D. J. Taylor, Roger Longrigg - Slightly Foxed Issue 27

Down in the Mayfair Badlands

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In strict taxonomic terms, Roger Longrigg’s long career – he published novels for over half his seven decades on the planet – looks like a throw-back, a reversion to the high-output conditions of the inter-war era when, as Alec Waugh once put it, ‘a book a year was the rule’. Certainly a professional bibliographer called in to reckon up his prodigious output would hardly know where to start. To begin with there are the dozen novels written in the ’50s and ’60s under his own name – gamey and somewhat louche affairs, including the horse-racing caper Daughters of Mulberry (1961). Then there are the psychological thrillers from the 1980s, most notably Mother Love (1983), under the alias ‘Domini Taylor’.

But what about the 1962 best-seller The Passion-Flower Hotel, which, as his New York Times obituary in 2000 notes, ‘described its author, Rosalind Erskine, as a 15-year-old at a girls’ boarding school where the students operated a brothel for the entertainment of visitors from a nearby school for boys’? Or the nine outings as ‘Ivor Drummond’ – these had eye-catching titles like The Priests of the Abomination and A Stench of Poppies – between 1969 and 1980? ‘Laura Black’ chipped in a further four, and ‘Frank Parrish’, one of his longer-lasting noms de guerre (1977–93), another eight. The list is by no means complete, and some unofficial estimates of his myriad professional guises put the number as high as eight or nine.

I first came across Longrigg’s books in the early ’90s by way of the American scholar James Gindin’s ground-breaking Post-war British Fiction (1962). At work on my own book about the English novel since 1945 – what became After the War (1993) – I reckoned that here might be a thoroughly representative route into the atmosphere of 1950s fiction, as not written by, say, Kingsley Amis or Iris Mur

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About the contributor

D. J. Taylor is the author of seven novels, most recently Ask Alice (2009). His non-fiction includes a life of George Orwell, which won the 2003 Whitbread Biography Prize. He has read more forgotten novels from the 1950s and 1960s than is probably advisable, and would like to write a history of British literary culture if anyone is prepared to subsidize it.

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