Hutchinson were constantly urging DW to write a new novel, declaring that even if it was a bad one it would at least keep his name before the public. DW didn’t agree with this as he thought that in the long run, pot- boilers damage an author’s reputation. In this dilemma he thought he might put out a book of short stories. On going through his manuscripts he decided that if he padded out the really good short stories which he had had published, together with other early ones that had been rejected, extracts from Old Rowley and Red Eagle, several articles, two film scripts and a one-act play, he would have enough material for two books. He wrote a short introduction to each of the stories relating the circumstances in which it had come to be written. The first, Mediterranean Nights, was published in 1943 and the second Gunmen, Gallants and Ghosts, in 1944.
DW didn’t expect these books to do as well as his previous works but to his surprise they both brought in more money during the first six months than any of his novels had earned in the same period of time. This was due to the exceptional conditions of war-time, when people’s pleasures were so limited and the blackout created a tremendous demand for books.
There are 21 stories in the Hutchinson hard back edition.
‘The Terrorist’ does not appear in the 1963 Arrow paperback edition.
The Arrow paperback does however include a further 6 stories which weren’t included in the Hutchinson hard back. They are;
The Worm that Turned.
The Last Card
A Bowler Hat for Michael
Murder in the Pentagon
I have never been a huge fan of short stories and generally would not choose them in preference to a novel. However there are some good stories here. I particularly liked 'The Last Card' and 'The Pick Up’ I have added a brief description of all the storylines just to give you an idea of the content.
The first story is called;
It is the story of a man named Rowley Thornton who boards the Calais Train on his way to meet a friend in St. Tropez. He doesn’t get there.
He chooses a carriage in which an attractive German woman and a Norwegian Man also occupy. Thornton remembers the man from an incident at the end of the last war and smells a rat. He informs the British Consulate in Paris and the story then starts to unfold.
It has a good twist at the end but the story line has been affected by having to reduce the amount of words down by almost two thousand words.
The German woman, Lisabetta von Loewring was based on a woman who DW actually met on a train and was prevented from catching her proper connection through the petty malice of the French. He can’t remember her name but he states that she was a film star who had just met with a spectacular success in England as the result of the Elstree production ‘Sunshine Susie’ in which she had played the leading role.
This would make her Renate Muller who played the character Susie Surster. The film was released in 1932. What would we do without the internet!
Bollinger - Very Dry
Mr Benjamin P. Hooker was an American tourist on the deck of a Nile boat. He was recounting a strange story to his colleagues of the time he spent in Carthage where he met a knowledgeable Professor of Egyptology.
They mutually arrange a visit to the ruins of Carthage. Whilst there, the professor managed to unearth a Cuneiform tablet with an unreadable inscription on it.
Having said that Mr. Hooker fully understood the Punic wording and when he looked up from the tablet he found himself transported back to the city of Carthage.
The description of a `fair like' atmosphere in the city where citizens are offered three arrows to shoot at a row of chained Romans seemed an interesting variation on shooting targets to win a cuddly toy. If the arrow hits the Roman they are given another arrow. If they kill the Roman they are fined (a dollar!!!)
The American eventually returns to his current time after many adventures. This adventure was explained away by excessive heat or maybe self hypnosis or probably the Bollinger, very dry, he had been drinking beforehand.
(For info). Mark Twain wrote 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court' in 1889)
The Worm that Turned
Artie Sugden is being detained overnight in a prison cell for further questioning pertaining to the violent death of his wife’s 'uncle Sid'.
Artie and his much maligned wife Minnie had moved into Sid's farm soon after his betting shop had fallen into debt. Unlike Minnie he hated the country living as it was so isolated. Neither did he like his wife much either who he only married for her modest savings
Now that Uncle Sid, who had passed his inheritance on to Minnie, was dead, the future prospects were looking brighter....or were they?
Sally Ashton (who had grey eyes) was having a bad run of luck on the roulette wheel during her holiday in Monte Carlo.
Her deceased father had left strict instructions that the family estate was to keep the family name.
The only male heir was her cousin Henry so if she agreed to marry him she could become heir to the estate after her 21st birthday. If not Cousin Henry would take the estate.
Sally was trying to win enough money at roulette to make herself self sufficient so as not to have to marry her cousin. The plan was collapsing until a man who had been watching her at the wheel offered to lend her 1,000 francs (as borrowed money can sometimes be lucky)!!
The Crippled lady
Vivienne Pawlett Browne who was known as 'The Man with the Girlish Face' was something of a disappointment to his father primarily because he never managed to get a place at Sandhurst.
