, in a composite drawing.

The man with the binoculars is an image of Kelly that I can accept, partly because I hadn’t envisaged something like it myself—a big man (energy there), a strong face, removed from us a little by the narrowed, far-gazing eyes. This man could have been a freelance journalist, started a weekly paper, imagined the ruthless criminal doings in the Glintos, Tolers, and Jansons, ridden horses and fought dangerous men in the Westerns, had the slightly screwy esoteric interests of Ascher and Yorke, been an active partner in publishing ventures, fitted comfortably into saloon bars.

The caption is, “If you don’t speculate … ,” presumably inviting for its completion some such phrase as “where’s the fun?” or “where’s the chance of winning something?”

Stephen Lilley writes (2016):

As to the sketch: would you like another hypothesis? I thought that you would, so here goes: on-course bookmakers in the forties and fifties in the U.K. typically worked in teams of four or five men. A smart well dressed Bookmaker (it was vital for the bookie to appear prosperous), his clerk, one or two tic-tacs and a floorman. The bookmaker would call out the bets as they were taken, to the clerk; who would record them in his ‘field book.’ The tic-tacs would communicate with each other to give the bookmaker up to date market information, and the floorman was there ready to run around the ring backing horses back (hedging the bets) at the bookmakers instruction.

Perhaps the broad shouldered man in the sketch is a racecourse bookmaker; he looks dressed typically for one, with a fawn Crombie coat and a good quality Trilby. The clerk may possibly be the man on the left with a cheaper hat and the other three the tic-tacs and floorman in their caps. The Race that they are watching is almost certainly a horse race: you don’t take your ‘Bins’ to the Dogs. As to what the small greyhound images are meant to signify, I have no idea.

Note 41. “The Caravan of Progress”

This 24-line blank-verse poem, which serves as a prelude to the drawings in Imre Hofbauer’s The Other London (1948), appears to be a loose exegesis of the two-page drawing that follows it, in which a Jesus figure (without thorns or halo) is resisting being tugged off the back of a tumbrel in which Shakespeare, Socrates, and three other greats whom I can’t identify are riding. Alternatively, the drawing is an illustration of the poem.

Far off the highway yet! By darkling ways
Still hung with shadows of the pagan night,
Where questing eyes, though lit by Faith’s clear glow,
See what is not, and see what is, awry:
Where certain judgment scanning simple truths
Reads only mysteries, and eager hope,
By dreamed enchantment born to ecstasy,
Acclaims the mirage promise of false light.
Far off the highway yet! By tortuous ways
Where still the beast of primal ages roams,
By warring mortal wisdoms long misled,
Though sense immortal whispers in its soul,
Humanity’s slow caravanseries
Moves on towards its consummation’s dawn
For this all glory! For this all shame!
Alleluia sing! Ichabod cry out!
All glory that two thousand sad years on,
His lesser peers, in honour round him ranged,
Heaven’s dearest nomad, Earth’s God-born guest,
Upon the Pantheon car of Progress rides.
All shame that still the brow is ringed with thorns
And still the wounds of crucifixion blood,
All shame the Man of Sorrows yet
The Prince of Peace still strives with unquiet men.

Harold Kelly, in Imre Hofbauer, The Other London, 1948

The poem feels very 1890s, and is what you might expect from Eugene Ascher and the Kelly of London Cameos (the word-sketches first published in 1931-32). The muted idealism and optimism, not to speak of the surprising invocation of Jesus, are a reminder of how different what Kelly was doing at this time as Glinto was from the American noirs.

The other text in the book, coming before the poem, is a curious untitled seven-page prose piece

A slightly mysterious stranger (allegorical?) joins four working-class Londoners in a pub, and listens to them talk about a scam by a crooked hire-purchase company, and about housing, and about the need for centers of sociability, whether pubs that also serve tea, or ones specially provided by the government. After which he buys a round of drinks and gives an odd sermonette in which he suggests that the idea of Time, as it has persisted for two thousand Christian years, is about to change, and how everyone ought to give some thought to the well-being of everyone else. After which he departs, leaving them to look at one another, no doubt, and wonder, blimey, what was all that about?

The insistence of one speaker that houses ought to be built now with built-in shelves and closets reminds me of John Parsons (Kelly) in Give the People Homes (1945). The mention of Time reminds of Preston Yorke. The feeling for working-class London speech and experience makes me wonder whether this bit of narrative too might not be by Kelly.

Would Hofbauer, who came to London from Hungary in 1936 at the age of thirty, have been quite so at home linguistically?

Note 42. William J. Elliott, Freak Racket (1941?)

In his “British Crime Noir Chronology,” Steve Holland lists five novels by William J. Elliott in 1942 and four in 1943, with a trickle of titles in subsequent years. In my 1950 reissue of it, the first edition of Freak Racket is given as 1941, which would also move Snatched Dame back into 1941, since it’s referred to in the text of Freak Racket. Both books would join Elliott’s Kissed Corpse which is assigned by Steve to that year and is named on the cover of Freak Racket, along with Snatched Dames, as being by Elliott.

In the first chapter Sammy the Schonk, in a parked car with a dame, pushes up the edge of her skirt and lays his hand on her “silken knee.” A Fed comes over to investigate, and says he recalls seeing Sammy somewhere, to which Sammy replies, “You bin wasting your time at the flickers! Name of Robert Taylor.” When the Fed asks him to step out of the car, he jams a gun against the Fed’s mouth and blows the top of his head off, with “blood and brains spattered everywhere,” after which he runs his car twice over the body, “taking care that the wheels should go right over the head.” (pp. 12–13) The gun and the running-over are intensifications, at least for statistical purposes, of what is in the opening episode of Lady—Don’t Turn Over, along with the fondling, the Fed, and the movie-star allusion.

Later in the chapter we are introduced to “Mopsy” Minto, deadly racketeer and gangster, with his “long, straight, almost lipless mouth, and those eyes of his which, living behind and looking out upon the world through a couple of narrow slits, were like marbles of blue steel” (p.23), details which bring to mind for me part of what we see in the drawing I’ve assumed (see Note 40) to be of Kelly.

The plot of the book involves gangster “English Ed” Gunning working as an agent for the FBI (shades of Lemmy Caution) and on the trail of an operation in which mothers are encouraged to leave their newborns with a “benevolent” sanitarium, after which the kids vanish, the supposition being that the girls are to be reared for the White Slave business. But what about the boys? Let’s just say that Gunning ends up observing an odd surgical business being carried on on a tropical island, involving children and animals, and the product of which is intimated in the book’s title.

The narrative is partly omniscient p.o.v., for the discussions of Gunning’s superiors, partly first-person narrative by Gunning, the linguistic instability of which is explained by his having an English background, and partly, for the island part, by a woman assisting Gunning.

The prose of the “omniscient” part is slightly stuffy, as is that of Elliott’s 1942 “Silk!”, a leaden attempt to create a character like The Saint. This and the unstable “gangster” prose help to muffle the impact of the bits of strong violence, such as the use at one point by Gunning of a pair of pliers as an informal thumbscrews in an episode recalling Lemmy Caution’s fact-finding.

The book seems too me opportunistic in its borrowing, and to be the product of someone who isn’t deeply involved in the gangster part—a competent middlebrow entertainer who’s slumming. Glinto in those years looks much more intense and serious in contrast.

But Freak Racket, Snatched Dame, and Kissed Corpse were no doubt among the books that people like George Ryley Scott had in mind when speaking of cheap and nasty paperbacks at that time.

Too Tough to Die went into a second impression in 1943 and a third in 1946, which is presumably where my copy comes from.

Note 43. Simon Harvester, Whatsoever Things Are True (1947)

There isn’t a trace here of the Harvester who later wrote the excellent espionage “Road” series. But there’s an interesting polarity in which one can detect the seeds of the dissatisfaction subsequently given screaming voice in Look Back in Anger.

On the one hand, we have the narrator, who deeply distrusts women, being insidiously drawn towards “normality” by the kind of nice down-scale girl who has nothing much going for her except a large capacity for loving someone, regardless of his (male) faults, and is quietly bent on their finding a house away from the clatter and grime of London where they can be together, and he (she urges it, while knowing nothing about it) can “write,” and no doubt there will be kids soon and she will love them too.

And he goes along with it more than one would expect, though one can see the frustration that would come later when his “writing” isn’t going anywhere, and he’s bored out of his head, but doesn’t have enough money to do something about it. There must have been hundreds, probably thousands, of postwar marriages like that, there being no obvious legitimate alternatives to such “normality.”

On the other hand, we have the mind-set disclosed in the following long passage, which I quote in full, in which I’m morally sure we hear the voice of some actual criminal of Gibbs’ journalist acquaintance, philosophizing over a pint or a scotch or two in a pub.

On one side are people who will do everything to prevent you doing what you want to do. On the other side is you. It’s easier when the war is a real one. Then you and others like you share the same belief that what you’re fighting for is good and right. It’s your way of life, of thinking, of living; you’re telling others that if anybody is going to change any of those things it’s going to be you alone. Nobody else. You, not them. That’s why 1940 was a good year for us, perhaps one of the best year’s we’ve ever had. We went through it together; we were too busy to look over our shoulders at each other. But when it wasn’t war, when you’re lined up against the people of your own country, however right or wrong it may be, you’ve still got a loyalty to those who are on your side.

You can’t help it. There’s the excitement, the thrill, the danger. You share them … you share the ‘over-the-top’ feeling, the waiting for zero hour … H hour on D Day … that feeling

You know the risks you run, you know that each one of those with you has to play his part or all of you are for it. Questions of right and wrong don’t matter much at such times. You’re too busy to think. They are hunters, you are hunted. You’re in it together. I expect the feeling is much the same as it has been for any band of people, right or wrong, the suffragettes, the trade unions in the early days, the French revolutionaries, Capone’s gang, O’Bannion’s gang, Hitler’s gang and Musso’s gang and ‘Legs’ Diamonds. You’re in it together, right or wrong. So you get this feeling of loyalty and pray to God that the others have got it for you too … if they haven’t got it for you, you’ll finish up in the river … Or in gaol. You can never be sure, people always sell you out to try to save their own necks.

Like women. (p.62)

To my ear, that could be a reflective professional talking to Gibbs over a pint or a Scotch or two, like the “Robert Allerton” whose recorded conversations with prison-visitor Tony Parker we are given in The Courage of His Convictions (1962).

Come to think of it, I myself in the summer of 1949, having been given an introduction by someone I met in Paris, found myself in a caff off the Charing Cross Road with a brooding youngish artist-thief who was trying for a bit, obliquely, to sound me out about whether I’d be interested in being what I suppose might be called a mule in a car-smuggling operation. A watercolour of his over the fireplace in his flat was interesting, with a touch, I thought, of Wyndham Lewis. He spoke reflectively of the thrill of being in a house that you were robbing. I heard later that he was in prison.

Note 44. The “Not at Night” series.

Not at Night , 1937
Not at Night, 1937

Apparently well over half of the stories in this popular British hardback series (1925–1937) with individual titles came from Weird Tales. The seventh volume in the series, Switch on the Light, contained a couple of stories that terrified me as a kid. I now have The “Not at Night” Omnibus (1937), edited by the remarkable Christine Campbell Thomson.

Reading straight through it is too much of a dose of horrific imaginings, and very different from the straightforward killings and mutilations by “fiends” in pulps like Horror Stories, where the perpetrators turn out either to be insane or to be men in disguise motivated by greed, and the hero and heroine are able to escape in the end.

We are in a kind of collective sub-world or parallel zone more real than the banal everyday world, like those in the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, the most distinguished of the Weird Tales writers. Horrible people do horrible things, successfully—monstrous vivisections, Inquisitions, private torturings, jealous dismemberings. Doctors or persons with medical leanings are particularly to be feared.

“Nature” is unnatural, with cannibal vegetation, giant leeches, swarming stoats. Here is a tree:

The trunk, which could be seen between the movements of the horrible limbs, resembled green marble; at the base it was as thick as a man’s body, and increased in girth till, at a height of twelve or thirteen feet from the ground, it branched out into a hundred long, hairy boughs, all slowly moving as though alive. At the end of each bough, thick as an athlete’s arm, was a sort of flexible funnel which evidently possessed the power of laying hold of objects and clinging to them so that there was no escape. The shortest of these boughs were seven or eight yards long. (J. Joseph Renaud, “Suzanne,” p.207)

There are invasions from “elsewhere”—weirdly deformed embryos, creatures from the Pit.

