Roy Fuller was a solicitor and a poet – and there aren’t many examples of that combination around. He was also an occasional crime novelist, and his The Second Curtain is my entry for today in Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Books series.
Fuller, who died in 1991, probably achieved more distinction in the legal world (he became a director of Woolwich Building Society in the days when financial institutions were trustworthy and reliable) and as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. But his crime fiction was much praised by Julian Symons, a fellow poet as well as a legendary crime guru, although I think they were good friends, and of course one is always likely to support a friend’s writing – not so much nepotism, and human nature. I suspect it was Symons’ influence which saw this 1953 novel republished as a green Penguin paperback in 1976, which is when – as a student lawyer, and even an occasional poet, as well as a crime fan – I bought it.
But Symons would never praise someone undeserving (though some of his critical comments could seem rather harsh) and there is no doubt that Fuller could write. The Second Curtain is an under-stated novel which concerns George Garner, a minor novelist who is a touch complacent and only too pleased with himself when offered the editorship of a literary quarterly.
However, George writes to an old pal called Widgery, he receives a letter from the man’s sister, telling him that Widgery has mysteriously disappeared. George decides to look into the mystery, but he finds himself coming face to face with a dangerous world for which he is ill-suited. This isn’t a story where the hero rises courageously to every challenge, and some might find it anti-climactic. I think it’s a good character study, quietly yet intelligently put together.