Archive for September, 2011

The Bozo with the Big Bean

When I was nine, a bad case of bronchitis kept me in bed for the whole of January. As I got better, I sent my mother to the little library at the end of our suburban street every day. Well, you were only allowed to take out 4 books at a time.                     
In one short period, I knocked off Nicholas Nickleby (from my father’s bookshelf),  War and Peace (my mother’s),  Anne of Green Gables (my own, a birthday present), plus Hayes End Library’s contribution of  The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Black Moth, And Still She Wished for Company, Sweet Witch, The Woods of Windri, Folk Tales from Japan and — be still my beating heart —  The Small Bachelor.
Well, OK.  I skipped bits in War and Peace.  Actually, they’re the bits I still skip;  the child is mother to the woman. There were other books, too, lots of Christie, John Dickson Carr and Ngaio Marsh.  But those are the titles that snuggled down under the covers with me and became my own.  I had to have my own copy.
And, of them all, which one got into my head, my heart and my vocabulary? Whose author, as soon as I read him, made me feel I had found a friend, even mentor, for life?
The Small Bachelor.  I was in love.
It was published in 1927, set in New York, and in a memorable cast of characters contains one of those self help gurus with whom the 21st century has made us all too familiar.  This one, J Hamilton Beamish, runs correspondence courses and is currently engaged in teaching a cop to write the English Pure, one of his many areas of expertise.  Only sometimes even J Hamilton slips, especially when extracting beautiful girls from the soup– she was in a Prohibition speakeasy when it was raided.
@lesleycookman @Andrew_Culture – you asked.  This is IT.  With grateful thanks to Hugo who found the quote for me. 
First US Edition

First US Edition

Bewilderment was limned upon the girl’s fair face.  “I don’t understand.  What do you want me to specially look at?”

“At what do you want me specially to look,” corrected Hamilton Beamish mechanically.  He drew her across the roof. “You see that summer-house thing?  It is George Finch’s open-air sleeping porch.  Go in, shut the door, switch on the light . . .”

“But . . .”

“. . . and remove a portion of your clothes.”


“And if anybody comes, tell him that George Finch rented you the apartment and that you are dressing to go out to dinner.  I, meanwhile, will go down to my apartment and will come up in a few minutes to see if you are ready to be taken out to dine.”  Pardonable pride so overcame Hamilton Beamish that he discarded the English Pure and relapsed into the argot of the proletariat.  “Is that a cracker-jack?”  he demanded with gleaming eyes.  “Is that a wam?  Am I the bozo with the big bean or am I not?”

The girl eyed him worshippingly.  One of the consolations we men of intellect have is that, when things come to a crisis, what captures the female heart is brains. Women may permit themselves in times of peace to stray after Sheiks and look languishingly at lizards whose only claim to admiration is that they can do the first three steps of the Charleston:  but let matters go wrong; let some sudden peril threaten; and who then is the king pippin, who the main squeeze?  The man with the eight and a quarter hat.

“Jimmy,” she cried, “it’s the goods”.

Procrastination, the Author’s Friend

There are many excuses for an author to procrastinate. Fear, hunger, bills-to-pay, fear, leaking rooves, accounts, committee reports . . .  Did I mention fear? But today has given me one of the weirdest.

German readers, blessings on them, like TO MARRY A PRINCE. They like it so much, indeed, that they have brought out an additional edition under the BestBook imprint.  My copy arrived this morning. And after the glee, the preening, stroking the cover and recklessly toasting its success in Earl Grey tea, I looked a bit harder at that cover.

And got out the first edition.

And … and …

OK, the second book is a bit fatter, a bit more solid in every dimenson.  But the cover is the same regal violet blue as the original German (and indeed UK) paperback. It still shows a huge wedding dress with the bride’s head out of frame.  But — but — 

Do you remember those cartoons where you were supposed to find 10 things which were different between version 1 and version 2? I think the Germans invented them.

So here they are.  Judge for yourself; well, the best you can within the limitations of my scanner.  (The skirt of the first one has applique white roses; the second one is decorated with swags of diamonds and pearls; but you have to look hard to see both.  All right, I looked hard. Authors procrastinate – right?)  

How many differences can you see? I’ve got 8 so far. 

And, apart from distracting me from my work in progess, why?

German Paperback 1

German Paperback 1

German Paperback 2

German Paperback 2