He walked with an affected Stoop (a la Simon Aron).
Despite this setback he was given employment by Sir Charles Forsythe who was a friend of Vivienne's father and head of a very secret office in the government.
Lady hoarding was a German born cripple who was suspected of passing secrets to the Germans from the equally important department run by her English husband, Sir Oliver Hoarding.
The problem was, How was she doing this as she never leaves the building, hardly ever receives visitors, her phones are tapped and all her mail is being intercepted. The Man with the Girlish Face intended to find out.
The Notorious Madame Ribereau
DW's notes advise that The Hotel Surmer at Cavalaire and its volatile little proprietor are taken from life. DW loved the place and spent his honeymoon there. This may indicate why DW didn't give the narrator of this story a name.
The narrator decided to visit an old friend 'Nero' otherwise known as the Count Neroni at his castle on Lake Garda. However when he arrives at the local train station there is no one there to meet him and he has to organise the trip to the castle on a rickety carrozza pulled by a knock kneed horse.
On arrival there is no Nero at the house and so one of the servants has to drive the 30 kilometres to go and inform him of his friends’ arrival.
Count Nero arrives full of genuine apologies as he had misunderstood the date of arrival. However Nero, despite his efforts to hide it, seems very preoccupied with something else - The Notorious Madame Ribereau.
The Last Card
This story takes place during the Korean War. Wu-Chin is a South Korean soldier who has been captured by the North Koreans and is imprisoned in a cellar. His thoughts turn to an unlikely escape; then to torture and death.
He then thinks of a plan that may save his life.
The Snake with the Diamond Eves
As far as DW could recall this is the first story that he ever wrote. It was penned by him in 1911 when he was 14 years old.
He acknowledges its failings but also points out that there are the seeds for improvement there. He also acknowledges how appalling his attitude was to the coloured citizens of the empire at that time.
Harry Ronalds was the son of Colonel Ronalds of the 4th Bombay Lancers. Harry had just left Eton and had come over to India together with his "chum" Fred Manners for a couple of years before entering the Army.
On one particular day the two lads decide to spend it shooting in the jungle. On their return home they take a short cut back. They get lost and end up in the ruins of an ancient temple. They find a trap door underneath lots of dust and rubble and decide to climb down the numerous steps to investigate. (At this point I keep thinking of Indiana Jones!!)
They climb down into the darkness and after a while hear a hissing noise and then a pair of piercing yellow eyes appear in front of them. They run back towards the steps when there was a terrific crash, as if the floor was giving way. At this point their problems really begin.
The Secret Sign
This story was written in the early months of DW's first marriage in 1923.
Mr. Wobbles is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF who has been stationed in Cairo for the last 18 months. He had been prepared to marry the lovely heiress Veronica van Hoode but her mother had put him straight after a frank discussion in the Sheppards' Hotel. He stood on the steps of the Hotel and drew fiercely on the Punch Corona cigar that that she had given him as a sort of consolation prize. He walked on and threw the remaining three quarters of the cigar away in disgust. The large coal black Negro standing nearby observed the action and picked it up. He smiled and said to Wobbles "Come with me. I know what you want" Wobbles had nothing else to do and so he did as the Negro suggested. As he was expecting he was led to a back street drug den, which under the circumstances he thought it was not a bad idea after his recent disappointment. As it turned out it was a good move but not in the way that he had anticipated.
Death at Three Thirty
The fictitious province of Decastzban is located on the Mediterranean. It is currently under dictatorship.
The Contessa Sabina Tovorri had just left the Three Angels Hotel and was about to drive off when the porter came running after her to hand back the small package she had left behind. She ignored the porter and the offer of the package and drove off.
She and her co-conspirator (Korto) in the passenger’s seat discussed why the operation of leaving the bomb in the dictators’ office had failed. She told him that she was searched and all items were kept well away from the office.
Her father was Count Tovorri, the Liberal leader whose estates were confiscated for having opposed the incoming dictatorship.
The Contessa realising that by letting the porter take the bomb back inside the hotel, a large number of innocent people could be killed, she returned to the Hotel to stop this injustice.
