Jonathan Fryer

Patrick Hamilton Revisited

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 6th August, 2008

Literary reputations ebb and flow, like the tides of the sea. This can happen while an author is still alive, and even more so when he or she dies. Among the dead, some who enjoyed no success while they were alive suddenly become fashionable. Or those who were hugely popular during their lifetime disappear even from memory. Who reads the best-selling Victorian Marie Corelli these days, for example?

Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962) is an interesting case in point. This alcoholic novelist, chronicler of the dreary under-belly of Earls Court life, earned huge sums of money between the 1930s and 1950s, not least from his two plays ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Rope’. The latter is best remembered these days for its film version, directed by Alfred Hitchcock — not one of Hitch’s best movies, but notable for its enormously long takes. The two gay murderers in ‘Rope’ are just two incarnations of the evil about which Patrick Hamilton was so good at writing.

There were several unpleasant sides to the author himself, as is clear from Nigel Jones’s biography of him, Through a Glass Darkly, which has just been reissued (after 17 years) in a paperback edition by Black Spring Press (£11.95). Hamilton was the sort of ladies’ man who was basically a misogynist, and something of a sadist to boot. He treated both of his wives pretty abominably (shuttling between the two for much of the latter part of his life) and turned his older brother Bruce (also a writer) into a sort of acolyte. Nigel Jones skilfully balances both the talent and the nastiness of his subject, as well as providing a useful critical summary of Hamilton’s literary oeuvre. Simultaneously with the biography, Black Spring Press is also reissuing one of Hamilton’s best novels, Craven House, (£9.95), which should help the revitalisation of the author’s reputation that is currently underway.

Link: www.blackspringpress.co.uk

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15 Responses to “Patrick Hamilton Revisited”

  1. Peter Tajasque said

    I would like to see his first two novels republished. I managed to get hold of his second, Twopence Coloured, through inter-library loans at my local library, but not his first, Monday Morning. For quite some time a copy of the latter was available on Abebooks.com for something like £3,000 (it was a copy he had signed and dedicated to an employee of his publisher or agent, I believe) but that is no longer available. I was thinking of writing to his publisher, Constable, to suggest they republish Monday Morning to mark the centenary of his birth in 2004, but I never got around to doing it. Maybe one day I’ll get hold of a copy.

    • Benn said

      I’ve been after “Monday Morning” and “Twopence. . . ” for ages – have you had any luck? And what is “Monday” like, any good?

      • Peter Tajasque said

        I got hold of Twopence Coloured a few years back through the inter-library loans facility at my local public library. I tried the same process with Monday Morning, but no luck.

  2. [...] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by FatherRoderick on 2008-08-09 Patrick Hamilton Revisited http://jonathanfryer.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/patrick-hamilton-revisited/ – bookmarked by 4 [...]

  3. JRSM said

    Faber Finds’ chief told me they were planning to re-release .Monday Morning’ in that series later this year, though there’s no sign of it yet on any online catalogues.

  4. Peter Tajasque said

    Still no sign of “Monday Morning” on the Faber Finds website. I might try sending them an email to see what, if anything, is happening. I picked up a copy of Sean French’s biography of Hamilton the other day. Quite a rare find these days. Nigel Jones’s biography came out in paperback a few years back but French’s biography has never been re-issued. Was it decided that the market could only take one Hamilton biography and that Jones’s was considered the best one?

  5. JRSM said

    I read an article by Sean French in which he said that Faber told him his Hamilton biography was their worst-ever-selling book, hence its failure to get a paperback edition.

    And still no ‘Monday Morning’. Bugger.

  6. Richard T Kelly said

    Dear Hamilton fans: FYI I am the newly appointed editor of Faber Finds, and would like to assure you that I will be bringing ‘Monday Morning’ back into print this year, or at least as soon as I can source a good-standard original edition from which to electronically generate ours…! That, I think, was the problem with this title that bedevilled my predecessor in the job. But please be assured we are working on it…
    Best regards,
    Richard T Kelly

  7. JRSM said

    Mr Kelly, you have made my year!

    • Peter Tajasque said

      Mine too! Other copies are held at the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Bodleian Library (see COPAC website). Whether any of them would lend you their copy is another matter…

    • Richard T Kelly said

      Good to have this dialogue. Lying Bunny, perhaps we should talk business… but the trouble, applying also to loans from archives, is that the source books for Finds often have to be ‘dismantled’ in the course of production… I think we will find a way, though. FYI, ‘Twopence Coloured’ and ‘Impromptu in Moribundia’ will also come out in Finds this year, I promise…

  8. Peter Tajasque said

    Great news! For your information Impromptu in Moribunda was re-published about ten years ago by Trent Editions, although I expect you know that already. It will certainly be great to have a copy of ‘Twopence Coloured’ as well.

  9. Newcastle Mattin said

    Monday Morning is available again from 6 June, 2013.

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