While researching my British Library anthology Deep Waters, I consulted a number of classic crime enthusiasts in the hope of broadening the scope of my selections. Jamie Sturgeon came up with a copy of "The Queer Fish" by Kem Bennett, an author and story completely unfamiliar to me. I shared Jamie's liking for it, and the story duly appeared in my collection earlier this year.
Kem Bennett may be pretty much forgotten as a writer now, but in his day he wrote occasionally for film and TV as well as producing a handful of novels, not all of them criminous. And he was involved in writing the script for a film based on "The Queer Fish". This was Doublecross, which was released in 1956, a year after the story appeared in a magazine.
Thanks to Talking Pictures TV, I've recently watched the film version. It's a typical British B-movie of its era, short, quite likeable, and crammed with actors who became familiar to me as I grew up in the 60s and 70s. These include William Hartnell, later the first Doctor Who, and the versatile Allan Cuthbertson, who was a good comic actor as well as adept at playing posh chaps in straight roles.
Cuthbertson and Anton Diffring play a couple of spies who are on the run, along with Diffring's wife, after committing a murder. They flee to Cornwall - and the Cornish locations in the film are a pleasing bonus. I'm not sure which little fishing village formed the backdrop - might it have been Mevagissey, a place I've yet to visit? - but it's certainly nice to look at. The baddies hire Donald Houston, a local poacher, to take them in a stolen boat to France and freedom. But as the title implies, the trip does not go smoothly... Not a bad time-passer, though perhaps unsurprisingly I prefer the story.