There was an almost globular torso, with six long sinuous limbs terminating in crab-like claws. From the upper end a subsidiary globe bulged forward bubble-like; its triangle of three staring, fishy eyes, its foot-long and evidently flexible proboscis, and a distended lateral system analogous to gills, suggesting that it was a head. Most of its body was covered with what at first appeared to be fur, but which on closer examination proved to be a dense growth of dark, slender tentacles or sucking filaments, each tipped with a mouth suggesting the head of an asp. On the head and below the proboscis the tentacles tended to be longer and thicker, and marked with spiral stripes—suggesting the traditional serpent-locks of Medusa. To say that such a thing could have an expression seems paradoxical; yet Jones felt that that triangle of bulging fish-eyes and that obliquely poised proboscis all bespoke a blend of hate, greed, and sheer cruelty incomprehensible to mankind because mixed with emotions not of the world or this solar system. (Hazel Head, “The Horror in the Museum,” p.289.)

Innocent individuals, particularly women, don’t escape agonizing or protracted deaths. One of them even undergoes the torture of the rat in the heated bowl, derived from Octave Mirbeau’s Torture Garden. “Unspeakable” attitudes are given voice.

Ah, the ecstasy of pain! It had ever been the breath of life to him. To inflict suffering so exquisite, so subtle, that the object of his attentions might scream for death. (p.267)

Thus the owner of a private torture-chamber with traditional instruments.

But we are never crudely told all the details. We are left to imagine them, often in a dreadful punch-line or two at the end of a story.

Since the series, published by Selwyn and Blount, came out over the course of twelve years, I assume that there was no campaign against horror and violence. Their being in hardcover no doubt helped (but did Weird Tales itself cross the Atlantic?)

It would seem that what got the guardians of civic virtue riled were narratives of criminal violence like robbery, gang-war killings, rape, and kidnapping, in which there could be the possibility of encouraging real-life replications—very “American” activities.

The perpetrators in Not at Night are obviously not of that kind. But it’s interesting to think of an alternate stream of “American-think” entering the British consciousness.

Of course, too, there are analogies here with the kind of poetic, or at least anti-rational, mulch of the disreputable “popular” that the Surrealists were starting to assemble and out of which would grow, among other things, that great movie ’zine Midi-Minuit Fantastique.

In her introduction to the 1936 omnibus volume, Christine Campbell Thompson reports that the series has become “a universal favourite,” and that

from the first, I set myself against ‘literature’; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine unadulterated horror … And I think our courage in meeting a requirement of this sort has done much towards getting rid of the politely watered “thriller.”

Sixteen of the thirty-five stores come from Weird Tales, including three of the five that deal with torture.

Note 45. Three from The Thriller; the Paper with a Thousand Thrills 2d.

The three novels here are not my cup of tea or half of bitter, but having made my way through them in the hope of coming upon an occasional vein, if not of gold or silver, at least of some metal, I may as well offer accounts of them.

It was a curious zine, coming out every Saturday, apparently, and into its 283rd issue by July 1934, one novel per issue, with Edgar Wallace and Sidney Horler among its authors, and less than a page of ads. Its triple columns of tiny print on 11 1/2 x 9-inch pages of now beige-discoloured paper make it hard reading for imperfect eyes. But the front covers, in shades of brown with red highlights, are dramatic, as are the at times as many as ten pen-and-ink illustrations, in which the automatic rather than the revolver is the firearm of choice.

My eye lights on an ad for the forthcoming The Limping Man of Wapping,

In sinister old Wapping [in Dockland, a short way east of the Tower of London] lived the Limping Man. His comings and goings were mysterious, his doings unknown. On the other hand, everyone knew and feared the great Wu Fang, the Yellow Devil, chief of the Tong of the Dragon’s Claw, master of Chinatown.

Chinatown. Sinister old Wapping. Yes, once hooked, I would have kept coming back. Maybe the claim of a million copies sold of a particular issue may have been true?

However, I haven’t felt up to tackling Anthony Skene’s The Death Dealer, Ladbroke Black’s The Ghost Ship, Edmund Snell’s Smith of the Legion, Patrick Wynnton’ws Crook’s Cove, John G. Brandon’s The Crime of the Quarry, or Murdoch Duncan’s The Interrupted Crime, all but the first from the first half of the Thirties.

(a) John G. Brandon, Gang War!, in The Thriller; the Paper with a Thousand Thrills, vol 1, no. 46, December 21, 1929

The three members of Big Jim Moriarty’s East End gang with whom gentlemanly ship’s mate Bob Crediton has his first run-in in Dockland are a lithe razor-carrying Jew, “as evil-looking a hound, Bob thought grimly, as he remembered to have come across,” another a battered pug with a horrible cauliflower ear, the third a sinister-looking Chinese half-caste. (p.1148) “They were all young and flashily dressed; upon the hand of one of them a big diamond glittered brilliantly in the sunlight. All but the drivers wore smart felt hats, worn down-turned at a raffish angle. “

When a number of Moriarty’s gang are together later on,

their caps and hats tugged down, mask-like, over their eyes, cigarettes dangling from loose and cruel-lipped mouths, no one with the slightest knowledge of the under-life of a great city could ever have mistaken them for anything but what they were—gangsters, swift, merciless—and cowardly. The wolves of the crime jungle.” (p.1152)

What bestial criminality do they engage in? I’m not sure. Thievery? Smuggling? Dope? Prostitution? At any rate, this, despite the attire, is European-type gangdom, not American.

With one exception. A mysterious new boy in town has new ideas under his hat.

Was he a Yank? Nobody knew, but he had brought the American idea here—he didn’t rob the public—he robbed the gangs! No matter what their line, from smuggling and peddling “dope” to—to anything, they were in luck’s way if, just as they pulled off a big stunt, Manisty’s gang did not descend upon them and collar the lot. He was the London equivalent of the American hi-jacker. (p.1152)

Manisty’s toughs are “hard-bitten, no slim, reedy gutter-rats these, but heavy men, powerful as bullocks, with faces that put deadly fear into a man—even men with razors and broken glass in hand” (p.1152).

Dark goings-on go on in the dark Thames-side East End. (We’re a long way here from the nightclubs of Capone’s Chicago.) Bob rescues plucky Stephanie, whom Moriarty has kidnapped, plus a young Frenchwoman whom Moriarty plans to sell to the “drug-sodden A. Loong,” We hear briefly of “the heads, the gang bosses who keep well in the dark and take the profits …” (p.1155—pure fantasy, to judge from Robert Murphy’s excellent Smash and Grab (1993). There’s a Scotland Yard detective disguised as an old beggar, and the Manisty “gang” turns out to be the law-abiding creation of Stephanie’s crusading father, who gives benevolent employment to mutilated ex-soldiers.

Such violences as occur don’t feel violent.

I hadn’t known that an advantage of the new coffee bars in Soho was that since alcohol wasn’t sold in them, the police had no control there. (p.1158)

There’s a half-page ad for “The Best Gift for Boys,” including Champion and Chums annuals, and for the Sexton Blake Library.

(b) John G. Brandon, The Dragnet, in The Thriller, no. 188, vol 7, Sept. 10, 1932.

Tall gentleman-cracksmith Marcus J. Gilliver interests himself in the affairs of Paul Devas, “renegade half-caste Portuguese, ex-bank robber, skilled forger, and now powerful gang boss,” in whose eyes “dwell a world of cruelty and furtive cunning.”

We are told at the outset that Devas has been “riding rough-shod, by virtue of his cosmopolitan gang of cut-throats and gunmen over all and sundry of the underworld” (p.242), but that isn’t the pattern in the rest of the novel. We encounter virtually no other underworld figures until a finale in an elaborate Chinese-run gambling and opium establishment down by the Docks.

Devas and his “gang,” of whom we see only four or five members, are doing the kinds of things that ordinary British crooks might do—blackmail, forgery, safe-cracking, etc—but doing them with an “American” intensity, as you might expect with henchmen called Joe Alverado and Toni Mascoti. But though they’re killers, with silenced automatics, knives, and at one point a Thompson submachine gun, they have to proceed with some circumspection, and can’t simply rub out Gilliver in an extended opening sequence in “the great supper-room” of a luxury hotel.

What we feel at times is the possibility of where they could go if unleashed. After Gilliver has given Chivas a merciless extended beating with his sword-stick, we know that his fate were he to fall into Devas’ hands would be appalling. At one point, Devas tells the Chinese owner of the dockland establishment apropos of a girl whom Devas’ gang has kidnapped,

“If any of your mob get funny and as much as try to go near her, I’ll have them skinned alive. You hear what I say, skinned alive, and that’s what I mean.” A note of diabolical cruelty came into his voice. “My boys will do it, and I’ll be there to see it done.” (p.233)

Good-guy Gilliver, helping a young bank official and his sister to escape from Devas’ spider-web, is assisted by a sharp-shooting Japanese lady, but doesn’t kill anyone himself until he and a tough cockney assistant are in a culminating gun-battle while trying to get away with the sister from the dockland establishment. Normally, knocking crooks out or, in one instance, slashing wrist-tendons with the sword-stick is sufficient.

Gilliver is on good terms with the Yard. We don’t see him engaged in any Raffles-like activities.

Brandon, who did a number of novels between their own covers, is characterized in one AbeBooks entry as “Australian author, 1879-1941.” He keeps the incidents coming. More work goes into his writing, at least what little I’ve seen, than Leslie Charteris puts into the Saint books.

But the prose of his The “Snatch” Game (1937) is unreadably muffled and abstract, and he makes too mechanical a point at the outset by contrasting evil American (Latino) intruders engaged in the utterly un-British crime of kidnapping and a hero, the third son of a Viscount, who is “related to by far the greater portion of the House of Lords,” has a pied à terre, in Jermyn Streett, and roams the world adventurously, monocle-eyed.

(c) George Dilnot, Killer’s Castle, in The Thriller, no. 211, vol 8, February 18, 1933

Tall, loose-limbed, tousle-haired private detective Horace Augustus Elver tries to protect British girl Magda Stewart from another American, fat, ruthless, devious Julius Haggis, who is trying to trick and, that failing, coerce her into signing a legal document with a name other than her own.

Chloroformed in a cab, Magda is brought to Haggis’ moated English castle (bought? rented? I forget), with ferocious hounds in its grounds and a warren of corridors and chambers underneath, including cells where you can neither stand nor lie and a torture chamber. At one point she is fastened to a post and Haggis is about to use a cat-o’-nine-tails on her. At another, “A blood-stained, terrified figure fell through the doorway and collapsed at Magda’s feet.” (illustration, p.161).

Elver reaches her by descending a dry well and crawling along a long tunnel, which later has poison gas in it. The caption for another illustration reads, “A sinister hand came suddenly through the curtains and the next moment a glittering knife flashed by close to the terrified girl’s head.” (p.149). We are in among the lovely iconography of B-movies.

Elver is on good terms with the police, except that one of them feels that he is a little too free and easy in his corner-cutting, including killing a couple of those hounds.

In the illustrations he looks debonair in evening dress, with tails. There appears to be a lot of men’s evening wear in The Thriller.

Note 46. Yours Truly, Hoodlum

Here is the rest of the blurb:

A slum-rat, cradled in squalor amongst prostitution and petty crime, Lugs had all the crook’s diseased vanity. Seeing that crash and what followed gave it direction. It was his crude urge about judies that put him into the juvenile prison, but it was the prison that put him straight into gangsterdom.

Albery was the big-time crook. As his tool Lugs could find free outlet for all his worst urges. And as he saw himself he was so smart, so right on top of the world. Perhaps the strange feeling Jessie had for him, and his chance to swagger over Jose, helped. Anyway, he thought he could wipe out the one humiliation that rankled at his very core. It cost a cop his life. Lugs felt good then.

Yet he had not been smart. He had slipped up. Albery thought he, too, was getting his revenge then. But the final word about that rested with Jessio

(Photocopy of opening pages of the book.)

There is no lack of texture now the way there was with Lady—Don’t Turn Over. After a brief and not unfriendly situating of young Lugs Cortesi for us as a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old who never knew his father and whose mother is too busy with a passel of other kids, all by different fathers, we have:

“Aw, get the hell. I can’t use your sort around here.”

The transport foreman down at the Chang Li laundry had just told him that, and he was heading back to Rooney’s Pool Room, where he spent a lot of time when the weather was fine, sitting with the edge of his backside on the narrow windowsill and leaning against the window corner—outside. Rooney reckoned it was bad for the morals of kids to stick around inside. What the hell, they never had a quarter to rent a table.

Rooney’s was on Manton Street next to the Continuous-Dance. Between the bursts of traffic as the green lights released them on the Manton Belvedere junction about a hundred and fifty yards down, Lugs could hear the music from the Continuous-Dance band. (pp.7-8)

After which, for a page and a half, we have a carefully observed account of a “long, low, black” open car, chased at high speed by a cop car, making a fast turn to avoid an accident, but skidding on some oil, presumably with a worse accident to follow.

