The Hollow Sunday
Pan, London, 1970
(first published by Chatto & Windus 1967)
(price: 6/-; 272 pages)
The blurb on the back:
The millionaire publishing tycoon...
An obscure classics don...
The first Minister of Social Welfare designate...
A TV whizz-kid turned newspaper editor...
They were all after the same things ... Power ... Status ... Success ...
And now the uncovering of an embryo national-sexual-political-social scandal threatens their several ambitions.
No one sleeps with a woman on account of her husband's qualities, and cold cash can't always buy warm flesh - but a title can be something else...
'Robert Harling's thrillers must be among the most accomplished now being written' - The Spectator
'Tells the story of the launching of a new all-colour Sunday tabloid ... the moral issue is manipulated with the same deftness as the highly entertaining narrative' - The Times
'It has printer's ink for blood, and its plot, pace, and style would not disgrace the year's most swinging story in the top Sunday' - The Guardian
Word of any Fleet Street project comes in whispers of proof and gusts of rumour. No whisper is heard for longer than a few hours or beyond a few streets. No gust for longer than a week or beyond the Seven Seas. Yet neither somehow dies.
I've mentioned elsewhere that whilst the British newspaper industry is one of the most shaming aspects of this country, it does generate some great novels. Maybe at some point I'll put together an index of Fleet Street fictions, but meantime here's another one.
It's a good 'un as well. Written at a time when the off-set litho process was starting to become widely available and had the possibility of revolutionizing newspaper production, it posits a megalomaniac tycoon setting up a new Sunday paper (entitled The New Sunday natch) which will break the market wide open by being an intelligent tabloid in full colour. That's the backdrop - beautifully explored - against which is set a juicy little political scandal. What is particularly nice is the inherent assumption that everyone who is anyone comes from the same class: the editor, his gossip columnist, the new Minister, the new Life Peer all know each other from college. So much for the meritocratic 1960s then.
I also like this analysis of the hypocrisy surrounding the Profumo scandal:
I couldn't get steamed up by all the newspaper ballyhoo over the Profumo lark. Given half a chance I'd have liked a crack at one or two of the girls in the case... Churchill lied to the House. So did Cripps. And scores of others. Every Minister lies to the House. Bare-faced lies. Lies shown to be lies within a week. Lies forgotten within a month. But this was a lie about sex. Not sterling or war. And that the British public won't stand for. It was the sexual envy Profumo aroused that set all the moralizing hypocritical hounds baying. (p.209)
Just in case there's any confusion, this isn't the same Robert Harling who wrote Steel Magnolias, but a British writer who also gave us (I think) works such as: The Paper Palace (1951), The Dark Saviour (1952), The Enormous Shadow (1955), The Endless Colonnade (1958) and The Athenian Widow (1974).
ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
Australian hardback edition
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 1/5
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