Friday, 12 October 2012

Forgotten Book - Nightmare

My Forgotten Book for today really is forgotten. I'd be surprised (almost disappointed!) if more than two or three of you have read Lynn Brock's 1932 book Nightmare. Yet Brock was quite a successful author in his day, and his elaborate mysteries featuring Colonel Gore are discussed from time to time. He has, however, been criticised, both for dullness (in places) and occasional racist remarks.

I've read a couple of Brock books before, and thought him quite interesting, but they did not prepare me for Nightmare. It is a stand-alone novel of some distinction. His publishers, Collins, said it was "an entirely original novel, which will arouse great interest and discussion. It is really a character study of a normal man turned murderer, a most fascinating study in psychology...We think Nightmare is one of the most remarkable books we have ever published."

I can see why they thought this - yet they, and Brock, were to be disapppointed. This was the first of his crime novels not to appear in the US, and yet I would argue that it is a very good novel. Flawed, yes, but ambitious and genuinely distinctive. Certainly, it's no mere imitation of Payment Deferred or Malice Aforethought.


Briefly, the story follows the misadventures of Simon Whalley, an Irishman whose career as a playwright and novelist bears some resemblance to that of Brock, who was also Irish and whose real name was Alister McAllister. Driven to madness by the cruelty of a small group of people, he sets about taking murderous revenge.

Why did this book fail to win admirers? I'm not entirely sure, but the downbeat ending, with no real twist, was probably a mistake. However, I'm fascinated by the way that Brock matches the action in the story with what was happening in society at the time. A very intereesting book. I'm glad I read it,and I hoipe that others can track it down too. I'd be surprised if any of Brock's other books are as good as this neglected gem.




11 comments:

The Passing Tramp said...

Well, you beat me here. I have never been able to find a copy of this novel, but it has always sounded interesting to me.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Never read it, but it sounds interesting (although he apparently wasn't good at writing endings.) Great premise--a regular person becoming murderous.

Martin Edwards said...

Curt and Elizabeth - always good to hear from two top bloggers! I'm sure you'd both find this book worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of this author before. I must check him out

John said...

Lynn Brock is one of the few lesser GAD writers I've managed to not read though I've owned several of his books over the years. Amazingly they have all sold well. They either went to someone who likes to resell "rare" books or a collector who has a penchant for obscure detective fiction. Can't remember which. I still have one Colonel Gore book (unread) in my vast library. I have never heard of this one nor seen a copy over here.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi John. If you and Curt haven't read it, then it is indeed a rarity! I found it at a book fair, and pounced quickly....

Anonymous said...

Well I'm half way there in that I have actually got a copy, but I might even be inspired to read it at last after that review! I've got several other Lynn Brock books too but so far have only read The Deductions of Colonel Gore.

Martin Edwards said...

I've not read The Deductions - any good? I've read two Gores, but much preferred Nightmare, which is very different. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

True to my word, I've now read Nightmare and I agree it's rather good; not a regular Golden Age offering by any means, and there was a nice streak of mordant humour to relieve the miseries heaped on all the characters. I'm afraid it's so long since I read The Deductions of Colonel Gore that I don't remember much about it at all! ! Perhaps I ought to give it another go.

scott herbertson said...

MMm. Like John I've sold a few Brocks over the years. He's one of those authors where comments by others (H Douglas Thomson in particular) have intrigued me, especially the more explicity sexual content (for its day) of 'The Kink', but I have left off reading the other ones which i have until I can get a copy at a reasonable price of the former. Just had a look on my shelves and I have both the Deductions and Second Case, so I may make a start regardless.

Be warned that QED, the most common title to find in the UK , is a follow up to The Mendip Mystery so they should probably be read in order.

Martin Edwards said...

Anon, glad you liked Nightmare.
Scott, thanks for the tip. I'll look out for those two.