Not a children's book: Nina Bawden

the book:

The Odd Flamingo by Nina Bawden

published 1954   chapter 2


There was no door into the club; a curtain hung across the opening where the door had been. I pushed the curtain aside and beyond it there was a long, narrow room with apparently no ventilation so that the heat inside was solid, like a wall…. It was all much as I remembered it… the people were the same kind of people. There was the usual mixture of lesbians and pimps with a sprinkling of students who had come to see the fun. Most of them looked bored.

I leaned against the bar and watched the doorway. After a little I felt too conspicuously alone and went to a table against the opposite wall. The club filled up slowly and noisily with grey-haired women in mannish coats and pretty boys with lipsticks on their mouths.

observations: Nina Bawden died this week. She was probably best known for the children’s books Carrie’s War and The Peppermint Pig, but she wrote more than 50 books altogether, many of them for adults. This was an early entry, a rather serious, dark book contrasting bourgeois suburbia with the louche underworld of London, and sinister nightclubs like The Odd Flamingo. It’s a detective story/ thriller, narrated by a male solicitor, Will Hunt, and is full of girls going wrong, missing girls, spivs, drugs and wrong uns. When he is not on the trail of crime at the Odd Flamingo, Will calls in at his gentleman’s club. There is nothing very cheering in the story, and no jokes. You would guess that Ms Bawden wanted to write something as far from a cozy as possible, something that was not in ‘lady author’ territory.

Links up with: We’ve featured a number of post-war detective stories, some written at the time, some written now as historicals – the most recent was
this one, which lists earlier entries. Nightclubs with a bit more glamour in this entry and this book.
The photograph is by George Brassai – his work is widely available on the Web, and he is famous for his photos of Paris nightlife and underworld.


  1. Moira - Thanks for highlighting some of Bawden's work here. I didn't know she'd written noir like this. Really interesting! I give her credit for having stretched herself.

  2. Sounds most intriguing, and I love that picture! I think I would have sat down at a table by the wall if I'd been there, too.

  3. Thanks for your comments - yes it's an interesting book, and although I don't think she wrote much more that fell into the detective story genre, some of her other books did have secrets, and small mysteries, and reveals...

  4. Read it, thanks! It's like the screenplay for a 50s British noir. Wish it had been made. Surprisingly violent, and lots of sinister locations. Would you trust a Siamese-cat-loving man in purple pyjamas?

    1. Yes, that's exactly what it is - you can see Dirk Bogarde in it I think... still quite unexpected compared to her children's books.


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