[George Oxford is getting ready to go out]
After he had put on a clean shirt, he looked over the clothes in his compactum. He had decided to go out immediately after supper.
There was deliberation in his movements. He hesitated for a moment over the brown suit which had been made for him by Boon and Riddell, in High Street, and then his hand moved on and lifted the dark grey Eade-Peckover suit from the rail. This was his best suit, which he had bought from the expensive West End tailor with some of the money he had brought back from Germany. From the tie rail he took the silk Liberty tie which Cindy had given him for a Christmas present. He put brilliantine on his hair, and took a silk handkerchief from the drawer. He was dressing up as if for a special occasion, but there was no special occasion. This dressing up was an act of revolt. He was hoping that he might meet Elsie Hargreaves in The Antelope; but he didn’t know that he was going to meet her…
The suit really was good; it set off the lines of his broad-shouldered, slim-hipped figure admirably. Wearing it he felt a pleasant confidence in himself. He became George Oxford, the best-dressed man in Hailford.
commentary: Hugh Clevely also writes as Tod Claymore: his book written under that name, Appointment in New Orleans, was on the blog at the end of last year. I was intrigued because I had read books by both authors without realizing that. But, now that I have read two books in quick succession, you can certainly see a similarity. The author is very keen on tennis, and so are his main characters. Protagonists are handsome, capable men who had a good war. There are the right sort of women, and the other kind – although this is not a moral judgement at all. He has quite a nice line in independent, inventive, active heroines.
In this case, it is clear that George is extremely unhappily married. Something is going to happen, and it is obvious that George (however much or little he is to blame) is going to be suspected of terrible things. There will be the danger of blackmail, there will be good luck and bad luck. The author will constantly persuade us to be on George’s side, no matter what.
And George is endearing, true enough, and his relationship with his step-daughter Cindy is very nicely done: his treatment of Cindy would redeem him in the reader’s eyes no matter what. In his adventures he comes across a young woman called Tilly, who is quite splendid – I liked her very much. She is more than a match for George, much cleverer.
Although this book is by no means a mystery – we are always pretty much aware of what is going on – it was full of twists and turns and surprises, I was very impressed about how he kept the impetus going, and I really did want to know how the plot was going to pan out. The answer is: satisfyingly.
I’m surprised the book was never turned into a film: it would make exactly the kind of black and white film that the channel Talking Pictures TV is now reviving – you can just see George getting ready in his dapper way, and a lot of very fast driving between London and the coast. The whole thing must have been just the job when it was written, and it still is in that very nostalgic way. Car salesmen who are attractive and rather glamorous figures (those were the days), with a past driving at Brooklands before the War… He springs fully-formed in front of the reader.
I had never heard of a compactum wardrobe, and couldn’t find it in any dictionary. However a little research shows that it was a very common word in books of the early-to-mid 20th Century. Alec Waugh (brother of the more famous Evelyn) features one in quite a few of his books. It seems that compactum wardrobes had ‘a labelled compartment for everything a gentleman might need, including cravats and plus fours’, they seemed to combine hanging space with drawers shelves and cupboards. They seemed to be for men, and there are a couple of instances where (surprisingly) they are given to a longserving employee as a retirement gift.
One last point of interest - one of the dedicatees of the book was Delano Ames, another popular 1950s writer often on the blog.
The picture, from an advert, plainly shows George in the lounge bar of The Antelope, giving the glad eye to flirty Elsie…