A Bowler hat for Michael
Flight lieutenant Michael O'Haleron was a 'Battle of Britain' Pilot, but as a result of his heroics had received a badly damaged leg had to stay on the ground attend meetings and handle endless paperwork. He yearned to get back in a plane. The boredom was somewhat alleviated when he was asked to attend a higher level meeting chaired by the Under Secretary of State. The meeting was called to discuss the necessary actions that needed to be taken in light of Hitlers’ new plans for large rocket attacks that were being planned. The V2 was being introduced from rocket sites in France. They were more powerful than the V 1's and had a longer range. They were keen to do everything possible to prevent the spread of panic, which was all too likely to ensue following the arrival of the first rocket.
This story was based on a true episode in which DW participated whilst involved with the Joint planning staff.
The Golden Spaniard
- This is a totally different story to DW's novel of the same title.
Oliver Watville is recounting the details of his exploits at a recent holiday in Barcelona
He decides to have dinner at a nearby restaurant in Ponce de Leon (a place that DW actually visited). Whilst eating his meal he happens to notice a very attractive golden haired young lady walking some distance away in the grounds of the restaurant. He also notices that she has unintentionally dropped something on the floor. Being the gentleman he starts walking towards her to let her know of his find but before he reaches her a large Hispano pulls up alongside her and whisks her away before he can do anything. The object on the floor turns out to be a small notebook. He naturally reads it and establishes that it contains information relating to the support for the Spanish Monarchy which had recently been deposed. He assumes that she will return to the place again in search of the book. This turns out to be correct. Oliver (never being one to miss an opportunity) agrees to hand the book back to her in return for lunch together. She begrudgingly agrees. They go their own way after the meal but Oliver wants to discover more about her and goes in search of her.
He eventually finds out that her name is Donna Cazalia D'Avila and that her father is a Marquis. He also becomes embroiled in much more than he would have wished for.
Death in the Flag
This is the second (very) short story in the Vivien Pawlett-Browne series.
In this story Vivien is investigating an outbreak of Bubonic plague that has caused several people to be struck down with the deadly ailment. These cases have been despatched to an Isolation ship and Vivien is trying his best to establish the cause. He is taken on a very unusual route to find the wartime culprit.
Tony Burbridge is on holiday in Athens. Whilst on a tour party visiting some of the ancient landmarks he starts talking to Venice; another tourist who also happens to be staying at his hotel.
Trying to impress the girl, Tony tells her that there is an ancient burial site on the adjacent site to the one they are viewing. The go and pay the area a visit, but all they find are some Greek workers who are fitting a boiler in a corner of this site.
Whilst watching the workmen, Venice happens to see a gold coin on the ground. As one of the workers appears to be giving them very attentive looks, they decide to return later that night to see if there are any more coins in the vicinity. They do and there are. They pocket quite a few more coins and head back to the hotel to check them out in more detail.
At this point, the Greek workman arrives at the hotel demanding some cash or he will report them to the authorities. Things start to liven up at this point.
The Third adventure for 'The man with the girlish face' was equally as short as the previous two.
On this occasion Vivien Pawlett Browne is to be 'lent' to the military. He is being sent to the front line in France in order to investigate a serious leakage from within one particular troop. "The enemy seem to be getting everything that happens in the 12th division before they know it themselves" exclaimed Sir Charles Forsythe
So Vivienne is sent in as a Private in the infantry to sniff out the traitor.
Squadron leader Alan Quert had served as a fighter pilot in the First World War. He was now working in a large cheerless building in west London in which suspected spies were held for questioning.
He was trying to establish if the German who was sat in front of him was indeed a spy. He had been investigating his background for some time and had come up with nothing.
Alan's boss had asked him to keep trying as another well respected RAF member was convinced Herman Schultz was in fact Hauptman Breukner. Breukner was an officer who was in charge of a First World War Prisoner of War camp. This was however 23 years ago.
Alan did keep trying as Herman had been 'caught' snooping around a UK aircraft factory. Alan decided to try something different.
In DW's introduction to this story he chose to acknowledge some one of his favourite authors.
Alexandre Dumas was naturally the first to be mentioned. His admiration for his books has been well documented.
He then states that "John Buchan is the master of us all. His 'Greenmantle' and 'Mr Standfast' are perfect examples of the adventure story at its very best. But owing to some intangible essence in his writing and its high quality, strive as I may, I should never succeed in reaching his standard if I lived to be a hundred"
Ruin O'Flaherty, the Irish trader was offering a bargain price for his last dozen cases of "Foine Whisky" to the hotel owner Mr Macgregor. The two men had been living in Sidi del Abbes in Northern Algeria for some years and decided that life was OK as they had both managed to put some money by.
Mrs Wayland, a hotel guest was looking concerned as she asked if anybody had seen her husband as he should have been back from work by now.