Note 47. Sexual slavery in Hong Kong.

Elizabeth Andrew and Katharine Bushnell, Heathen Slaves and Christian Rulers.

Here we have British Hong-Kong as a site of many legal brothels, sustained by a system of inter-Chinese slavery, with British Attorney-Generals and Superintendents of Police running interference against reformers and abolitionists, including British judges.

Though the authors desire the elimination of brothels and health inspections, and the prosecution of all parties in prostitution transactions, their 176-page book is a scrupulous disentangling of the strands of the situation, with particular attention to laws passed and bypassed, legal arguments about the “different” nature of Chinese culture (which the British are officially committed to respecting), and disjunctions between smooth talk about legal protections accorded the children and women who are bought and sold and some of the (not lingered on sensationally) cases of actual slaves heroically rescued and thankful to be so.

There’s an interesting grappling with the conflicts between would-be universalist laws (slavery is an innate wrong, not least because of the individual mistreatments possible within it), the particularist notion of “inalienable” local practices, and the libertarian idea of inexorable sexual desire and its right to gratification. Here, as would happen again later, the alleged inviolability of local customs turns out to be a ploy supporting the strong (here the Chinese traffickers, brothel-keepers, and private owners) in their dominance of the weak, with the customs themselves by no means set in stone.

The “Yellow Slave traffic” is spreading into San Francisco and thence more widely into California.

“My mistress was an opium smoker, and she and her husband had awful quarrels, which made her bad-tempered, and then she would beat me for no reason. I used to get so tired working hard, and then she would beat me. She beat me with thick sticks of fire-wood. She would lay me on the bench, lift my clothes, and beat me on the back. Another day she would beat me with the fire tongs. One day she took a hot flat-iron, removed my clothes, and held it on my naked back until I howled with pain. (There was a large scar on her back from this burn when she came to the Mission.) … My forehead is all scars caused by her throwing heavy pieces of wood at my head. … She beat my legs one day until they were all swollen up.” (12-year-old girl in the Bay area, p. 153)

For more, see Child Slavery in Hong Kong (1930).

Note 48. The rapes of Nanking.

Grateful Nanking
Grateful Nanking

H.J.Timperley, What War Means: the Japanese Terror in China.

The author is aware of how “revelations of the propaganda methods used by both sides in other wars have not unnaturally caused many people to regard with scepticism any ‘atrocity’ stories.” (p.9), and is obviously conscious of the objections that had been raised about the provenance of the accounts in the Bryce Commission’s report about the German atrocities in Belgium in 1914. He also obviously knows Arthur Ponsonby’s (and no doubt others’) pacifist line that atrocities, or alleged atrocities, are simply part of the beastly nature of war.

Introducing on p.166 the 428 brief abstracts, he writes:

Fragmentary accounts of the Japanese invasion of China and of the occupation of the Yangtze Delta and ultimately Nanking itself have found their way into the newspapers. It may be questioned, however, whether it was generally realized that the reports of rape and loot and general bestiality flashed over the cables could be supported by signed eye-witness accounts collected from unimpeachable sources, by authentic photographs, by films, and by official documents. All doubts as to the existence of such material should be dispelled by the publication of a selection of it in the present volume.

We have read in the earlier pages of the strings of men roped together and led off to be machine-gunned, the bayonet practice on live prisoners, the burning of groups of men tied together and drenched with gasoline, the massive looting, the raping raping raping. We have also learned about the devastation in other Chinese cities, the arson, the carrying off of means of production, the pulverizing bombing in some places, worse than that at Guernica.

In the abstracts we get more details of the rapes, their seemingly almost automatic occurrence whenever soldiers enter buildings where there are women or girls, their indiscriminacy—prepubescent girls who later require surgery, a woman nine months pregnant, an old woman with a stick shoved up her vagina because she couldn’t perform, another old woman forced to clean her rapist’s cock with her mouth. In one instance a group of women are taken to what may have been a Japanese military hospital where they

washed clothes during the day and were raped throughout the night. The older ones being raped from 10 to 20 times, the younger and good-looking ones as many as 40 times a night. (p.195.)

In another, a woman over the course of thirty-three days is

raped every day from 7 to 10 times but usually was given an opportunity to sleep at night. She has developed all three types of venereal disease in their most virulent forms: Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chancroid.” (pp.199-200).

Appendix E lists 27 Japanese army units operating in Nanking.and 47 in five other places.

Appendix F consists of two reports in the Japanese Advertiser, “an American owned and edited English-language daily paper in Tokyo,” of a contest between two army lieutenants to see who would be the first to kill a hundred Chinese (in combat?) with their swords, “Makai’s blade was slightly damaged in the competition. He explained that this was the result of cutting [presumably splitting] a Chinese in half, helmet and all.” (p.285)

The final appendix, G, is a January 8th article translated from a Chinese-language paper published by the Japanese in Shanghai. It reports how the Imperial Army, on entering Nanking,

put their bayonets into their sheaths, and stretched forth merciful hands in order to examine and to heal, diffusing grace and favour to the excellent true citizens. … Men and women, old and young, bent down to kneel in salutation to the Imperial Army expressing their respectful intention.… Within the Refugee Zone they (Japanese soldiers) gave out military bread, cakes, and cigarettes to refugees of both sexes and all ages, all of whom were greatly pleased and who gave thanks. … Likewise health squads began to carry on medical and remedial work. Those who had serious eye diseases and had fallen into a condition approaching blindness were completely cured by the Japanese doctors. …After the medical inspection and healing was over, the vast hordes gathered around the soldiers beneath the Rising Sun and the Red Cross flag, shouting “Banzai” in order to express their gratitude. … Looking down, one sees a playground for Nanking children, with soldiers and Chinese children happy together, playing joyfully on the slides. Nanking is now the best place for all countries to watch, for here one breathes the atmosphere of peaceful residence and happy work. (pp.287–8)

The advantage of the big bold barefaced unblushing lie over mere denials is presumably the tendency of readers to assume that there must be some element of truth in what is claimed.

Note 49. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (1968)

In the following quotations we have the two principal poles of socio-political destructiveness in the 20th century.

In (a) there’s a corrosive collapsing, not just contrasting, of values, and an arbitrary subjectivism (a “perspectivalism” at bottom perhaps deterministic) wherin those choosing, as they think, the higher courses have no grounds for feeling superior to those who don’t, especially since their own choosing is infected and propelled by the very “vices” that they are choosing against.

In (b) we have a programme (derived essentially from a romanticising of Napoleon) which must surely have been embedded in the consciousness of a certain young Austro-German war veteran and former artist conscious of a greatness within himself that was as yet invisible to all others.

(a) My purpose is to demonstrate the absolute homogeneity of all events and the application of moral distinctions as conditioned by perspective; to demonstrate how everything praised as moral is identical in essence with everything immoral and was made possible, as in every development of morality, with immoral means and for immoral ends—, how, on the other hand, everything decried as immoral is, economically considered, higher and more essential, and how a development toward a greater fullness of life necessarily also demands the advance of immorality. “Truth” the extent to which we permit ourselves to understand this fact. (p.155)

(b) A great man—a man whom nature has constructed and invented in the grand style—what is he?

First; there is a long logic in all of his activity, hard to survey because of its length, and consequently misleading; he has the ability to extend his will across great stretches of his life and to despise and reject everything petty about him, including even the fairest, “divinest” things in the world.

Secondly; he is colder, harder, less hesitating, and without fear of “opinion” ; he lacks the virtues that accompany respect and “respectability,” and altogether everything that is part of the “virtue of the herd.” If he cannot lead, he goes alone; then it can happen that he may snarl at some of the things he meets with on his way.

Third; he wants no “sympathetic” heart, but servants, tools; in his intercourse with men he is always intent on making something out of them. He knows he is incommunicable: he finds it tasteless to be familiar; and when one thinks he is, he usually is not. When not speaking to himself, he wears a mask. He rather lies than tells the truth: it requires more spirit and will. There is a solitude within him that is inaccessible to praise or blame, his own justice that is beyond appeal. (#962, p.505)

The great man feels his power over a people, his temporary coincidence with a people or a millenium; this enlargement in his experience of himself as causa and voluntas is misunderstood as “altruism”; it drives him to seek means of communication; all great men are inventive in such means. They want to give a single form to the multifarious and disordered; chaos stimulates them. …

To gain that tremendous energy of greatness in order to shape the man of the future through breeding and, on the other hand, the annihilation of millions of failures, and not to perish of the suffering one creates, though nothing like it has ever existed! (# 964, p. 506)

Note 50. Sheila Cousins,“To Beg I Am Ashamed,” Obelisk Press, Paris, 1938

A pleasant surprise. Especially well written for the first six chapters or so before she takes to the streets.

Lovely incisive character summations.

My mother is one of those women who are born to be preyed on. I look back on her wandering through life encumbered with a constant train of bedraggled cats, muddy dogs, broken-winged birds and scarcely less pathetic men. She could never resist a lonely miaow or a fit of male hysterics; her natural reaction on seeing any forlorn creature outside her door is to invite it in. (p.11)

Most of the male staff belonged to that curious unidentifiable class whose accent suggests they might be gentlemen till their manners make it plain they are not. (p.86)

After describing the exterior of the remand home to which she has been committed as an adolescent after being caught in a too ambitious and theatrical bout of shoplifting,

That is the description an observant visitor would give you of the school. But it was not what I saw the day of my arrival, in the tear-hazed twilight of an April evening, or for many days after. I was incapable of seeing. In my mind, whatever resolute quality it is that binds separate sounds and sights and smells together into a single reasonable world had broken down. I had passed, as if through the looking-glass, to the farther side of the incredible, and I was adrift in a hopeless inertia. My incurious senses recorded a house-front here, a clanging bell there, without making any connexion between them but their common aura of distance and hostility. (p 40-41)

She’s drily funny about the art and craft of door-to-door selling, which she does at one point with a get-up-and-go firm’s water-softener.

We learn about the kinds of men who use her professional services, and about (less interestingly, to my mind) her “normal” relationships with others, without there ever being any indecorousness of expression. Most of the men are more or less weak-charactered. At the end she quotes a fellow sex-worker as saying of their clients, “They’re all alike. One bloody man after another. They all say the same things. Makes you fed up.” (p.244)

It’s suggested on the Web that Graham Greene and/or his friend Ronald Matthews had a hand in it. No way. Greene couldn’t write that well, and while Matthews has a good style in his 1936 non-fiction English Heretics, neither of them could have known her kinds of experiences. Neither she nor the book is mentioned in the index of Norman Sherry’s exhaustive biography of Greene.

Given the constant presence of money in the book, the marginal existences of a number of the figures in it, and the qualities of mind and temperament of the narrator, I’m surprised that Orwell seems not to have mentioned it.

Note 51. Barbusse, Under Fire

Here is a representative strong passage:

Black smoke from shells twists upwards, then bursts on the horizon, in the distance. Armies of crows drift across the sky in a vast sweep of dots.

Down below, among the mass of those who do not move, recognizable by the way they are wasted and eroded by time, are Zouaves, African infantry and legionaires from the May attack. At that time the furthest edge of our line was in the Berthonval Wood, five or six kilometres from here. In that attack, one of the most tremendous of this or any other way, they had managed to reach this point in a single push, just by running. But by then there were too far ahead of the main wave of the assault and were attacked from the flanks by machine-gunners to the right and left of the lines they had broken through. For months death had been pitting their eye sockets and eating away their cheeks, but even in their scattered remains, spread around by the weather and already almost dust and ashes, one can detect the ravages made by the machine-guns which killed them, holing their backs and sides, cutting them in half. Beside the waxy black heads, like Egyptian mummies, clotted with maggots and the remains of insects, with white teeth showing through the gaps, beside the poor, darkened stumps which swarm there, like a field of upturned roots, you can see skulls, polished clean, yellow, wearing red fezzes with grey covers that are crumbling away like papyrus. Femurs stand up out of a heap of clothes stuck together with reddish mud, or a fragment of spinal column emerges from a hole filled with frayed material, covered in a sort of tar. Ribs dot the ground like old, broken birdcages and nearby float stained leather belts or mugs and tins, holed and flattened. There are some white dots in a regular pattern around a slit bag, lying on some bones and on a tuft of pieces of clothing and equipment; if you lean over it, you can see that the dots are the finger and toe bones of what was once a body.

At times, among the outstretched bulges in the soil—because all these unburied dead eventually go back into the ground—only a piece of cloth sticks up, showing that a human being was obliterated at this spot on the earth’s surface.

