The Elected Member. Bernice Rubens, Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1969. An uncommon title. A small number of available copies at present, from £200 upwards depending on condition; top end signed copy, just under £1000.
Bernice Rubens was born in Cardiff, Wales in July 1928, of Russian Jewish descent. She came from a very musical family, both her brothers becoming well-known classical musicians. She was married to Rudi Nassauer, a wine merchant and novelist. They had two daughters, Rebecca and Sharon.. She began writing at the age of 35, when her children started nursery school. Her second novel, Madame Sousatzka (1962), was filmed by John Schlesinger filmed with Shirley MacLaine in the leading role in 1988. Her fourth novel, The Elected Member, won the 1970 Booker prize. She was shortlisted for the same prize again in 1978 for A Five Year Sentence. Her last novel, The Sergeants’ Tale, was published in 2003. She was an honorary vice-president of International PEN and served as a Booker judge in 1986. She died in 2004 aged 76.
Norman is the clever one of a close-knit Jewish family in the East End of London. Infant prodigy; brilliant barrister; the apple of his parent’s eyes … until at forty-one he becomes a drug addict, confined to his bedroom, at the mercy of his hallucinations and paranoia. He beomes addicted to amphetamines and sees silverfish wherever he goes. For Norman, his committal to a mental hospital represents the ultimate act of betrayal. For Rabbi Zweck, Norman’s father, his son’s deterioration is a bitter reminder of his own guilt and failure. Only Bella, the unmarried sister, still in her childhood white ankle socks, can reach across the abyss of pain to bring father and son the elusive peace which they both so desperately crave.
John Brown's Body. AL Barker, Hogarth Press, London, 1969. Uncommon, but can be obtained with patience for under £20 in reasonable condition.
Born in Beckenham, Kent, Audrey Lilian Barker (generally known as Pat) was the only child in a family of modest means, and went to schools in Beckenham and Wallington, Surrey. Her father, a railway clerk, disapproved of further education, and sent her out to work in a clockmaking firm when she turned 16. In 1947, Barker's debut collection of stories, Innocents, won the first Somerset Maugham award, which allowed her to spend time in France and Italy, useful background settings for her future stories and novels. In all, Barker published 11 novels and nine collections of short stories. For her, poetry was the greatest form of literature: next came the short story, and then the novel. She was happiest writing short stories, which she once described as explosions in the dark. She died in 2002.
Marise Tomelty is a child-wife who dislikes sex and is terrified of open spaces. Ralph Shilling lives in the flat above the Tomelty's and is a dealer in pesticides. Marise's commercial traveller husband casually mentions that he recognizes Ralph as John Brown, acquitted for lack of evidence of an atrocious double murder. Nevertheless, Marise encourages Ralph's attentions, in need of the exciting combination of passion and fear. A serious exploration of the nature of our experience of ourselves and each other, of the tug between body and soull, life and death, truth and fantasy.
Eva Trout. Elizabeth Bowen, Cape, 1969. Readily available at less than £20.
After some time at art school in London she decided that her talent lay in writing. She mixed with the Bloomsbury Group, becoming good friends with Rose Macaulay, who helped her find a publisher for her first book, Encounters in 1923. In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, an educational administrator who subsequently worked for the BBC. The marriage has been described as "a sexless but contented union". She had various extra-marital relationships, including one with Charles Ritchie, a Canadian diplomat seven years her junior, which lasted over thirty years. She also had an affair with the Irish writer Sean O Faolain and at least one lesbian relationship,with the American poet, May Sarton. Bowen was based in England, but made frequent visits to Ireland.
Bruno's Dream. Iris Murdoch, Chatto & Windus. Readily available at least than £20, although the purple dustwrapper is prone to minor damage so a fine copy may cost significantly more.
Bruno, dying, obsessed with spiders and his box of stamps, and preoccupied with death and reconciliation, lies at the centre of an intricate spider's web of relationships and passions. Including creepy Nigel the nurse and his besotted twin Will, fighter of duels and possessor of a flintlock pistol. Set against a backdrop of 60's London.
Mrs.Eckdorf was the fifth novel of Irish novellst and short story writer William Trevor, who was born to a Protestant family in Mitchelstown, County Cork, on 24 May 1928. He was educated at St Columba's College, County Dublin, and Trinity College, Dublin. He worked briefly as a teacher, and later as a copywriter in an advertising agency before he began to work full-time as a writer in 1965. He was also a sculptor and exhibited frequently in Dublin and London. His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958. His fiction, set mainly in Ireland and England, ranges from black comedies characterised by eccentrics and sexual deviants to stories exploring Irish history and politics, and he articulates the tensions between Irish Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants in what critics have termed the 'big house' novel. He currently lives in England, in Co.Devon.
"What was the tragedy that turned O'Neill's hotel from a plush establishment into a dingy house of disrepute? Ivy Eckdorf is determined to find out. A professional photographer, she has come to Dublin convinced that a tragic and beautiful tale lies behind the facade of this crumbling hotel."
The Conjunction. TW Wheeler, Angus & Robertson, 1969. Exceptionally rare - one copy only available onlne at present, at £1250. However, this has been available for some time and is not selling at this price. A facsimile edition of 250 copies was published by The Pennywell Press in 2006. This is almost identicle to the original edition, differing only in having two blank pages before the half title, with the limitation and signature being on the reverse of the half title. It is available at around £45 at present. The original edition (probably somwhat faded dustwrapper) and the facsimile are pictured opposite. The facsimile is around 2mm taller that the original, in addition to the difference noted above.
Little information is available about Wheeler so far as I am aware. Terence Wheeler was born in Portsmouth in 1936. He read English at Wadham College, Oxford. He subsequently taught at a North London Comprehensive before going to teach in India with his wife Sara. At the time of writing The Conjunction, he was a lecturer in English, living at Whitstable, Kent, with two daughters and a son.
The Conjunction is set in India, and tells the story of Dr.Dev Raj Jobwal, Principal of Nawab's College, and his decline and fall in the face of a young rival.