Friday 11 January 2019

Forgotten Book - Cul De Sac

Image result for john wainwright cul de sac

It's safe to say that John Wainwright is a forgotten author, even though he died not much more than twenty years ago, and was publishing until near the end. In fact, he published more than 80 novels, almost all of which benefited in some way from his years of experience as a police officer in Yorkshire prior to become a busy full-time novelist.

I once met John Wainwright in the late 1980s. This was at a Liverpool library event. I was asked to take part on the basis of my work as a reviewer - I hadn't published a novel at that time. The other authors involved were Eileen Dewhurst, who became (and still is) a very dear friend of mine, and the late Roger Ormerod.

I was pleased to meet Wainwright, whose books I'd read and admired, but I found him taciturn in the extreme, as if keen to play up to the stereotype of the cantankerous Yorkshireman. He didn't seem interested in either the event or the questions asked by the audience, but this may well have been due to shyness. Roger Ormerod, also rather reserved by nature, I think, was much more gracious. Having read his memoirs recently, I don't doubt that Wainwright was a nice chap if you really got to know him, I just think he was utterly out of his comfort zone, as someone who seldom attended author events. The contrast with the exceptionally pleasant Peter N. Walker, also a former Yorkshire cop, and a highly convivial man, was striking.

Wainwright's books use to crowd the library shelves, but after his death, his reputation faded. He wrote too quickly, as so many authors do, and the quality of his work was variable, but I think that at his best he was a fascinating writer. Cul De Sac, published in 1984, earned high praise from Georges Simenon, no less. I found it an intriguing study of character and of police work.

It begins with a diary extract - shades of Gone Girl! In some ways, Wainwright was ahead of his time. The diary-maker's wife meets an untimely end, falling over a cliff. Accident, suicide, or murder? An obsessive detective, Harry Harker, sets  out to find the truth. It's a highly readable story. My only quibble is that the excellent final twists did not seem to me to be adequately foreshadowed, a flaw that could easily have been remedied. It's a book of its time. But I liked it a lot.


jurinummelin said...

I read this some five years ago and noticed also the similarities between CUL DE SAC and GONE GIRL.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Juri. Nothing new under the sun!