The Germans, who were here yesterday, have abandoned their soldiers beside our own, without burying them, as we can see from these three putrifying corpses, one on top of another, one in another, with their grey forage caps, the red border hidden by grey piping, their grey-yellow jackets and their green faces. I look for the features on one of them; from the depth of his neck to the tufts of hair stuck to the top of his neck to the tufts of hair stuck to the brim of his cap he is an earthy mass, his face an anthill, with two rotten fruit in place of eyes. The other, empty, dry, is flat on his belly, his back in half-detached rags, his hands, feet and face rooted in the earth.

Ch. 20, pp. 243-4, trans Robin Buss, Penguin, 2003

A British author could never have written that. There would always have been the queasy feeling that bodies had been the dwelling-places of souls and that it would be a violation to see them as merely natural units of bone and flesh (however symbolically expressive), ripped up, eroded by natural processes and dissolving back into the earth.

Note 52. Spot and Hill

Here is John Pearson on the Spot-Hill partnership.

The year 1955 was an exceptional one for London’s criminals, and at the [Epson] Spring Meeting attention was particularly focussed on two of them.

One was a thin-faced gentleman called Billy Hill. He was an ex-thief and had spent seventeen of his thirty-eight years in places of detention. The other was a big, bombastic man with a large cigar who called himself Jack “Spot.” He was Jewish and his real name was Comer. As a young man he had fought against Mosley’s black-shirts in the East End; since then he had organized his Upton Park Mob across many of the race-tracks in the country.

These two men had the complementary qualities of all natural doubles, and thanks to this they had become the Laurel and Hardy of London crime, or, as they liked to call themselves, “kings of London’s underworld.” For years they had been allies, Spot with his gang of bruisers, Bill with his following of thieves. The pre-war gangsters had grown tired, but the West End was booming. Night clubs and drinking clubs, prostitution and illicit gambling clubs were producing fortunes. The rich underworld of London was there to be milked by anyone who guaranteed the one thing it required—peace to prosper and grow fatter still.

This Spot and Hill had done for more than ten profitable years, running the protection, taking their cut on the gambling and using their power for one main purpose—the survival of the status quo. They had never been a criminal “brain” at the centre of a web of dangerous intrigue, nor were they Mafia-style organizers. If other gangs like the Italians or the Maltese wanted a stake in the West End, Spot and Hill would come to an arrangement with them. They acted very much like businessmen, drawing their profits from a discreet monopoly, carefully preserving good relations with the police, and becoming dangerous only when they felt their plastic empire threatened. The worst threat they had to face had come from non-caring tearaways, but these could be dealt with, and it seemed that nothing but old age would stop the coalition of Spot and Hill continuing for ever. (pp. 93–94)

Note 53. Sex slavery today.

The Spectator for December 30, 2006, contains all too appositely an article by Fraser Nelson headed, “Two hundred years after its abolition, the slave trade will return to haunt Britain in 2007.” Slavery now

involves mainly Slavic or Asian women, rather than African men. The slaves of 21st Britain work in bordellos rather than fields, and are bought and sold in airports rather than a Caribbean market place. The price is £8,000 a head rather than £2000. And the trade has acquired a new name: human trafficking. …

There is more than enough harrowing testimony from the slave trade’s victims to grasp how the deplorable business works. Victims are offered jobs in Britain and told they can repay the transport costs when they start work. They fly into London and, on arrival, they are often told to apply for asylum, simply because the bureaucracy will keep them here for at least a year. They then find that their debt is between £5,000 and £15,000—and that the job they were promised has not materialised. Instead they are given work as prostitutes or as the most menial labourers, with all the pay going to their slave-masters. …

In 2001, the Home Office said it knew of just 142 victims of human trafficking. I have learned that it is now preparing to publish new research setting the figure at 4,000—and that is only for 2003. Ministers can only guess what today’s figure might be.

As it grows in confidence, this trade is also becoming more blatant. In the summer the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that brothel-owners had been gathering outside a coffee shop in Gatwick Airport and openly bidding for women who made it through immigration. (p.11)

The three-hour-long Canadian fiction movie Human Trafficking (2005), without any prurience, convincingly brings out the horror of entrapment and the pitilessness of traffickers. Robert Carlyle, as a young Russian mastermind, vibrates with naked insatiable greed. The viewers’ comments on are worth a visit.

Note 54. Sensitive Nazis

In late 1937, at a private lunch with anti-fascist cartoonist David Low, Lord Halifax, who has just returned from Germany,

described the Nazi point of view, explaining that, partly because they had no long tradition of government, the Nazis were unable to take press criticism calmly… He said the fury and bitterness caused by [my] Evening Standard cartoons was “out of all proportion to the motive which prompted their publication.”

In Germany, Dr. Goebbels followed up his lead to Halifax by a dissertation on humour wherein he told his fellow-countrymen at what they might laugh. He approved of jokes against Jews; communists (and even liberals) were, of course, fair game; but “a joke,” says he, “ceases to be a joke when it touches the holiest matters of the national state—that is to say, Hitler, Nazism, the racial state and presumably himself.

Subsequently in the Church Times, one read that “Good taste, one element of which is kindness, forbids joking concerning subjects which are held sacred by others.” (pp. 278–9)

David Low, Autobiography (1956), pp. 278–9)

Note 55. Harold and Hector Kelly’s birthplaces and relatives.


I knew, I think from Steve Holland, that brother Hector was Hector John O. Kelly and that he was born in 1911. This identified him enough for genealogist/artist Bryan Maycock to obtain his birth certificate.

He was born on August 23 at 11 Bishop Street in Bristol. His father’s occupation was given as journeyman hatter. His mother’s maiden name was Purcell. I will summarize the rest of the facts that Bryan has uncovered.

In 1893, twenty-four-year-old Frederick Kelly and nineteen-year old Elizabeth Honora Purcell, both of Bristol, were married in Bristol in a Catholic church. Frederick had been married before, in 1887, but his bride, Charlotte Simmons, died within the year.

His father James, a cordwainer (old-fashioned term for a quality boot-maker) had been born in 1824 and died in 1879, when Frederick was about eleven. Elizabeth’s father, William, a coachman, was born in Tipperary, her mother Catherine in Cork, both in about 1847.

Frederick was the youngest of five children, all males. Elizabeth had four sisters and a couple of brothers.

map of Kennington
Newington Crescent

So what about Harold, whom I had guessed from internal evidence was born in Ulster, probably in a Protestant family? Well, not quite.

In fact he was—ta-DAH!—born when Frederick and Elizabeth were living at 18 Newington Crescent in London, south of the Thames, about a mile from the river, on a line with the National Gallery of British Art, which became the Tate Gallery, and a quarter of a mile south of the Elephant and Castle intersection.

map of Newington Crescent

Newington Crescent, on an 1896 map of mine, was at the intersection of Penton Place and Iliffe Street, just off the long straight Kennington Park Road. In the excellent Collins London Street Atlas for 2006, it has gone and a school stands there.

We do not know when the Kellys moved there or when they left London. The fact that they were in Bristol in 1911 when Hector was born doesn’t necessarily prove that they were back there permanently. Could Frederick—journeyman hatter and, according to a census, silk-hat-finisher—have moved to London in connection with turn-of-the-century celebrations, when top-hats might have been particularly in demand?

map of Elephant and Castle, Newington Crescent
Elephant and Castle, Newington Crescent, 1896

These questions bear on the kinds of childhood influences on the young Harold’s developing consciousness.


In Wikipedia the Kennington area is described as “largely working class.” My impression from that entry, the map that I’ve mentioned, and a couple of others, is that in 1899 it was what was called “decent” working-class.

Newington Crescent wasn’t there yet in 1831 on another map. There were already a number of houses in the area, but some substantial open spaces still and, on Penton Place, a Zoological Gardens.

By the end of the century, in a mapping enterprise so large in scale that I can identify the garden sheds at my Whetstone (North London) day school, you can look down on Newington Crescent as if from a spy satellite and notice how all but half a dozen of the row houses on both sides have back yards (in England, gardens) at least as big as the houses, twelve of them twice as big.

And there were interesting polarities.


To the north and west were the rougher area of the Elephant and Castle and parts of Lambeth

But to the west, too, was Lambeth Palace, and there had been a royal manor nearby, and the zoological gardens. And that long straight Kennington Park Road was on the site of Stane Street, the old major Roman road.

Harold’s first published pieces of “creative writing,” the sketches in City Mid-Week that were collected in 1952 as London Cameos, were the work of someone who evidently loved the historical London.

Without knowing how long the family were there, it’s pointless to speculate further about childhood influences. But there was a more permanent one.


In his fascinating A Book of London Yesterdays ( (1960), Fred Willis, who served his hatter’s apprenticeship and entered the hat business around the turn of the century, recalls in detail what life was like back then.

His chapter about hatters ("Labour's Aristocracy") opens with the words "The two oldest trade unions in the country, and consequently in the world, were the Brushmakers' and the Hatters. … Before 1914 skilled workers with seven years’ apprenticeship to their credit formed the aristocracy of labour."

It sounds, in his account, like the guild system with the advantages of unionization. Though the work was physically hard, "A hatter’s shop was under no authority whatsoever," and political discussions were uninhibited and not all leftish. Willis closes by saying, "Looking back to my days with the journeyman hatters, I think I had a peep into a little republic that was as near justice, honour, and fair play as mortals can ever hope to get."

Harold’s own hard-to-pigeonhole politics and his independence of spirit may not have come out of nowhere.


Another possible correction. Harold was one of four children—Frederick, about four years his senior, Hector, eleven years his junior, and Kathleen, born two years after Hector. So this Kathleen, rather than a hypothetical wife or fiancee, could be the Kathleen to whom Harold dedicated Blue Blood Flows East in 1947.

Hector died of heart disease on April 8, 1991, the place of death being registered as Glenhazel, De la Warr Road, Bexhill, Sussex. His profession was given as company director (retired) and his usual address as 10 Duke Street, Bexhill.

If Glenhazel was the name of a nursing home, it doesn’t figure in the phone company’s present listings. It could have been the address of relatives, but, if so, there’s no listing of it now over the name of Kelly.

Bryan is still on the trail. Watch this space.

map of Fulham, 1896
Fulham, 1896

Bryan having accessed the 1911 British census, I can add a bit more about the Kellys.

In that year, the Kelly household in Bristol consisted of:

Apparently five other children had died since birth. Hector and Kathleen hadn’t been born yet.

So now we can be reasonably sure that the Kellys were Londoners for at least seven years, first (of the known locations) in Walford, just south-east of the Elephant and Castle intersection, then in Kennington, a quarter of a mile southwest of the Elephant, and then across the river in Fulham, opposite Putney in the wide-necked loop of the Thames below Earl’s Court and between Chelsea and Hammersmith.

According to Wikipedia, “Fulham during the 18th century had a reputation of debauchery, becoming a sort of ‘Las Vegas’ retreat for the wealthy of London, where there was much gambling and prostitution.”

In my map of 1896, when the district was still fairly small, the loop—in effect a peninsula—contained an orphanage, an Elizabethan charity school, a gasworks, the Parson’s Green railway station, some almshouses, a board school, the Western Fever Hospital, two large cemeteries, a Female Reformatory, a workhouse, and Fulham Palace, the country home of the Bishops of London from the eleventh century until 1975.

The areas adjoining the river weren’t built up—the first on the north bank since away off in the East End—and consisted of what look like private estates, of various sizes, apart from a curious wild bit with inlets on the south-east side.

It looks to have been at that time an odd anomalous district, which for a good while had been outside London proper, and seems to have been a kind of dumping area, among other things, for institutions for the unfortunate. There would have been a striking contrast between the largely working-class row houses and the river estates. There was certainly “history” there. Did kids of spirit like eleven-year-old Harold explore the area, maybe trespassing at times if access to the river was shut off?

To judge from the father’s occupation being now that of an “occasional” furniture remover and the mother’s having a job despite a husband and seven children to care for, the family may have gone downhill from the time when Frederick was a prosperous journeyman hatter.

Note 56. Armenian horrors.

