Which occupied me for a few idle hours, while the roofers hammered away above.
And which prompts the obvious questions:
- How have I missed out on Kyril Bonfiglioli all these years?
- Why are there only two more books in this sequence of Charlie Mortdecai and Jock Strapp (the latter I assume to be resurrected from the Silverdale Sands for #2) ?
The link from The Late Scholar to Don’t Point That Thing at Me is that Bonfiglioni and Lord Peter were both Balliol men.
The book contains a puzzle and a test for the reader: almost every chapter has a heading from Robert Browning. As Bonfiglioni warns in the introduction, one is his own invention.
And Charlie is sound on the matter of class (page 69):
‘England isn’t like the Continent, you see, nor even like Scotland in this respect. The seize quarters “noble in all his branches” thing is something we don’t like to talk about and there aren’t half a dozen families with straight descent from a knight of the Conquest, I should think — and they aren’t titled. Anyway,’ I rambled on, ‘no one in his senses would want to be descended from one of that lot: the Conquest was something between a joint-stock company and a Yukon gold-rush: William the Conk himself was a sort of primitive Cecil Roberts and his followers were bums, chancers, queers and comic singers.’
I admit, at first reading, I had “Cecil Rhodes” in my head, before I twigged that “Cecil Roberts” (whose middle name was Mornington — as the famous Crescent) was:
- like Bonfiglioli, a fellow journalist, literary editor and novelist (and so this may be an in-joke, to catch the likes of other careless readers); and,
- like Charlie Mortdecai, Roberts despatched to the United States on dodgy business. Charlie to deliver the Silver Ghost (and its hidden Goya), Roberts to be Lord Halifax’s minder and flack at the war-time Washington Embassy, alongside The Irregulars.