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.