A tiny sampling (see Violence Inc, 1916)

(a) “If it were simply a matter of being obliged to leave here to go somewhere else, it would not be so bad, but everyone knows that it is a case of going to one’s death.… (p.290)

(b) So the journey began once more, and on the way the pretty girls were carried off one by one, while the stragglers from the convoy were invariably killed. On the twenty-fifth day they reached the village of Geulik, and all the villagers pursued the convoy for a long distance, tormenting and robbing the exiles …

On the fifty-second day they arrived at another village, and here the Kurds took from them everything they had, even their shirts and drawers, so that for five days the whole convoy marched completely naked under the scorching sun. For another five days they did not have a morsel of bread, nor even a drop of water. …

At another place where there were wells, some women threw themselves into them, as there was no rope or pail to draw up the water. These women were drowned, and in spite of that, the rest of the people drank from that, the dead bodies still remaining there and stinking in the water. Sometimes, when the wells were shallow and the women could go down into them and come up again, the other people would rush to lick or suck their wet, dirty clothes, in the effort to quench their thirst. …

On the seventieth day, when they reached Aleppo, 35 women and children were left out of the 3,000 exiles from [ Harpout ] and 150 women and children altogether out of the whole convoy of 18,000. (pp 294-295)

(c) There are no sanitary arrangements for the horde, and every available spot is used for depositing excrement. The stench of the region is described as appalling. (p.436)

(d) One sees them in Aleppo on pieces of waste ground, in old buildings, courtyards and alleyways, and their condition is simply indescribable. They are totally without food and are dying of starvation. If one looks into these places where they are living one simply sees a huddled mass of dying and dead, all mixed up with discarded, ragged clothing, refuse and human excrement, and it is impossible to pick out any one portion and describe it as being a living person. A number of open carts used to patrol the streets, looking out for corpses, and it was a common sight to see one of these carts pass containing anything up to ten or twelve human bodies, all terribly emaciated. (p. 559)

Note 57. The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion, with preface and explanatory notes, trans. Victor E. Marsden, 1934 (1905)

This poisonous forgery is far from stupid.

The edition that I have is from 1934, and comes with 140 pages of prefatory material, appealing to every conspiracy theorist’s convictions about how the world works. The various attacks on the book’s authenticity are taken up with a show of seriousness and refuted, their existence itself being proof of the pervasiveness of the Jewish conspiracy. The editors even include a splendid letter protesting against an intended American edition of it, and the ensuing correspondence with the would-be publisher, who is persuaded to back off. The book, in this scenario, is one of those truth-tellers so incendiary that every effort must be made to suppress it and deny it a hearing.

You would have to be brighter and much better informed than the vast majority of its readers to refute the refutations, let alone do so convincingly. Merely dismissing them as anti-Semitic, or as the half-baked pseudo-scholarship of autodidacts, would only help the book. It is not only anti-Semitic, it offers reasons for being anti-Semitic—which is to say, being against the alleged Jewish drive towards world domination.

That is one half of the book’s dynamics. The other and more interesting one is this. It may be (meaning it is) poisonous nonsense with respect to a long ongoing secret Jewish conspiracy. But it fits, if not to a T, then with an acceptable looseness, the totalitarian hunger for a totally controlled state—controlled, of course, in the interests of virtue. In effect, it is a counter-attack against the secular totalitarianism of Bolshevism, with for awhile its significant Jewish component, on behalf of the stable rule of a land-based aristocracy under a Czar-type monarch, at a time when “events are precipitated in the world at a terrifying speed…” (p.228)

But it understands the dynamics of the new totalitarianism, the insertion of right-thinking agents into existing structures, the secret encouragement of disorder, the nominal respect for constitutional legality in obtaining power, and, the power obtained, the constitutional transformation. The speaker is interested in these processes.

He is spot-on for four pages about controlling opinion through the press and publishing houses while maintaining the appearance of pluralism. He goes into some detail about banking and the monetary system as means of social control and not simply or personal or even “Jewish” enrichment. He understands the importance of controlling education. He even spots the Orwellian desirability of emphasizing the future and allowing memories of the past to wither away, except insofar as they recall the badness of how things used to be.

At the heart of the new ordering is force.

Our State, marching along the path of peaceful conquest, has the right to replace the horrors of war by less noticeable and more satisfactory sentences of death, necessary to maintain the terror which tends to produce blind submission. Just but merciless severity is the greatest factor of strength in the State, not only for the sake of gain but also in the name of duty… (p.147)

But it is not mere repression.

Our government will have the appearance of a paternal guardianship on the part of out ruler. [Italics thus.] Our own nation and our subjects will discern in his person a father caring for their every need, their every act, their every inter-relation as subjects one with another, as well as their relations to the ruler. They will then be so thoroughly imbued with the thought that it is impossible for them to dispense with this wardship and guidance, if they wish to live in peace and quiet, that they will acknowledge the autocracy of our ruler with a devotion bordering on APOTHEOSIS, especially when they are convinced that those whom we set up do not put their own in place of his authority, but only blindly execute his dictates. They will be rejoiced that we have regulated everything in their lives as is done by wise parents who desire to train their children in the cause of duty and sympathy. (pp.199-200)

Recognizing, sensing, glimpsing the naturalness of the totalitarian impulsion (always, of course, in the name of virtue) makes it easier to believe in its Jewish manifestation, particularly when linked with Communism, as is done explicitly in the surrounding texts in my edition.

If what were described in The Protocols were simply the lust for gelt, a diamond on every finger, vintage champagne, huge cigars, and the soft, white, quivering flesh of shiksas, the book would never have had the influence that it has. As it is, Islamist totalitarians, recognizing as in a mirror the patterns of sought domination in it , are obviously all the more convinced of its authenticity and of the necessity for themselves to do the dominating.

Note 58. “The Richardsons”


In his autobiography My Manor (1991), written with the assistance of Bob Long, about whom I know nothing, Charlie Richardson offers a very different take from Wikipedia’s (“The Richardson Gang”) on the activities that earned him in the 1966 Torture Trial a 25-year sentence.

The book interweaves a sardonic view of the trial from the dock with a chronological account of the more or less criminal career, starting in boyhood, of the man being pilloried as a Torture Monster. The prosecution witnesses, in this version, have been coached by the authorities, the Black Box (hand-cranked portable generator?) for administering shocks never existed, and the courtroom audience is getting its jollies from imagining naked men being interrogated. Nothing is said about the amputation of toes.

Mocking inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimony is a handy way of avoiding describing what did happen, and one does wonder a little what lies behind references to “a few dubious scars on the unsavoury bodies of some small-time crooks” (p.8) and statements like “We only broke a few bones” (p.124) and “I knocked him around and things were sorted out” (p.157).

One can get a bit tired, too, of the cliché contempt for schoolmasters, cops, N.C.O.s, officers, and prison warders in the first few chapters as a bright, imaginative, ambitious young hardcase goes full-tilt after the money in dodgy deals with scrap metal.

But the tone relaxes in chapters 6 to 9, now that Charlie himself is empowered and en route, as if seems, to a really big legitimate score in South Africa and a blissed-out sexual relationship. (Yes, she’s lovely in the photo.) And he can be very funny, such as when a couple of dimwitted arsonists are reporting back to him.

Tommy stopped as if that was it. He had explained nothing, so I pushed him on.

“How did you light it, Tommy?”

“I used a remote device, Charlie, like I said.”

“What kind of remote device, Tommy?”

“I used a standard remote device, Charlie.”

“What was it?”

“A rocket.”

“A rocket? What do you mean a rocket?”

“You know—a standard sort of rocket, Charlie.”

It took a few seconds but then the penny dropped.

“You used a standard rocket, you mean a Standard Rocket, you mean a fucking Guy Fawkes Standard Fireworks Rocket. You’re joking, Tommy. You’re pulling my leg!”

“It’s a well-proven method, Charlie.” (p.146)

Pure Jack Carter!


Particularly interesting are Charlie’s observations about images and image-making.

An alcoholic former associate shoots a man in the stomach and pleads that he was ordered to do it by Charlie Richardson, head of the Richardson Gang.

Then the British Sunday papers started to pick up on it all. They could not believe their luck. For decades crime reporters had sat at their desks twiddling their thumbs waiting for organized crime to come along and make them stars of the chip wrappings. The only reasons we were the Richardsons was I had a brother. What would they have done if my old man had discovered condoms on one of his foreign trips and decided he liked the fit? What would they have done if Mrs Kray’s little egg had not split into two idiots but remained one? It would have been Charlie Richardson and his gang, which is not as sexy as “the Richardson Gang” which was a “family” of villains. Just like The Untouchables late on a Thursday night. (p.203)

When he finds himself “heading the biggest firm on the manor and my manor was south-east London,”

To outsiders it might have looked like a gang, but gangs are what kids have—or big kids on American films. I was a businessman who had to protect his interests. There was no point to turning to so-called legitimate methods of protection. I have the wrong accent and could never get the hang of a funny [Masonic?] handshake. (p.126)

A witness recalls being menaced by a knife with which Charlie had been cleaning his nails,

Oh come on, Lucien! I nearly screamed from the dock. Whoever wrote this script should be sued by Graham Greene. Now I was cast as tubbie little Richard Attenborough playing the cheap little crook in Brighton Rock. And cleaning my nails with a knife? What a poor unimaginative reference to every failed actor playing every one-dimensional petty thug in every American B-film. What an embarrassing and undignified image when my nails were always clean and professionally manicured. What next? (p.135)

But he appears to have been remarkably close in some ways to the Capone model.

I took my responsibilities seriously. I bought the local Battersea Boys Club and turned their football team into first division Sunday league. At Christmas I paid for and organized turkeys for all the old people near the scrapyards and we set up parties and coach trips to the seaside in summer for them. We reduced local crime to a dribble. I was pissed off with all the thefts from my yard and I would be enraged when local people would come to tell me of burglaries to their houses. While the police filed incident reports and complaints in their dusty drawers we would know within hours who had done the job, give them a smack and tell them to fuck off to the West End to steal from rich people who could afford an insurance policy. The sad little battered radios and half crowns from the tin in the kitchen would be returned to the victim with our compliments. It might be a bit strong to say we were loved and respected but we were certainly respected. (p.127)


So, what was the truth of the Torture Trial? I simply don’t know. The book leaves me conscious that I haven’t read enough. Maybe in the dance of images and self-presentations the whole-and-nothing-but truth is no longer there to be discovered?

But I’m glad that Charlie was treated less harshly than poor Reggie Kray and only did eighteen years behind bars, despite having escaped at one point from a minimum-security prison and stayed at liberty for a year.

And there’s an interesting question, given what Charlie has said along the way about the low boredom threshold of villains, himself included.

There is one area [ he comments ] where fact and fiction about villains comes together. Like in the books and films most real villains dream of doing one big job and getting out of it all. In the films they are usually caught on that last big job. In real life they often get away with it but some time they get bored or greedy and want to do another last big job which is usually when they do get caught. The skill is to do the job and get away with it and straighten up your life. (pp.163-4)

If Charlie had made his own multi-million big (legitimate) score in South Africa and the other problems hadn’t destroyed him, would he have stayed straight? As Billy Hill (mentioned briefly in the book) had done.


Rough Justice (1981) by Robert Parker, a writer for quality papers like the Times and the Observer, is a different affair, the product of a good deal of research, including a lot of interviewing.

The Charlie of this account is for a while a successful scrap-metal merchant working on and occasionally over the border of legality, with “bother,” such as thefts from his yards, taken care of unofficially by two or three of his associates.

He then crosses the border into “long-firm” fraud, creating firms that establish their credibility with legitimate suppliers via references and moderate paid-for orders, e.g. of shirts, then order a LOT at one go, sell them off fast below cost, and vanish with the profits before payment becomes due.

He further expands into the South African mining venture of his own account, which was evidently more complicated than it appears in that account, what with the need to raise capital and stand in well with the white South African establishment. His beloved Jean is an agent, or at least listening ear, of the security services, and he himself burglarously gathers information for them about anti-apartheid groups in Britain.

And the violences?


Roughly, what emerges from Parson’s account is a criminal subculture in which fights and “disciplinary” (non-lethal, and not long-term incapacitating) beatings were part of the normal risks of the profession, along with a few occasions when outright torturing took place, including the use two or three times of a hand-cranked generator obtained in the scrap-metal business. A couple of the interrogations appear to have occurred when a furious Charlie was trying to get hold of crooks who had conned him. But the machine obviously wasn’t used with the ferocity of the Paras in Algiers, and the victims walked or drove away under their own steam. Nothing is said about pulling out finger-nails, or cutting off of toes, or nailing to the floor.

Unfortunately Parsons, who is at his best (if you find that kind of thing interesting) when unraveling and re-plaiting the fiendishly complicated South African dealings, resorts to the all-too-common fly-on-the wall technique when it comes to the details of the tortures. Recollections simply metamorphose into fact,

Another round of kicking and punching was dished out on Green, who by this time was in a bad way.

“I’m going to see if Charlie’s back,” said Cornell, picking up the phone. Jean Goodman answered. “I’ve been giving this berk Green the treatment, and I’m getting tired.”

“What’s it all about?” Jean asked.

“He thinks we’re little boys. ‘E took a right liberty.”

“Please don’t involve Charlie, he’s got too much on his plate.”

