Pan, London, 1977
The blurb on the back:
Roland John Raine QC had reached breaking point. His wife had run off with a big-time gangster and his daughter was playing ministering angel to the East End dossers.
Arthur La Bern was for three decades a reliably solid writer, responsible most famously for Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square, the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock's last classic movie, Frenzy, was based, but also for the books behind a clutch of British cinematic melodramas: It Always Rains On Sunday, Night Darkens The Streets (filmed as Good Time Girl, Freedom To Die and Dead Man's Evidence. Here's an extract from the biographical note at the beginning of the book:
Nightmare is, as far as I can tell, one of his very last pieces, and was never filmed, probably because even in the depressing days of the 1970s it would have been a bit miserable for a movie. The central theme is the abuse of the civil rights of psychiatric patients, as evidenced by our protagonist, a QC who's hit the bottle and finally decided - quite rationally - that there is no reason for him to continue living. Unfortunately, he doesn't succeed in his efforts to kill himself and thereby finds himself trapped in a system from which he can't easily escape:
The only way out is to be released into the care of his next-of-kin. Who happens to be his wife, whose desertion of him was the original cause of his despair.
It's a neat, if downbeat, situation, but unfortunately La Bern doesn't have quite the nerve to go through with it and halfway through we veer off into a crime story that's decidedly less interesting than the British Cuckoo's Nest for which we'd been hoping. And the tension's destroyed by the highly co-operative and supportive stance taken by the police force, which is both disappointing and unconvincing - this is, after all, supposed to be the QC who got off one of London's most notorious gangsters; hard to believe that the police wouldn't bear some sort of grudge.
All a bit of a waste, really. Nice cover, though.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5