Classic Crime

Andrew Garve

Paul Winterton (1908–2001) was a journalist and crime novelist. Throughout his career, he used the pseudonyms Andrew Garve, Roger Bax and Paul Somers.

Paul Winterton was born in Leicester on 12 February 1908. He was the son of George Ernest Winterton who was the Member of Parliament for Loughborough. Winterton was educated at various schools before reading Economics at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1928. The following winter he travelled to Soviet Russia which was to be the beginning of his fascination for this country which was to re-occur many times in his novels. He joined the staff of The Economist at the age of 21 before moving on to the News Chronicle (successor to the old Daily News).

Winterton stayed for more than a dozen years as general reporter before being promoted to foreign correspondent from Moscow reporting on the Second World War. During this time he published a number of books and pamphlets on Russia.

While on the News Chronicle he had also travelled to Palestine. The trip gave Winterton the idea of a crime novel and using the pseudonym of Roger Bax wrote his first of many crime novels under the title, ‘Death Beneath Jerusalem’. This first was published in 1938.

A few more Bax novels appeared after the war. ‘Came the Dawn’ (1949), which appeared in the United States under the title, ‘Two If By Sea’ was optioned by MGM. The movie was re-titled ‘Never Let Me Go’ and starred Clark Gable and Gene Tierney.

By this time Winterton/Bax had become Garve which was the name he predominately used when writing his crime novels. Later on four novels appeared under the name of Paul Somers.

Garve’s novels took on many locations – from the Cambrideshire fens and London to Russia as well as Mombasa and other exotic locales. His better known work includes ‘No Tears for Hilda’, ‘The Megstone Plot’ and ‘Blueprint for Murder’ (as Roger Bax). These along with many other titles have been re-issued by Bello Books in book form as well as e-books.

Winterton was one of the founding members of the Crime Writer’s Association. He died in January 2001.

Review: Murderer's Fen

I picked this title up in a marvellous second hand bookshop in Eastbourne. I always feel I have unburied some wonderful treasures after wading my way through all those towering piles of books. Thankfully these forays are not too frequent to this reader’s paradise as I only get a chance when I visit family. If it was round the corner from me then I’d most probably be totally penniless by now!

So, ‘Murderer’s Fen’ was the title (aka ‘Hide and Go Seek). I had heard of Andrew Garve before but never read him. So, I did and I have to say I was mightily impressed. ‘Murderer’s Fen’ is what is classed as a standalone and having looked through Mr. Garve’s output it seems that each one was a novel on its own merit. I am not sure if the same can be said for his novels under the name of Roger Bax and Paul Somers.

Many of Garve’s novels took exotic locations – however, ‘Murderer’s Fen’ is based on the Cambridgeshire fens and you can tell that Garve was a man who loved the British countryside – but at the same time could make the flat and gloomy scenery very menacing, indeed. Garve has a wonderful ear for dialogue and slowly showed this reader through the conversations of his characters, the complex and deceptive plot of this addictive read.

In my copy of this title it only runs to 190 pages and although Garve sets up the scene well, he doesn’t waste time and very soon we begin to settle down and watch the ‘play’ unfold. And what a play. Alan Hunt could well be the younger brother of that other sociopath, Tom Ripley – a man who believes with a passion that he can simply get away with murder. But has there been a murder? A witness said there had been one but where is the body? With wonderful sixties panache, Hunt plays the victim when beneath he is the predator. Or is he simply delusional, nothing more than a convincing liar?

I questioned myself several times during this book and because it is a short, sharp and sweet book, Garve is able to knock you off kilter and make you wonder what sort of game is being played. I did feel that the denouement, although extremely clever and worthy of anything Rendell could come up with, could have been shown a little later, maintaining a little longer the feeling of unease and obtaining even more of a reaction from this reader than anticipated. But that is my only tiny criticism and I think it had more to do with me wanting to prolong the enjoyment of this book than anything else.

You know when an author has impressed you when you go straight to the Internet and find out what else he/she has written and what is available. Thanks to publishers harnessing the marvels of the e-book, Bello Books have brought Garve’s books to the fore and now many of you can enjoy a brand new forgotten classic. I’d start with ‘Murderer’s Fen’ which is a brilliant dark little gem.

Reviewed by: C.S.

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