“Well, send Roy round. Tell him to fetch some tea.”

Roy sauntered round from Peckford’s carrying a mug of tea. “What’s this all about, then, George?” he asked.

“He thinks we’re little boys, Roy. Give ‘im a drop of tea.”

Hall calmly emptied the mug of tea over the injured Green. “I dunno, George,” he said, “thought you had better sense than that. You know what Charlie is. We’ll just have to teach you a lesson, won’t we?” (p.196)

That’s Proceed at Your Own Risk narrative—not necessarily false, but what grounds can there possibly be for believing that what is said is literally true?


Parsons makes a point of Charlie being a compulsive controller. But had that always been a dominant trait?

Common-law wife Jean managed the five scrap-yards. Tough younger brother Eddie and “Mad” Frankie Fraser carried on their own independent business (“racket”), including blue movies, long-firms, and persuading clubs and pubs to take their slot-machines. Reportedly, they provided owners with a good financial deal, and no-one was going to make trouble in places where Eddie and Frankie had a vested interest. Charlie calls Frankie “one of the most polite, mild-mannered men I’ve ever met, but he has a temper on him sometimes” (p.70). It seems a kindly way of referring to Frankie’s self-described propensity to go ballistic when the wrong buttons were pushed.

But yes, it would appear that as problems mounted in Africa and Charlie shuttled between the two countries, he indeed fought to keep a grip on his also complicated English operations. Was he maybe on amphetamines?

Charlie and his associates, with maybe one exception, appear not to have been sadists or killers, in contrast to crazy Ronnie north of the river. Charlie is credible when he complains that the horror-story aspects of the case had been worked up by the police, the prosecutors, and the press. Parsons himself concedes that the police task-force that had been preparing for months to pull down Charlie’s empire had taken unusual pains to safeguard their witnesses and steer them in the right direction.

Parsons is no doubt right about Charlie’s capacity for self-deception in the face of business difficulties, his over-confidence in his invulnerability, and his unflagging belief in his own essential innocence. My Manor would appear to have been partly an exercise in apologetics, with judicious omissions.

But starting from nothing in working-class Camberwell, his scrap-metal business was a substantial achievement, and he had reason to believe that a fortune lay in the ground in South Africa for the (virtually) legitimate taking, provided you had imagination, confidence, and drive enough. His reward, as he saw it, was to be pilloried as a monster and given an exceptionally long prison sentence, though not as long as would be doled out to the Krays three years later. Eddie, Roy Hall (virtually his adopted son) and Frankie Fraser got only ten. Jean went free.

I would guess that basically he was being punished for having become too powerful and making the police look silly for too long. Parker himself calls it rough justice.

A hard man, at least back then, and you wouldn’t have wanted to cross him. But, as he said, no harder, probably, than a lot of nominally legitimate businessmen, and he and his—what? associates? group? accomplices? gang? don’t appear to have got physical with innocent civilians. A hard man. A professional criminal. But a monster? No. No, I don’t think so. Not a monster.


I still have no sense of being up on the real facts of the case. Parsons himself, after all, may have been making some judicious omissions, so as not to damage the still incarcerated Charlie needlessly. But Charlie comes across as much more interesting and sympathetic than the Krays, After his escape, when he was strolling around his old haunts, the London coppers didn’t rush to grab him. Parsons suggests, plausibly, that they probably felt that fourteen years was long enough.

I’m glad, though, that Ted Lewis picked up on the “monster” aspects and extrapolated from them in the figures of George and Jean Fowler in his final novel, GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm in the States).

It’s probably still an open question whether “villain” (by no means identical with “hoodlum”) might not be the better term for a lot of the British “gangsters” in the old days. But however labeled, they appear to have been a lot more interesting than their American counterparts, even if not allowed to play with Tommy-guns and hand-grenades.

They were also, some of them, in their sense of self-presentation, much more interestingly literary.

An afterthought. When Charlie objected to the term “gang,” I wonder if he was thinking of the “clubhouse” gang, the group, of whatever age, that made a social centre of its base, and hung out there, and drank, and yarned, and played cards, and the rest of it?

But I’ve no idea what actually went on down there, south of the river, in Charlie Richardson’s Camberwell.



The Wikipedia account of the alleged torturing (see “The Richardson Gang”) is vastly different from what I have pieced together here.

Was a small collector of protection money who had appropriated some of it “nailed to the floor of a warehouse near Tower Bridge for nearly two days, during which time gang members frequently urinated on him”?

If so, I have been a sucker, willing to believe in the worst atrocities of German troops in Belgium in 1914 but protective of “decent” London criminals.

But nothing like that incident figures in Parson’s book.

And if Frankie Fraser was “especially notorious” for pulling out teeth with pliers at mock trials presided over by Eddie (yes, Eddie) “and others,” would his sentence have been so relatively light?

Or Eddie’s sentence, given also the alleged whippings, cigarette burnings, ripping off of toes with bolt cutters, and electrocuting into unconsciousness?

And if you put into a cold bath, before cranking up the field telephone, a man with wires attached to his nipples and genitals, you’re going to disperse the current and create merely a mild tingling.

In any event, the floating of such accusations at the trial and in papers like the People would have been a tectonic shift in the perception of what was possible, and to some extent internally acceptable, in British gangdom.

But it is the IRA in The Long Good Friday (1980) who nail the watchman to the warehouse floor.


In a six-and-a-half-page chapter of London’s Underworld (2003) headed “The Torture Gang,” journalist Fergus Linnand says of the Richardsons, “Inevitably their kind of business involved a certain level of violence, but Charlie Richardson seems to have tried to limit it; nor for him the hit lists and the mad rages of Ronnie Kray.” (p.187)

But while Linnane reports of a particular victim, or alleged victim, that “Harris’s testimony about his ordeal at the hands of Richardson’s torturers was the main plank in the prosecution’s case against the south London gang” (p.188), he writes as though allegations were simply facts.

A man named James Taggart who had been tortured by the gang went to see Gerald McArthur, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire. Other victims of the gang now began to talk to the police. (p. 190, italics mine)

He doesn’t provide details. He says nothing about possible police manipulations.

Note 59. What the Doctor Thought

Bryan Maycock, July 2007, has accessed the London Times for the 1930’s and found a 300-400-word review of this play, anonymous like all Times reviews back then. He also found reviews of nine other Shop Window productions, from 1933 to 1938, in the Grafton Theatre, the St. Martin’s Theatre, and the Aldwych Theatre, home of English farces.

Margaret Rutherford and Diana Churchill were in a 1934 production, Roland Culver and John L. Sullivan in a 1935 one. Those are the only names that I recognize. None of the ten plays is praised. I’ve no idea what this company was. Only one or two actors are listed as in more than one play, so it seems not to have been repertory. In 1934 it became the New Shop Window.

What grounds are there for ascribing it to “our” Kelly? Actually, there don’t seem any for not doing so.

Harold would have been known to some extent in connection with City Mid-Week, where he may have done some reviewing of City amateur theatricals himself. (He reviewed a musical event in the first issue.) It would have been highly unusual for there to be two writers working at the same time with identical names. And the theme of a capacity for violence lurking behind the facades of “nice” people would seem to fit with his presumable bitterness against the good citizens who had put City Mid-Week out of business, and with the 1943 short story “Confession by Jury,” in which one of the condemning jurymen in a murder case reveals that he himself was the actual killer.

The play, one of three dealing with murder, doesn’t sound like much. Here is the first part of the review.

The curtain rises on the inhabitants of Mrs. Aplon’s boarding-house discussing murder. Why do people kill each other? How do murderers become murderers? A difficult question indeed, but there is one at Mrs. Aplon’s who can solve it—Dr. Penser. “Thought,” proclaims the doctor in a speech more remarkable for sententiousness than profundity, and at the end of it the lights are lowered, to brighten again, not upon some miraculous transformation, but on the same group of people and on the doctor still as large as life on the hearth-rug. As large as life, at least to the audience, but to the group on the stage he has become a disembodied thought, capable, by the horrid threat of the word “repression,” of turning respectable citizens into poisoners, prostitutes, embezzlers, and drunkards. Mr. Harold Kelly, in other words, in this play presented by the Shop Window at the Grafton Theatre last night, has played a variation on the technique Mr. Eugene O’Neill used in Strange Interlude and made the silent workings of the conscience an audible part of the general proceedings.

There can be no objection to that as a principle, but Mr. Kelly is too prone, for one thing, to believe that most human beings are at the mercy of the first tempting of an atavistic impulse, and not quite enough of a dramatist for another, to make monologues punctuated by the demoniac promptings particularly interesting. He certainly scores one or two amusing points and he is capable of keeping an intellectual card up his sleeve to the last, but his play fails in that, even when it is trying to be most profound, it never escapes the superficial.

The remainder of the review deals with the acting.

Note 60. The Grim Caretaker

Morgan Wallace has generously provided the following synopsis. He says that the slim Ascher book (1944) is “incredibly slow-moving” and lacks “any finesse or attention to style.,” and that “Kelly does not delve enough into the occult in this novel to make it worthwhile,” I believe him. A Kelly mystery is the immense gap between his best writing and his worst.

The story starts off in the Carpathian region, where for some odd reason an Englishman is seen to be driving on the narrow ridge ways and finds to his horror that he has no brakes. After careening desperately into numerous objects to slow his speed and avoid death, he approaches a narrow pass and an oncoming vehicle. Only one may pass through at a time. They intersect and grind each other to a halt, firmly wedged, saving his life. In the other vehicle is a man, the guardian of a beautiful girl (damn, they always find their way into a novel somehow, don't they?) who is sitting in the car's back seat. The trio return to town in our protagonist's auto (did Kelly forget he lacks brakes?), and the youngsters fall in love.

The protagonist, by name of Lance Ingram, broaches marriage to the guardian, a M. Lebon, who explodes, explaining that Estelle at the age of 25 will become irrevocably, dangerously insane, a hereditary trait that has afflicted three generations already. Lance shoves aside the assertion, and proclaims his love, and they marry in Paris, returning to England, where she insists on a move to her childhood family home, called "Poldragil." They are greeted by an ominous caretaker—Trevorn-—a gaunt, tall, bald, petrified-wood of a man, of indeterminate age (between 50 and 70, although Kelly may well insinuate infinite), and Lance feels impending evils, etc. Trevorn seems to exert some form of perverse control over Estelle, who bestows queer sensuous smiles on him in a trance. She becomes more and more insane, and Trevorn turns up at odd moments to assert his control.

Enter Lucian Carolus to the rescue. At a chance society dinner he meets M. Lebon, who confesses to him, assuming he is strictly a doctor, her maladies. Lucian assures Lebon that she is not insane, but possessed, and flies like the wind to England to her rescue, realizing the age of 25 is rapidly approaching. In the guise of a lost archaeologist, he meets them on their land, and she offers him hospitality. Lance, threatened and embarrassed, orders Lucian to maintain his distance and ignore any 'strange' nightly occurrences he may see or hear, etc.

Everything comes rapidly to a head while the three dine, and Estelle launches into a bestially grotesque-yet-graceful (for she is beautiful) dance to a rhythmic croaking sound from without, and Lucian deftly removes a drawer and pounds out a symphony on the other drawer's underside to overpower the evil croaking vibrations that are controlling her insane dance. He pursues the vibrations outside, and is beset by darkness, when a bough of a yew tree uncannily breaks and drops on him.

The demon has taken him by surprise, and realizing that a human has uncorked his existence, hastens to obtain Estelle's soul to sustain his existence on this earthly plane. Lucian awakens from unconsciousness and by inhuman strength, after recognizing he is being crushed to death, effortlessly heaves the bough and branches aside, hurtles to the terrace, and stops to catch his breath, at which point Kelly realizes he gave Lucian Superman strength, and proceeds to hurl our supernatural hunter into a fiery room in which Estelle is possessed, Lance is out for the count due to a later-to-be-determined superficial head wound, and the fiery room is further fed by Estelle's evil attempts to set the place ablaze.

Realizing Estelle may be beyond repair, Lucian drags Lance to safety, then pumps back up the steps into the hell, only to be startled to face a vacant eyed Estelle sitting upon a chair, stroking a mouse. Lucian, supernatural genius and historian, realizes the mouse to be none other than Trevorn, aka, a familiar. He leaps at the pair, and launches an assault on the mouse, clamping his hands on it and attempts to wrest the demonic being from her lap. To his dismay, his hand is paralyzed, and cannot be moved. He then attempts to move his body, but it is sluggish. The demon is overpowering him, but Lucian, with his heightened mental powers, convinces his body to ease closer and closer to the Estelle-created bonfire, and realizing that the demon will not allow Lucian to hurl free the mouse, commits his hand and whole arm to the fire, thereby sending the rodent to a fiery death.

