The Private Wound was the last crime novel published by Nicholas Blake, aka C. Day-Lewis, and appeared in 1968, after his appointment as Poet Laureate. He did start another book, which featured his series detective Nigel Strangeways, and which he was going to call Bang, Bang, You're Dead, but he never finished it. But this stand-alone novel marked a notable end to a crime writing career of distinction.
It's well-known that he based his story on an affair he'd had in real life, almost thirty years earlier, with a woman known as Billie Currall. He shifted the events to west Ireland, but the power of the narrative reflects his vivid memories of a passionate relationship. His protagonist is a novelist, Dominic Eyre, who falls for glamorous Harriet "Harry" Leeson. But it's a dangerous and doomed romance.
The setting is well-evoked. Day-Lewis was an Irishman, and he displays a real understanding of the country and its troubled history. The characterisation is equally strong as Dominic finds himself swept away, even though he feels guilty in relation to Harry's husband, Flurry Leeson. He and Flurry develop a rather unusual relationship, and I did feel there was some element of wish-fulfilment about it. A priest who plays an important part in events is another very good character.
I was impressed by this book and the climax is dramatic yet somehow credible. I like the Nicholas Blake novels, and until now The Beast Must Die, with its fascinating premise, has been my clear favourite, but this one runs it close. I find it interesting that though Day-Lewis' reputation as a poet has not fared too well since his death, he remains quite popular as a mystery writer. Perhaps there's a moral in that, but I'm not sure what it is.
If this runs a close second to The Beast Must Die I must find a copy. Thanks for writing about this lesser known and probably least talked about Blake novel.
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