Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Andrew Garve

Andrew Garve was one of the pen-names used by a left-leaning journalist called Paul Winterton. His early publications included A Student in Russia and Eye-Witness on the Soviet War-front, but he became one of the most reliable purveyors of mysteries and thrillers in the immediate post-war era. A founder member of the CWA, he was also its first secretary, holding the office jointly with Elizabeth Ferrars. He also used the pseudonyms of Roger Bax and, later, Paul Somers. But Garve is the name associated with his most successful work.

This includes the first Garve book I ever read (because his friend, that great judge Julian Symons, rated it highly), The Megstone Plot. This story, with a nice fake-blackmail plan, was filmed as A Touch of Larceny, a movie that crops up on television from time to time, although I have never managed to see it.

In 1997, I was commissioned by Chivers to write an introduction for their reissue of Prisoner’s Friend, a lively if straightforward thriller Garve wrote 35 years earlier, in their excellent Black Dagger series. It was no masterpiece, but still a book that exemplified Garve’s competence as a story-teller.

When I attended the Las Vegas Bouchercon, a few years back, someone on a panel concerning the collecting of crime fiction suggested that Garve would become increasingly collectible in years to come. As far as I can tell from internet book prices, this has yet to happen. But Garve, who died in 2001 but gave up writing long before then, was a capable practitioner and I’ve bought a few more of his paperbacks to check him out in more detail.


  1. This is the very name I was struggling to recollect last week, Martin, so thank you. I remembered 'Andrew' and could even vaguely see a book cover, but that was it. I just checked Garve on fantasticfiction, and the book I hazily remembered the apperance of, from some thirty years ago, is The Cuckoo Line Affair. That I recall as very good indeed. I read more Garve -- he wrote a great deal -- and some others were equally good, some not so much. The best would certainly be worth seeking out.

  2. I think it is interesting to come across all these older crime fiction writers who used pseudonyms (apropos the title of your blog). Do you know why he wrote under different names?
    I know why Rendell and Andrew Taylor do, and think it can be a very sensible solution if a writer tackles very different series/ genres.

  3. I don't know for sure, Dorte, but I think that, firstly, he wanted to use names different from his real name, used exclusively for journalism, and secondly, that the different pen-names reflected different styles of writing.
    The reasons why authors choose pen-names, and varying ones for different books, is a very interesting subject, I think.

  4. I am sure you are right about Winterton's pen-names, Martin. He was a significant journalist writing on weighty matters, in both newspapers and books, when he started writing fiction, and he would surely have wanted his real name associated only with the former. A significant journalist, and in a significant time. Academics who wrote crime fiction, and some who do now, were given to pen-names, often to avoid confusion with their scholarly works (J.I.M. Stewart/Michael Innes, et al.), but often also, particulary in the States, out of fear that being known as a writer of crime fiction would cause their academic work to be discounted, or provide an excuse for denigration. Carolyn Heilbrun/Amanda Cross was very much of that mind when she first entered the field. I think it delightful that Bertrand Russell, having no reason to care about anything of that sort, published his in his own name.

  5. His attitude to the Soviet Union greatly evolved during World War Two, when he was a war correspondent. Such postwar novels as Murder in Moscow and A Hole in the Ground reflect his Cold War hostility toward Communism.

  6. Thank you, Philip.
    I wondered if it was something like that. Martin, I hope things have changed so a lawyer can write crime fiction without having to blush today. I still have academic colleagues who shake their heads (very discretely of course) because I read so much crime fiction, but in my opinion that is their problem, not mine.

  7. Dorte, I must wonder if those colleagues of yours are not unlike the doctor who lectures a patient about smoking and then dashes out the back for a puff. (There are a lot of those.) It is in the States that academics who write crime fiction are most sensitive to this matter, in spite of the fact that, e.g., Jacques Barzun, an historian of ideas of legendary accomplishments, someone whose name makes many of us bend the knee, was a voracious reader of the genre and wrote thereon. The demographics of crime fiction readership are not much discussed these days, but in earlier times, and very much in Golden Age, it was a given that academics in Britain, as also clergymen, were notably fond of crime novels. One of my own teachers in undergrad days devoted half his capacious briefcase to them. Something I mentioned earlier suggests an obvious riposte to the academic who gets snooty about reading crime stories: If they're good enough for Bertrand Russell to try his hand at writing them, they're good enough for me to read.

  8. A practical reason for Garve having several pseudonyms is that he likely didn't want people to know how much he was writing (i.e., he would look like a "hack"). Interestingly, one of his novels is a rewrite of an earlier one written under another pseudonym!

    That said, Garve wrote some very good stuff, as Martin says.

  9. Thanks for these comments. I've been very happy over the years with the way clients and colleagues have reacted to my crime writing, and sometimes given me help in various ways.
    As to Garve's re-write, Curt - which were the two books you had in mind?

  10. I'm a big Garve fan and have most of his novels. Vegetableduck, you write that "one of his novels is a rewrite of an earlier one written under another pseudonym." Which books are those? I'm intrigued!

    For my money, "A Hero for Leanda" is his best.

  11. To anyone still reading this: The Paul Somers novel The Broken Jigsaw (1961) has the same plot as the Roger Bax novel Disposing of Henry (1946). It's streamlined and lacking the visceral power of Henry, which is one of his books I think.

  12. Just come across this, rather belatedly.
    I have been working on Winterton's early journalism. One practical reason for his using a pen-name might have been that if the Soviet authorities had linked Paul Winterton, correspondent of the News Chronicle, with Roger Bax, author of Red Escapade (1940), they would never have given him a visa in 1942. His first book, A Student in Russia (1931) is naively admiring of the regime, but by 1940 the rose-tinted specs were well removed.
    The use of the Andrew Garve pen-name matches up with his move in 1950 from Hutchinson to Collins, though there was one more Roger Bax book in 1951, presumably to fulfil a contract. Philip Garve was the name of the hero of his first (Roger Bax) book, Death under Jerusalem.

    John H