The spell snapped, Lucian releases the mouse, frees his cindered arm, and Estelle, still possessed and of Trevorn's mind, screams in bestial rage and pain as she is mentally burned to death. Fainting, Lucian extracts her body to the still unconscious Lance, the place incredibly burns to the ground, eradicating a legacy of evil, and the pair live on happily ever after. Lucian credits that the house was long overdue for demolition, "that it was a magnet for evil occult influences..." and "...there is nothing more cleansing than the destruction of fire."

Note 61. Leslie Ernenwein, Renegade Ramrod, Evergreen Books, Hector Kelly, 1953 [1950]

I read this as part of an attempt to see what kinds of Westerns by American writers the Kellys wee publishing.

Cowhand/gunslinger Clay Quantrelle drifts into town looking for a quiet life, but becomes ramrod to an old friend who is beset by the machinations of smooth land-grabbing baddy Hal Barton who has the other ranchers on his side because of his seeming concern for their interests. The sheriff is a decent man who’s lost his nerve and drinks. Clay falls in love with beautiful Eve Chalice, who is engaged to Barton. In the end, Barton gets his just deserts, and Clav averts a shooting war.

It’s like a Harold Kelly Western without the intensifications—no extended hand-to-hand-fights, no swirling mobs bent on lynching, no brilliant fast riding, no atmospheric night attack, no guilt feelings, etc. But Clay is decent and satisfyingly competent, and Eve is straightforward and able to accept the truth about Barton in time, and the whole narrative is sufficiently physical and suspenseful.

There are no “hombrse” or irritatingly phonetic spellings. There are also a number of terms that I haven’t encountered in any Kelly Western—honey-fussin’, slick-eared button, rannyhan, curly wolf, yonderly, greasy-sack, ,etc. I see from Google that “rannyhan” was in use in at least one Western story in the 1920s.

Note 62. Straight-Up Girl

The extravagant blurbing and intimations of scandalousness— “The book from Chicago that New York banned,” “The most stirring and revealing book yet by this world famous author”—are, alas, just come-ons, as is, surely, the claim of two million copies sold.

The plot description quoted in the Violence, Inc, entry is accurate enough. The “voiced” narrative is leisurely (padded?), with the author obviously enjoying taking time to establish the nature of Art Gingell’s pool palace and dance-hall, the route by which young Les Meaker winds up in court on a charge of attempted murder and gets off with a token sentence, the persuading of him by Art Gingell, in extended conversations, to set up as the boss of one of Gingell’s robbery teams, etc.

Coral Follett, the girl of the title, is a nice girl, not especially pretty, but,

She had a pretty musical voice, one of those soft voices that are soothing to listen to. And there was something back of the voice. Maybe it was a kind of sympathetic vein in her nature. It could be about yourself, it could be about some trouble you were bucking, or it could be any-which thing. But if you told Coral about it, you felt she understood and was ready to be sympathetic about it. (p.17)

So there we are, in a non-specific city at a non-specific time (though there’s a reference to Victory bonds), with two young kids from poor backgrounds who’ve become interested in one another, and he keeps trying to put the make on her, and she keeps patiently refusing, and he is suddenly into more money now as a gangster, and lies to her about where the money is coming from, and you wonder, this being a Glinto novel rather than an American noir, where all this is going.

The styles (narrative/conversations) are sufficiently American that one doesn’t keep waiting for some embarrassing anachronism or solecism.

It isn’t until the final third of the book that the suspense mounts, with the serious entry into the action of a cop obsessed with bringing Les to justice, and all set to do some serious torturing of him at a hideaway before turning him in to the precinct house. With nice Coral also becoming more important.

She is less interesting, however, than lovely, grieving, revenge-seeking Francesca in “Buck Toler’s” Tough on the Wops two years earlier, and the robberies are less detailed than the principal one in that novel, and the Inspector is less villainous than some of Kelly’s villains outside the law. No police brutality in Glinto is going to equal that in Lady—Don’t Turn Over.

The book is much better than Dainty Was a Jane, but I’d give it no more then three out of five stars or bullets or whatever the unit of assessment is for Kelly’s gangster novels.

Note 63. William J. Elliott, Snatched Dame, 1942, repr. 1948 NEW

According to Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, Elliott’s dates were 1886–1947.

1942 is given in the 1948 reprint as the date of the first edition. Since this appears to have been the first Gunning novel, that would move the date of Freak Racket to 1942.

Snatched Dame, narrated throughout by Ed Gunning, is like a Lemmy Caution novel with more violences, some of them more extreme, but without Cheyney’s ability to build a scene in This Man is Dangerous, and with a lot of hither-and-yonning and conversing in between.

It would have been hot stuff at the time. We’re told of a delinquent hoodlum thrown bound and naked into a bath of paraffin that’s then set on fire. Another hoodlum is seen spreadeagled on the floor and being eaten by rats, who’ve already gnawed “great, bleeding holes” in his arms and legs and gnawed away his left cheek. He screams. The narrator is stripped naked and tied to a tree to be eaten by ants.

Earlier, bound, he has to watch Tessie, her arms and legs held by hoodlums, being bared to the waist and mauled by a drooling latino. She faints. Freed, he kills the mauler with the wooden wedge that’s been used to gag him. “I felt the scrunch as the thickness of it busted his jaws apart, and the thin edge broke his spine at the back of his neck. (p.165). He casually shoots guys through belly and back. Annoyed with another woman, Julie,

I smacked her, fore and hack-handed, on both sides of her face with all my strength. Then I doubled my fist and smashed her on the nose, and felt it crunch and flatten under my fist. Then I threw her down and grinned at the handful of rich, dark hair left in my paw. … [T]he last thing I heard was Julie screeching as they dragged her off to the room where all the boys were.” (p.178).

You won’t find something as nasty as that in Glinto. But the general tone isn’t convincingly tough, so the violences feel added to spice the book up. Presumably the dust-jacket was sexy.

See Note 42 about Freak Racket.

Note 64. Smoke Screens: the Rhetoric of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke; the Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (2008) NEW


Over and above a too trusting use of sources, particularly the kind in which one person reports what he recalls another as having said, and a greater concern with attitudes on our side than with the actions of Hitler, Stalin, and the Japanese war party in the Thirties, Baker simply dodges spelling out in detail what be believes Britain should have done in its dealings with Hitler, and what the consequences of that might have been.

Obviously he feels that America should have stayed out of the war, though how that would have fitted in with Japanese expansionism, particularly in China, he doesn’t tell us. But equally, when he cites various individuals arguing for a negotiated peace with Hitler, he doesn’t enlighten us about what it would have meant to have Hitler remain in place as the master of Europe, and perhaps of Russia too.

His rhetoric consists of implying that virtually everything done by the democracies was wrong, because not pacifist, including re-armament, the provision of aid to China, and Lend-Lease. He particularly loathes bombers and bombing. But he makes it all too easy for himself.


Saying straight out that the democracies should not have re-armed in the Thirties, not “provoked” or resisted Hitler, and not gone to war in 1939 might have been a tad imprudent.

But an unavoidable implication in the book is that Britain should have made peace with Hitler after Dunkirk. Killing civilians was wrong, the kind of precision bombing that would have hit only war-related targets was impossible, ergo, there should have been no substantial bombing. And since blockading Germany was also wrong because of the hardships it wrought on civilians, there was effectively nothing left for Britain to do but negotiate a peace under, most likely, the Prime Ministership of Lord Halifax, and with Eddie Windsor restored as King.

And then?

Whatever terms the British thought had been agreed on, they would obviously soon have experienced the increasing presence and power of Germans and German-oriented officials in key positions in government, law, the media, education, and security—and the scooping up of the potentially trouble-making individuals on the Nazis’ black-lists, at least such as hadn’t already gone into exile.

With the Nazified media’s celebrations of Anglo-German togetherness under way, the Americans were not going to come sweeping across the Atlantic to the sound of bugles and the plaudits of Hollywood, especially since many Americans, among them Roosevelt and a lot of Congressmen, had no great fondness for the English. Besides, America would have Japanese expansionism in the Pacific and China to worry about.

And the Jews in Britain, among them those who, along with others at risk, had been offered sanctuary from the Nazis?

France’s hands were never clean again after what it did and allowed to be done—willingly— to its Jews after its surrender in 1940.


Personally I don’t much care for the kind of pacifism that consists of advocating “pure” attitudes without considering in detail the probable consequence. My own take in the first two parts of Violence Inc is the conventional one that Hitler was not a normal, rational, cost-benefits politician, as Baker seems to be implying, but a megalomaniacal visionary, and that his expansionist momentum could have been broken by the threat or use of force when he reoccupied the Rhineland or moved in on Czechoslovakia.

If we are going to engage in cost-benefit analyses, the cost of a war then, in terms of human lives, would have been vastly less than what actually occurred, as would have been the case even if the war had stalemated in a negotiated armistice. The myth inside Germany of an ongoing cost-free expansion under the Nazis would have been broken, and German resistance to the Nazis strengthened.

Apropos of which, Baker’s presentation of Churchill’s bellicosity suggests to me that in dealing with Hitler an in some ways immature bellicosity was more desirable than the low-voltage rationalism of politicians like Chamberlain and Halifax.

Nor was a policy-emphasis, between the wars, on Britain itself making war from the air simply the result of wickedness. From a national perspective, such a war would, have been vastly preferable to a reprise of the appalling casualty figures on the Western Front, at least if “we” could hit “them” while preventing them from hitting us.

It is interesting, though, in view of the indignation at the time against Mussolini’s use of air-power against helpless Abyssinians, to read in Baker of similar doings, “punitive” of course, against rebellious tribesmen in Britain’s empire; and to be reminded that the bombing of Germany began early, and that German cultural monuments, too, were destroyed.; and that the death-toll figures for conventional firestorm bombing of Japanese cities were horrendous.

It deserves keeping in mind that for awhile before the war the final Nazi solution to the Jewish presence in Germany was conceived of as voluntary immigration or enforced deportation to somewhere like Madagascar, rather than what eventually happened.


Self-righteous though it is, the book could be useful as a corrective to a false sense of national purity.

But its relentless ironizing of every act or utterance in the democracies directed towards an armed security, and its pseudo-exposé of something very like an American conspiracy in the Thirties and early Forties to lure Japan into a war to determine who would control the Far East, can, in my opinion, only do harm. At bottom the book is an isolationist tract that gives the Nazis and the Japanese militarists something very like a free ride in the Thirties.

The profoundly racist horrors of the Rape of Nanking in 1937, for example, with its own kind of revelation of the shape of things to come, receive, after we’re told that the city refused a (by implication reasonable) request to surrender, receive exactly four words, “Rape and massacre followed”. Nor does Nanking figure in the index.

That’s dishonest.

Nor, for that matter, do the purges and show-trials, and the horrific death tolls of the state-manufactured Ukraine famine, under Stalin’s dictatorship, get mentioned at all.

This kind of pacifism, promoted with our own highly problematic present times obviously in mind, is at bottom about self-righteously feeling good, with no concrete regard, as distinct from pious hopes and the invocation of Gandhi in a very different situation, for the possible prices to be paid by others for that feeling.


Incidentally, the nuclear genii would have come out of the bottle anyway in Russian hands, even if Harry Truman, risking certain impeachment, had refused to give the green light for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That those are still the only occasions in over sixty years that nuclear weapons have been used in combat is a tribute to the, yes, benign consequences of knowing—after those terrifying concrete demonstrations— that World War Three would reduce a lot of American cities to the conditions of German and Japanese ones at the end of WW II—conditions that gave a powerful impetus to non-belligerence in those two countries.

If one wants to think concretely about the moral dynamics of the war in the Pacific (Baker’s narrative doesn’t extend past 1941), culminating in the dropping of those two bombs, Max Hastings’ Retribution; the Battle for Japan, 1944–45 (2008). is first-rate, and deals with much more than just those two years.

David Faber’s Munich: the 1938 Appeasement Crisis (2008) and Benjamin Carter-Hett’s Crossing Hitler; the Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand (2008) are also fascinating reading. The latter, about the appalling five-year martyrdom, after the Nazis came to power, of the brilliant young half-Jewish lawyer Hans Litten who had fearlessly attacked in court the street-fighting Brownshirts, and on one occasion cross-examined Hitler himself, is a poignant reminder of the risks of doing the “right” thing vis-à-vis governments unconstrained by those liberal values that enabled Gandhi to play on British sensibilities like a virtuoso harpist.


Appeasement and pacifism are not the same thing, and there are pacificisms and pacificisms. I have not been speaking here against the heroic pacifism of individuals willing to endure whatever is done to them because they refuse to engage in violences themselves or assist in the violences of others. Or who insert themselves between warring groups and at times succeed in lessening violences and facilitating dialogue.