This was the start of an intricate method of defrauding Mr O'Flaherty from a large amount of money.
However there was much more to this story than the loss of the money.
The fourth of six stories in 'The man with the girlish face' has Sir Charles Forsythe in a dither as he is keen to catch a suspected spy (De Casteraux) who, he believed was passing intricate plans of the latest technology to the enemy.
Vivien Pawlett Browne is tasked with catching De Casteraux with the information on him.
Sir Charles knows that the spy is about to board a ferry to cross the channel very soon and so Vivien is sent to the docks to intercept him.
With the aid of an accomplice, Vivien manages to befriend the spy after De Casteraux is hauled out of the water after being (accidently!!!!) knocked into the channel by his accomplice.
While Vivien and Vivien are drying off in a bunk on the ferry, the accomplice searches the spies' clothes and finds nothing to implicate the villain. Then, Vivien uses some lateral thinking to establish how the information is being passed on.
A Deal in Cyprus Wine
The American, P Rockingham Budd was bored despite relaxing on his holiday visit to Famagusta, Cyprus.
He was sitting on the terrace with our unnamed narrator when a well dressed man approached their table.
The stranger informed them that he was Don Luis Xermes D'ulloa, a native of Spain who had moved to Cyprus and was having to sell up due to some financial problems. He invited them to visit his villa to sample some wine from his cellars. The American and the Narrator thought the wine was very good and the American agreed to buy all 47 barrels at an excellent price with a view to sending them back to the States.
Before he totally committed to the deal he asked Don Luis to test the wine at his hotel to establish the managers’ thoughts. The Manager was impressed and agreed to purchase three barrel loads from the American.
The American had already made a profit on three barrels before he had even shipped the remainder.
The deal was agreed between the Spaniard and the American, the money was paid and everybody was happy (or so it would seem).
Murder in the Pentagon
Colonel Somolo was pointing a gun at Captain Vidor.
They had both been assigned to the Pentagon as representatives of their country, Montebania.
Captain Vidor was convinced that the Colonel had been passing secrets to the enemy. (A common theme in Mediterranean Nights) In this case the Soviets.
In order to confirm his beliefs, he had been investigating some potential evidence in the Colonels office. He was caught in the act and from that time on relationships were not good. In fact two attempts had been made on the captains' life.
After a few weeks Somolo had a tailors dummy delivered to the Pentagon dressed with the new uniform of Montebania.
Somolo then asked Vidor to try it on which he did.
It was at his point that Somolo pointed the gun at Vidor. He had a plan to get rid of him once and for all.
A play in one act
The characters are;
Mr Cotton - Father
Mrs Cotton - Mother
Wendy Cotton - Daughter (21 years old)
Robert Cotton - Brother (19 years old)
Charles Willmott - Wendy's Boyfriend
This is the one story line in 'Mediterranean Nights' that could be easily adapted to fit into a modern day scenario.
Mr Cotton is the overbearing Father with a heart condition. This, however doesn't stop him from being a general pain in the bum. He treats his two (adult) children as if they were 7 years old. They in turn have grown to resent him.
Robert has just been sacked from his job and Wendy has just discovered that she is pregnant. Charles wants her to have an abortion which she is not too happy about so he tries to persuade her to drink an alcohol concoction of Crème de Menthe and Gin whilst taking a hot bath.
This information would cause mayhem when Father is told.
Robert decides to drop some thyroid tablets into his tea. The problem is that the cups become accidently rearranged.
The Biter Bit
No. 5 in ‘The man with the girlish face series’.
M r Thompson had gone to Scotland Yard to tell his story. He was addressing his story to Vivien Pawlett-Browne. Mr Thompson explained that he owned the Thompson Radio Company in Croydon. Last spring Jacob Bauer had come along and offered him £5000 to join the business. He was from Germany and a clever engineer, so he was taken on.
Now that the Government had just handed Thompson a contract to make new miniature transmitters which were highly secret he wondered if he should show the engineering drawings to him or not?
Vivien told Thompson to leave it with him and he would get back as soon as possible.
Vivien’s boss Sir Charles Forsyth confirmed to him that Bauer is on the secret list of Reichstahl’s that they had managed to get hold of. This was proof that Bauer is an enemy agent passing info onto Reichstahl.
The next morning Vivien started work at Thompson’s under the name of Rudi Muller. He is soon approached by Bauer. A trap is then laid by Vivien and his boss to capture Bauer Red-handed.
