This has been a fantastic year for lovers of Forgotten Books; so many long-lost titles are now readily available, and I'm sure next year will see the return of many more. To celebrate, this week I'm going to highlight a Forgotten Book on each of the next four days in the run-up to Christmas, starting with one that's very obscure, but certainly of interest.
We Shot an Arrow, first published in 1939, is the work of writing duo George Goodchild and Carl Bechhofer Roberts. I have covered a couple of their books here previously, The Jury Disagree and Tidings of Joy,but I was particularly interested in this one, as it boasts one feature that is, as far as I know, unique. It's a book by two writers who play the detective - under their own names - in the story.
The story begins with Goodchild and Roberts debating the subject matter of their next novel, and taking a trip to a small town where a by-election is taking place. Roberts knows the Conservative candidate slightly, and is aware that he's a rather unpleasant character. His Labour rival seems little better. When the Tory is found dead in his bath, the death is determined to have been an accident, and the Labour man, Vansittart, becomes the town's M.P. But his success is short-lived. Soon he, too, dies in his bath....
This is an unusual novel with an odd confection of ingredients: archery, golf, politics and the by-play between the writer-protagonists. The events coincide with Neville Chamberlain's "peace pact" at Munich, and this provokes a lot of discussion. Rather too much to enable tension to be maintained, I'd say. The political background is certainly of interest,but the plot is relatively slight.
I was hoping to learn more about the authors from their self-portraits, and one poignant element of the story is that Carl Roberts talks about a near-fatal car accident in which he'd been involved in France, which provided plot material for Tidings of Joy. A scene involving a car plays an important part in the unravelling of the mystery - and these passages take on a very melancholy character once one learns that Roberts was killed in a car crash, at the age of 55 in 1949. A tragic end to a busy and fascinating life.