In “America and the Chivalric” elsewhere in this site, and in the book from which those excerpts come, I offer my own take on some of the overlapping structures and values of “peace” and “war.”

Note 65, Preston Yorke, The Case of the Strangled Seven

[My gratitude to Morgan Wallace for the following description. In his email he added, “I don't think I'll ever read another Preston Yorke title again. Oy, the drudgery!” I know the feeling. But at least in his reports about the Yorkes he’s damped down any desire, at least on my part, to get into bidding wars for those ultra-rare items, and filled a significant Kelly gap.]

A beat-weary constable despising his job and wishing he could be a Scotland Yard detective stumbles upon a pair of strangled drug-gang distributors. After harrassment from his captain and by Yard men, he requests time off to investigate the area on his own. A lone member of the nefarious gang captures, binds, and later—as per the instruction of their evil leader--sets fire to the hideout, with the intention of burning the constable. He blindly forces his way through the thin walls and escapes, with severe burns.

Meanwhile, during all this, our wonderful author abandons any pretext of surprising the reader about who the strangler is. A somewhat well-to-do businessman has lost his daughter to drugs, and has lost his grip on reality. He and some reliable professionals systematically hunt down the seven top members of the gang and strangle them to death.

In the middle of it all, the businessman's secretary learns the awful truth that he is a murderer, and he hides her away under lock-and-key in his manor. A young employee of his learns of this and abandons the tasks assigned him to rescue the woman he intends to wed. He succeeds and they flee the estate, she bent on informing the police.

Meanwhile the constable continues to single-handedly track the s.o.b.s who tried to snuff him. In the traditional climax he attempts to arrest both the businessman and the leader of the outfit, who goes under the name of “Optimus One.” “Optimus,” who bizarrely has a sac of poison attached to one of his teeth, bites the businessman and dies a paralyzing death before the constable's eyes. The businessman announces that there are notes in his office that will clear up the entire case, and then he too promptly dies.

Happy ending wrap-up:

The youngsters survive and marry.

Scotland Yard get their man—Constable Waring—and smartly phone his chief to inform him that they are promoting him to Sergeant at the Yard.

Note 66, All for a Dame

[Benoit Tadié has provided the following report on Darcy Glinto, All for a Dame, London, Alexander Moring, n.d.]

This may be one of the rarer Glintos but it certainly isn’t one of the best. Two gangsters fall out over a “dame” who walks one night into the Trumpet Club, the main night spot in an unnamed US city. One is Liddy Sloan, the ageing boss of the local rackets, who owns the Trumpet club, the local newspaper and “the Rialto Movie Palace, the Ritz Dance Palais, the Three-Ways Filling Station, the Plenty Delicatessen Store and the Little Broadway Drug Store” (p. 5). His rival is the young hoodlum Ray Corbett, who “had as tough a bunch of guys round him as any one town was liable to produce at any one time” (p. 6). Carol Marinska, the “dame” both men fall for, is a loose blazon of idealized American references:

It’s a funny thing but you find this kind of dame in quite a number of these kinds of set-ups, whether it is down on the water front district of San Francisco or across in Chicago or up in New York. Maybe there is no joint quite like the Trumpet and no dame quite like Carol. […] She had looks. I’ll tell the world she had looks. There was that pale, creamy complexion, the red full lips looking like an advert for a top-class line in lipstick. There were the big, soft, dreamy eyes with lashes that had to curve back and up. […] When she did talk there was her voice. Most of the talk about music in dames’ voices is hooey. Not the music in Carol Marinska’s. (p. 6–7)

The fourth main character is Hannah Planz, the manager of the Trumpet Club, a decidedly repulsive item that gives the novel an eerie note:

If you wanted to find Hannah Planz you had to look for her. It didn’t matter where she was. She might be right there in the club dining-room, sitting by her own little round table across to the right from the corner band-platform with the curved front. She had to sit well back from the table partly because she could never get room to keep changing position for comfort. But she needed room, too, for her waist line, if you can talk about a line when you mean a belly the size of an old Santa Fe locomotive boiler. Then you still had to look for Hannah Planz if you wanted her. You looked deep down among the rolls of fat that came up out of the top of her black satin dress, and went on rising in series to where there was that top-knot of thin, wispy grey hair with the scaly scalp showing through.

Down amongst those rolls of fat you could find the mouth that talked to you, the little black buttony eyes that looked at you, and the shine of the red nose that sniffed at most things you had to say. (4)

As soon as Carol walks into the club the two hoods become deadly rivals, as in Tex Avery’s cartoon version of Little Red Riding Hood. Sloan has the initial advantage and takes Carol away but Corbett then blackmails Hannah (who, he discovers, is secretly hiding a daughter (who has never seen her mum) in a faraway boarding-school) into revealing to him that Sloan used to be the boss of a white-slave racket under a different name. With this valuable information, Corbett forces Sloan to part with 50 000 bucks and Carol; he then guns him down in the Trumpet Club. A few days later, Corbett is stabbed to death by Hannah, who hasn’t forgiven him for having discovered the secret of her hidden daughter.

The British unconscious of this supposedly American story comes out, I believe, in the White-slave racket motif which was a frequent theme of the junglies. Its US/UK cultural intermingling constitutes its main interest and is also reflected in the language, with the narrator sometimes approaching Peter Cheyney-esque creativity in his mixture of English references with American ones:

He [Corbett] kissed Carol as if he had been the garden-city hubby setting out for business, only the kiss was different, and went down to dive in the Buick which Steyne and Siemen [Corbett’s henchmen] had waiting for him. (p. 122)

The tone also recalls Cheyney in the violent passages, as when Corbett is about to “rub out” Sloan in the Trumpet Club:

But we mugs of the American public are getting educated these days to tommy guns. We know that when a couple of guys come stamping into a restaurant with tommies poking from their hips, a very wise thing to do is nothing at all. All those clients of the Trumpet did that very wise thing.

But the price for such lighthearted description is also a certain amateurishness (“tommies poking from their hips”), a very long way from what contemporaneous US writers (e.g. Donald Hamilton) could do with guns and violent action in the same decade.

Overall, the plot is thin, there is little action and virtually no sex (which, coming from the author of Road Floozie, is strange). All for a Dame is a long-winded rambling job written in American pastiche with the British foundation (“judies”) showing through the US lingo (“dames”), a far cry from Road Floozie or Deep South Slave, that had credible American settings, and not nearly as good as a Soho novel of the fifties like The Hangman is a Woman.

Note 67, Fascinating biographical information

On December 26, 2010, I received the following fascinating email from Voncile Ralph, a stranger to me who had briefly been in touch with me earlier.

Dear John,

I am finally trying to get back to you after many computer problems. I met Harold Kelly in Santa Cruz de Tenerifi in Nov. of 1956. I believe we went down on the same ship from Barcelona. I knew him for only about six months, but he was one of the most interesting and influential people that I have ever met. We spent many hours together eating, drinking and talking. During this time he was producing work for publication. His brother Hector was his business manager and handled distribution. I don’t believe he wrote anything under his own name. Two of his pen names I remember are Darcy Glinto and Buck Toler. He was tall and lanky, ruddy complexion and appeared in excellent health. Much of his time between the two Wars was spent in the British Merchant Marine, so he was much travelled. He spent quite a lot of time in France and spoke French fluently He was also an avid reader all his life and was kind enough to give me a list of books that had impressed him—together with their authors and his comments. The reason I was interested in details of his death is because he told me that when he could no longer attract young women he was going to commit suicide and he told me how he planned to do it. Apparently he found a lady to his liking, since according to your information he died in Santa Cruz eight years after I last saw him. I am wondering if you have access to any of his books. I only read one when I was in the Canaries. I doubt that any are available here in the USA.

Please forgive any mistakes I have made here. My eyesight is not so good any more.

Best Regards,
Voncile Ralph

But when I asked if she could recall his ever mentioning being in the Great War or having visited North America, there was no follow-up. And unfortunately the information about the Merchant Marine, which would indeed help to explain his invisibility during most of the Thirties after the City Mid-Week debacle in 1933, was too unspecific to permit of any easy searching in the relevant British archives. Even so, this is wonderfully interesting reminiscing, adding further layers to such knowledge as we have or can infer about this protean figure.

To Voncile and, below, Morgan Wallace, my apologies for not having added this material sooner. I’m a tunnel-visioner, not a multi-tasker, and for several months was wholly absorbed in the very different New Book of Verse elsewhere on my site.

Note 68, More about the Kelly family

Hector Kelly, b. 1911
Frederick Kelly (1907), b. 1868

In August 2010, I received the following from Morgan Wallace.

Hello John.

I’m in touch with one of Harold’s nieces, and she says one of Harold’s siblings, being her aunt, is still alive, though quite old and likely doesn’t know much. She says if you have any questions, to please forward them asap.

She’s also sent me digital copies to some birth certificates, including Harold’s, and some photographs of the family, including one of Hector, but so far, they can’t find one of Harold. They are still looking through the various files. She and the rest of the family are stoked that somebody, especially someone in Canada (you) and an American (I) should even be remotely still be interested in such things.

Hector Kelly and Kathleen Kelly, b,1913
Hector Kelly and Kathleen Kelly, b,1913

I’ve pointed out to her your website’s contributions and dedications to Harold. I don’t know if she has taken the time to peruse it, but has been providing details to me where she can.

But, like I said, if you have any pertinent questions regarding either gentleman and their publishing efforts, etc, or anything else, please ask now. The aunt must be in her late 90s, by my guess.

The following day he wrote:

I can field some of the questions that you have right now. She sent me some birth certificates:

B: St. Mary Newington, St. Saviour Southwark, London
Father’s occupation: hatter, journeyman

B: St. Peter, Walworth, St. Saviour, London
Residence: 38 Merrow Street, Walworth

Frederick Kelly (1907), b. 1868
Hector Kelly, b. 1911

Residence: 114 Bronsart Road, Fulham, London

FREDERICK KELLY (26 July 1868)
B: St. Paul, Bristol
Father: James Kelly (circa 1829) in Yarlington, Somerset
Mother: Elizabeth HARPER (circa 1830) in Shepton, Montague, Somerset

B: Lansdown, Bath, Somerset
Father: William Purcell (coachman)
Mother: Catherine O’Connell

Elizabeth Kelly, b. 1873
Elizabeth Kelly, b. 1873

Per the 1911 census, 7 kids living, 5 dead.
The niece says there were at least 2 sets of twins, she says they died, but there might be a third set of twins, and obviously by these numbers, one survived. The third set is unconfirmed. She is currently tracing birth certificates on the twins, and has already got requests out for the remaining birth certificates on the other siblings.

He self-corrected next day to say:

Turns out the lady I’m writing is actually the grand (or is “great”) niece, and that her aunt is Harold’s niece. None of Harold’s siblings are alive, but, she thinks that perhaps at least one of Harold’s kids are alive. I asked her, “are you sure that Harold had kids?” I don’t want to be given false hope there. She doesn’t seem to know that side of the family, but has put the question to her aunt now.

Elizabeth Norah Kelly, b. 1901
Elizabeth Norah Kelly, b. 1901

Three weeks later he wrote:

Forgot to add this to the Arthur Herbert Kelly details:

Arthur was married to Florence B Leonard in Bristol in 1921, and they had two girls:

Joyce F in1922, Bristol
Evelyn Mary in 1924, Bristol.

He died in Staines, Middlesex age 53 in 1951.

He also sent scans of two photocopied obituary pages from Isis, February 3, 1954, the Oxford University termly magazine, about Sidney John Kelly who at his death was Managing Director of the Holywell Press and University Newspapers Ltd.

To judge from the front-page editorial and three tributes from former editors, he was exceptionally admirable and likable, bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, unstintingly helpful to others. One of the editors recalled how, “I cannot remember that he ever showed anger or irritation toward people, although he could be very astringent—pretensions were met with a bland mischievous incomprehension—and no situation ever asked too much of his humanity.”

Unfortunately no birth-date is given. The words “Sydney John Kelly” are written in what looks like ink on the top of the “Three Tributes” page, and the deceased is described as an Irishman in manner. The first name of the family’s Sidney is spelt with an “I” and I have him as born ca. 1905. Another researcher, as reported by Morgan, offers a Sidney Victor Kelly born in 1905 but dying in 1949, and clearly not the one under consideration here.

The photos accompanying this note all come from Morgan, courtesy of the family, to whom my gratitude for all the new material.

Ironically, though, no photo of Harold has turned up, which seems like par for the course, he being so quicksilver elusive in other ways.



Return to top