A Little Knowledge....
Brandon is a wine merchant who decides to take a small vacation in Biarritz. He had been there several times before and so it was no surprise when he happened to bump into an old acquaintance, Toby Sinclair, who just happened to be a millionaire.
Toby was having a drink with another eminent person who turned out to be the Frenchman Baron de Sejac.
They spent the majority of the time discussing wines apart from when a beautiful blonde lady walked close by.
Toby and the Frenchman decided that they would both try to make friends with her as she did not appear to have anybody escorting her.
Brandon was a little concerned by some of the inconsistencies in 'de Sejacs' comments on wine considering the fact he was supposed to be an expert and so he sent a note to a colleague to obtain details on the Baron. The response came back quickly. The Baron de Sejac does exist but now lives in Martinique. The man in Biarritz is a fraud. He also told Brandon that the police had been looking for someone fitting his description and he had been operating in various large hotels.
That evening de Sejac and the blonde girl went off to an out of town nightclub. They were closely followed by Brandon. It also turned out that Toby was there as well.
De Sejac and the girl left the club at 3 o’clock in the morning racing away into the night closely followed by Brandon in Toby's Bentley. The Frenchman eventually pulled up at an isolated house. Brandon followed and managed to get inside the house where he was promptly knocked out and tied up in a small cellar.
Toby arrived in Brandon’s' prison what seemed to be two days later. They then decide to ask de Sejac a few leading questions………………
Two birds with one stone-
The final story in ‘The man with the girlish face series’.
Lady Angela Wren, Christine Marlowe and Hookie Fairholme were enjoying cocktails at the Parkside Buttery.
They were discussing spies and how the general public were generally unaware of just how many spies there were amongst us. Christine pointed to a lady nearby and commented that she wouldn't be at all surprised if she was another Mata Hari.
Vivienne Pawlett Browne who was also present couldn't understand why she thought that the Hungarian lady in question (Madame Zaconi ) was a spy. However, he decided to get her mail checked as a precaution.
A few days later a report came through advising that a letter had been sent to her from a Farrier in the Mile End Road.
Vivien and his colleagues took their places near the Farrier and waited.
The Pick Up
Colonel Fawcett was in his fifties and had been living alone since his wife had died several years ago. He decided that it would be nice to seek out some female company and took a drive to nearby Brighton.
He was certain that there would be plenty of females with whom he could become friends. It turned out that it wasn't quite as easy as he had hoped.
After a few ‘rejections’ he decided to take a seat on a deckchair and rest.
Miranda was thirty years his junior and she was sitting reading a book.
After inviting her for a drive in the country and subsequent dinner he was in for more of a surprise than he had anticipated.
Angus McReay was one of the main characters of his Highland Regiment. He was admired by officers and fellow soldiers alike.
However, there was a dark story lurking in his past of which very few people were aware of. Whilst spending some time Salmon fishing at home with an ex Highland Regiment friend he tells his tale.
During the First World War Angus was injured and was hospitalised in Nice. It was here that he met Bill Rankin. They became quite close and whilst convalescing the two men asked if it were possible to transfer to the care of a Corsican hospital. The Hospital agreed. They were able to go out and about during their stay and visited a few villages and even tried a spot of shooting for 'Moufflon' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moufflon
Then the cause of all his problems appeared. A beautiful young girl from the local village. They become far too friendly!!! Her 'promised' ex boyfriend Machio hears about this and beats the girl up and eventually causes her death. He then goes looking for Angus. Angus is furious and likewise goes looking for Machio.
The story gets even more complex as it goes on. This is one of the better stories in the book.
This story was actually written with the intention of having it used on ‘Talking Screen’
King Nicholas VII of Seravonia and his wife Queen Caroline were just retiring to their bedrooms when they were introduced to a new member of their palace guard, Lieutenant Sasha Renescu. The King knew his father well and was pleased to receive his son into this important role. Whilst on his first night of duty Sasha looks over the palace balustrade to see a lovely young girl (Stephanie) walking in the grounds below. She tells him that she is the daughter of the Chamberlain. He climbs down to meet her and talk with her. Whilst they are talking an attempt on the Kings life is made and the King is lucky to escape with his life. Sasha is removed from the Palace guard but the King asks Sasha to go underground to try and infiltrate the terrorist organisation as attempts on the Kings life were not uncommon. He does just that and manages to get feedback of the terrorist gang (which includes Stephanie) to the King, but Sasha unbeknown to him, he is also being drugged into taking the Kings life.