This was my first reading of ?Contraband?. It re-introduces Gregory Sallust following his introduction in the 1934 novel ?Black August?.
In ?Contraband? Gregory seems a little nicer than the egoistic character portrayed previously. He actually seems to care about people in this story.
The book also introduces Sir Pellinore-Gwain Cust as the quintessentially English aristocrat.
Sir Pellinore becomes a very influential character in subsequent DW novels.
The story tells of a group of communist agitators who become heavily involved in smuggling goods across the channel from France to south east England at well hidden landing strips.
Chapter 1 begins, ? When Gregory Sallust first saw the girl it was already midnight on the last day of his holiday.
On page 52 (Arrow paperback) Gregory recalls to Sir Pellinore, ?I followed her (the above mentioned girl) because it was part of my job? ???
However, Gregory does eventually get given a job from the aristocrat; to find out who was responsible for the smuggling activities which were threatening the interests of several corporations in the UK.
Gregory takes his ex. batman, George Rudd with him to try to smash the smuggling ring.
George also appeared in Black August as the landlord of 272 Gloucester Road.
The same flat is now rented by Gregory rather than something more expensive as a thank you to George. There is a little footnote in the book ;
* Further particulars of Gregory Sallust, Mr Rudd and his curious caravanserai in Gloucester road are to be found in Black August 15th Edition. Hutchinson (Now3/6.)
Gregory and George find themselves pitted against the sinister Lord Gavin Fortescue. ?He lives as a recluse, immensely rich and made every penny out of crooked deals. He hates his fellow men like poison and has sold his soul fifty times over to make his millions?..He was involved in a conspiracy , by means of arson, sabotage and paid gunmen to endeavour to gain control of the entire film industry.? Another footnote;
*For particulars of this conspiracy see:- Such power is dangerous, Hutchinson. (Now 2/6.).
(A little advertising never hurts.)
There are numerous plane chases as well as car chases (a la, ?Devil rides out?) in pursuit of the baddies and also to catch the girl Sabine who is to be eventually wooed away from the evil Lord Fortescue by our intrepid hero. (also, a la, ?Devil rides out?).
One of the best chapters is where Gregory and Inspector Gerry Wells from Scotland Yard get caught by the gang of smugglers and are thrown into the shallow waters of Pegwell Bay, Kent. The idea being that the water is too shallow to swim in, a long way from the shore and the sand underneath them will not hold their weight.
As a result there would be no evidence of any ill doing.
A few further snippets;
Does anybody know if Dennis Wheatley was in the Freemasons? There are some obvious Masonic references in this book.
The obligatory reference?s to Justerini?s are included (pages 42, 119 and 120).
On page 61, DW has a moan about the pub closing times.
?Its not likely they?ll turn us out as long as we look like buying another drink off them since there are none of these fool early closing laws in France?.
Page 69 refers to the now infamous fishing village of ?Sangatte? near to Wissant. Unfortunately the spelling was not so good in the book ? Sandgatt ??
Page 102 has another interesting spelling mistake - Mad moiselle. At least I think it?s a mistake.
Page 182 The Limper (one of the characters in the book) had good ?Grey eyes?.
How often does this subject come up in DW?s books? And why?
Gregory had Rudd as a batman in World War 1 (1914 ? 1918) ?Page 56?, so he must have been around about 20 during the war. Contraband is written in the period 1936 which would add at least another 18 years to his age (3
, but he still managed to carry out some astonishing heroics in the World War 2 series of books which wouldn?t start for another 13 years making him 51?? Who cares!!!