Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2020 January 08 • Wednesday

Sydney Horler's The Curse of Doone is not a good book but as ludicrous as it is, the sentence structure is rewarding in the same way that the pace and rhythm of camera movements and editing in older movies are.

It's a fairly ordinary interwar British action thriller that reads like Horler just made it up as he went along. It's part of a family of British supermen such as Bulldog Drummond and shares some of the casual bigotry, prejudices and assumptions of such books.

Every time I read one of these I'm reminded anew of how good a writer Leslie Charteris was, how unusual and superior the Saint books were compared to their contemporaries; at least the first dozen or so of them.

The Saint was a hybrid of Bulldog Drummond, Raffles and Psmith, while Sydney Horler's book is more along the lines of the Inspector Mould novel created as parody by P. G. Wodehouse in "The Strychnine in the Soup".

While my copy of the US edition lacked a jacket, the original jacket would have looked like this.

Now that is extraordinary and beautiful. It's also a faithful depiction of a scene from the book.

This appears to be one of several books about British Secret Service agent Ian Heath, and not the first one. Normally I would start with the first one but the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was that I had read somewhere that it was about a Nazi vampire.

This isn't accurate, though there are evil Germans and a monstrous bat terrorizing a remote moor.

Silly as it is, culminating in an embarrassingly large number of coincidences, there are some admirable stylistic flourishes.

One character secretly reads "the type of weekly periodical which purveys palpitating passion to the populace". While this might sound like a put-down, later on there is a reference to "those modern novels which are all talk and soul-analysis and no action or story", so perhaps not.

Some interesting words might catch your eye as well, such as "inspissated" ("It had an atmosphere of inspissated gloom") and "objurgation" ("Blighted ass! Reproaching himself with his favourite objurgation, he squared his shoulders").

The first line is "Heath caught her as she was about to fall".