Friday, 25 July 2014

Forgotten Book - The Young Vanish

Today's Forgotten Book is a strange mystery novel with a strange title - it is The Young Vanish, by Francis Everton. The author explains in a prefatory note that there is in real life an inn called The Young Vanish, located in Glapwell, Derbyshire. However, the inn with the same name that features in the book is not based on it. A Google search revealed to me that The Young Vanish is still going strong today, and boasts a popular carvery. I really must sample it one day. But the book, like its author, has (perhaps appropriately, given the title) ...vanished from sight.

And that really is a pity,because although this is an eccentric book, it has plenty of plus points. For a start, the writing is, although not consistent, at times of a genuinely high standard - much better than you find in many mysteries of the Golden Age. This novel came out in 1932, and it's significant that Arnold Bennett and Dorothy L. Sayers both had a lot of time for Everton's work. Here there is a brilliant, bad-tempered, ugly little cop called Inspector Allport, who is a wonderful and memorable character. And there is plenty of action, along with many unexpected developments.

But it really is a strange story. which begins with a series of killings of trade union officials with moderate views. Is a right wing serial killer involved, or are sinister Russians to blame? I wondered if I'd stepped into an anti-Bolshie polemic, and certainly the author was no fan of socialism (or indeed of the Liberal Party, to judge by his acerbic portrayal of one Liberal MP), but the story keeps moving on in fresh directions.

The name Francis Everton concealed the identity of a businessman called Francis Stokes, who, I learn from the invaluable GADetection site, was an engineer and managing director, later chairman, of a Mansfield company called Stokes Castings Limited. You'd guess Stokes' background from this story, since it contains a good deal of stuff about engineering, the technical aspects of which went right over my head. But he cleverly integrates his know-how with the plot, and one character announces: "it is the first occasion on which metallurgical and spectographic analysis has been called in the aid of the Law." Quite apart from its storyline with a "metallurgical fingerprint", this is a highly distinctive book in many ways. My guess is that business concerns distracted Everton from his literary career, but that's a pity, because he had plenty of talent and a taste for the unusual that is rather refrehsiing. Yes, this book is flawed, in some ways, but it's very interesting indeed. I enjoyed it a lot, and I'm really glad I stumbled across it.

No comments: