I can never resist a book with a truly intriguing premise, and The Last of Philip Banter boasts one of the best, making it a worthy entrant in Patti Abbot's catalogue of Forgotten Books. It is one of three novels of psychological suspense which John Franklin Bardin wrote between 1946 and 1948, and although they did not attract too much attention at the time, the advocacy of that great critic Julian Symons ensured that they reached a wider readership over the years.
Symons seems to have managed to persuade Penguin Books to put together The John Franklin Bardin Omnibus (to which he contributed an introduction) in 1976. I was a student at the time and this was one of the few books, other than pricey legal textbooks, that I bought, rather than borrowed from a library. I definitely was not disappointed. The Deadly Percheron and Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly are, perhaps, more admired than The Last of Philip Banter, but nevertheless it is the less celebrated book for which I have an especially soft spot.
Philip Banter is an advertising man with marriage trouble and a drink problem. He finds a typed manuscript on his office desk, apparently typed by himself, which confuses past and future. It describes what is going to happen as though it had happened already. Then the ‘predictions’ start to come true….
It’s a gripping concept, and a fluently written novel. In later years, Bardin (1916-1981) wrote a few more crime novels under pseudonyms, but they didn’t compare in intensity to the three early books. But I share Symons’ admiration for his work.