Category Archives: novels

‘Not So Quiet…’ – Netley Lucas’s story

Having greatly enjoyed Matt Houlbrook’s biography of Netley Lucas, I have now been taking a look at Lucas’s second autobiography, an odd book called My Selves, ‘by Netley Lucas and Evelyn Graham’ (Graham was the name under which Lucas achieved considerable success writing royal biographies). The book was published in 1934, after Lucas’s release from […]

The crook who published ‘Helen Zenna Smith’

In 1917 Netley Lucas was fourteen, but must have looked mature for his age. He got himself an officer’s uniform and used it to run up debts as, for a short but wild period he lived the high life. Inevitably, his luck eventually ran out, and he was sent to Borstal. After some more criminal […]

Modern Troubadours

Thanks to Ann-Marie Einhaus for pointing me towards Lena Ashwell’s 1922 book  Modern Troubadours, an account of the musical and theatrical troupes organised by Miss Ashwell, which took entertainment to soldiers in France and elsewhere. (A digital versioncan be found at the Internet Archive.) Ive just had a skim through so far, and I’m particularly […]

Michèle Audin’s ‘One Hundred Twenty One Days’

This novel (first published in French in 2014) centres on two mathematicians, both damaged in the first world war, and both nursed by the same young woman. Mortsauf has most of his face blown away, so is one of the gueules cassées;  he marries his nurse, becomes a successful academic and achieves a  position of […]

‘A splitarse bus’

V.M. Yeates spots a German aeroplane: It was one of the new DFWs – a nice-looking, very splitarse bus. ‘Splitarsing’ is a frequent word in Winged Victory  It appears in Arnall’s  Portrait of an Airman, too. The context makes it clear that it means ‘making a fast manoeuvre’, and the Oxford English Dictionary gives us […]

Thanatognomonic

I  like discovering words that are new to me. This is from V.M.Yeates, Winged Victory (1934): A flaming meteor fell out of a cloud close by them and plunged earthwards. It was an aeroplane going down in flames from some fight above the clouds. Where it fell the atmosphere was stained by a thanatognomonic black […]

‘Sapper’ paper online

A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be invited to the conference of Les Amis du Roman Populaire in Amiens. The topic was popular fiction of the First World War, and I gave a paper on ‘Sapper’: from Realism to Melodrama. This tried to explain how ‘Sapper’ ( Herman Cyril McNeile), who began as […]

Portrait of an Airman by Philip Arnall

If I were in the business of reprinting neglected novels, the one I’d start with is Portrait of an Airman, by Philip Arnall (pseudonym of Oliver Stewart). Many thanks to Steve Paradis for pointing me towards this book. The novel traces a wartime career very like the author’s own, and it’s safe to assume that […]

‘What should we read on the 100th anniversary of The Battle of the Somme?’

An article has appeared in the Guardian with the above title. It is not actually about what we should read, but about what they should read, since, after a nod to the better-known war poets, it is mostly about books to give children at the time of the centenary of the Somme. Most highly recommended […]

Nurses and memoirs

Stuart Cloete in 1918 I’d been thinking a bit about nurses’ memoirs when I came across these paragraphs in Stuart Cloete’s 1972 autobiography,  A Victorian Son. When he was fighting on the Somme in 1916, a bullet went through his chest and out the other side. He was sent to a base hospital: But I […]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 823 other followers