Sunday, 22 November 2015

I may have to soften my attitude to the late Denis Healey - no John Franklin Bardin enthusiast can be all bad

After the journalist Chris Deerin tweeted this, it set me to wondering yet again what ever became of my copy of The John Franklin Bardin Omnibus, a paperback edition of the American crime writer's first three novels, which were originally published between between 1946 and 1948. The above story comes from the British crime writer Julian Symons's introduction to the Omnibus (1978). It was Symons who tracked Bardin down to Chicago, where he found the writer (who had been a New York advertising copywriter when his novels were first published) happy and eager to see his work back in print - as were those of us who were thus able to become acquainted with his genius.

To be honest, I don't remember much about Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly or The Last of Philip Banter, but The Deadly Percheron is a book which tends to stick in the mind, partly because of the presence of thoroughbred white horses at the scene of two murders in a swanky New York neighbourhood, and because of the bizarre experiences of the tale's psychiatrist hero: believe me, it's not like any other crime novel you've ever read. I can confirm my original high opinion of it, because, thanks to the wonders of Kindle, I downloaded it for a mere £1.99 on Friday and had to stop myself finishing it last night - I'm saving the final 18% as a treat for tonight (luckily, I can't for the life of me remember how it ends). 

I couldn't care less whether politicians share my cultural enthusiasms - but it's hard not to feel a twinge of empathy for those who do (or, in Healey's case, did).  I read some background stuff on Healey when he died, and it seems he was a much better chancellor than I'd previously believed - especially as he had to sell austerity to a party so deluded that it was shortly to elect that posturing ninny Michael Foot as its leader after losing the 1979 general election to Margaret Thatcher. How dispirited the old boy must have felt to learn, a few weeks before his death, that Jeremy Corbyn - precisely the sort of fruit-loop loony-leftist Healey had battled in the '70s and early '80s - had been elected leader of the Labour Party. I wonder how he would have reacted to this weekend's poll showing that the Labour Party's support is currently lower than it has been since Michael Foot's comically inept reign. Healey was Foot's deputy in those dark days: it's hard to imagine a more impossible, dispiriting, and thankless job. Well, wherever he is now, I hope he has his John Franklin Bardin Omnibus to hand.

1 comment:

  1. Friend of Eddie Coyle19 December 2015 at 05:18

    One of DH's favourite crime writers was George V Higgins.

    I suspect the old "ex" - Commie was as erudite on the subject of American crime fiction as his Guardianesque obituarists claimed he was on the British contribution to the genre.