On the North West Frontier

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Wallace Breem is one of those authors who, if he is remembered at all, is probably known only for his first novel, Eagle in the Snow, which received high praise and achieved excellent sales on its first publication in 1970. Sadly, Breem’s next two novels were largely ignored by the critics and the public. Their comparative failure and the pressure of his job dissuaded him from writing a fourth, although he did contemplate one on the disaster that befell Quintilius Varus and his legions in the Teutoburgerwald forest in AD 7; but by the time of his premature death in 1990 he had only produced some notes for a preliminary draft.

I was first introduced to Breem and his wife, Rikki, some time in the ’60s when several of us used to meet in the old and extremely uncomfortable gallery of Covent Garden Opera House. Born in 1926 and educated at Westminster School, he entered the Indian Army Officers Training School in 1944 and was commissioned into the Guides, one of the crack regiments of the North West Frontier Force. This came to an end with Partition in 1947 and, British service holding no attraction for him, he returned to England. He then held a variety of jobs which included assisting a veterinary surgeon, working in a tannery and collecting rent in the East End before joining the staff of the Inner Temple Library in 1951. Librarianship proved congenial and he was to remain there for the rest of his days. When I first met him, he had recently been appointed Chief Librarian and Keeper of Manuscripts at the Inner Temple, a post he was to hold with distinction. This was recognized by the institution of a memorial award set up in his name jointly by the Benchers of the Inn and the Association of Law Librarians of which he had been a founder member and President. He was rather shy and seldom looked fit, working, as he did, very long hours in the Library to the great benefit of the Benchers and students of the Inn.

However, it soon became apparent t

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About the contributor

Bruce Coward worked at the Times Literary Supplement for a number of years in the ’60s and has also been a publisher and bookseller. He is now retired after fifteen happy years running the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, Devon, which he and his wife bought from Christopher (Robin) Milne.

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