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Monday, November 02, 2015

Eardley Beswick

Eardley Beswick seemed destined for success as a writer when his debut novel appeared. Original Design received many glowing reviews—not only the UK—and was a fine example of what Orwell might have reluctantly called proletarian literature. The book was acclaimed by Compton Mackenzie as "the most irresistibly absorbing novel for a twelvemonth" and was the first recommendation of the Book Society.

More than one review compared the novel to Arnold Bennett's Imperial Palace, which followed the inner workings of a hotel based on the Savoy Hotel; in Original Design we followed the activities of a large iron factory in the Midlands at the beginning of the Depression. It introduces scores of characters and shows their lives and loves against the background of Jabez Perriman, Sons & Co., the factory in which they all work and on the success of which they all depend.

The factory, employing 1,200 men, is headed by Henty Perriman, compelled to assume the position on the death of his brother Jabez who "had killed himself patriotically making money too strenuously during the war." Through the novel the reader meets members of the board, the general manager of the works, department heads, draftsmen, secretaries, foremen, typists and artisans.

The chief character followed is Reggie Pernett, the draftsman who invented the original design of the title for presses that can be used to manufacture unbreakable glass which save Perrimans from going into bancruptcy. Due to Pernett's innocence and financial hardship, Henty Perriman is able to take the credit and the profits.

Elmer Davis in Saturday Review, observed "as it should always be in a good novel, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; the real excellence of the story is its picture of an industry; the type of all Industry, in prosperity and depression."
The Technocrats can find a good deal of nourishment in this book; and if the Marxians only knew it, its dispassionate picture of the five greedy and stupid men who dispose of the capital of Perrimans' stockholders and the lives of its employees is far more effective collectivist propaganda than conscientiously "proletarian" fiction. Mr. Beswick, apparently, has no panaceas; his only hope is in "a society immunized against this cumulative environmental hardening of the hearts... the fact that the author has no axe to grind makes his grimly disinterested picture of things as they are all the more effective."
Beswick followed up this worthy and well-received novel with a series of thrillers under the pen-name Fareman Wells and under his own name. Christine in Murderland was "an ingenious and amusing detective fantasy." Describing the book as "A refreshing book to read," Aberdeen Journal (21 February 1933) says of the plot:
It was Christine’s fortune to fall in with Smith, a lunatic author, who deluded her so successfully with tales of persecution and plots that she thereafter spent some of the most enjoyably hectic days of her life. It is a lively and exciting tale quite out of the usual, with plenty of incident, some danger, and a real love interest.
The Fareman Wells byline was used on the newspaper serials "Speed Boat" and "Five Crooked Chairs", the former about a first-class but near-destitute motor mechanic named Tanner trying to find work in Essex. The latter stars a solicitor's clerk whose hobby is experimenting with wireless and who discovers a new wireless ray, falls in with a girl he has admired from a distance and becomes involved in a plot involving five Spanish chairs.

Under his own name, Beswick penned The Lorry Lady as his "second" novel—ignoring his work as Fareman Wells. It was the story of Madie Scaife, a girl of great charm and good education who, forced to earn her own living, took over a couple of lorries and conducted a transport business. She drives a rattling five-tonner and is her own business getter.

After the publication of a collection of twenty-three stories (Hundreds and Thousands) in 1935, Beswick's third and final novel  appeared. Pennine (1936) is another novel about industry telling the stories of how Tom Loman made his fortune as a contractor by shrewd jobbery and how his son, Percy George, squanders it. Many other characters are woven into the tale set in a smoke-hazed Lancashire on the edge of the grim Pennines.

His follow-up was the serial "Mark 1702" which features an Investigation Officer for the War Office named Geoffrey Hendringham, who is testing a new appliance when his workshop is shattered by an explosion. The appliance is known only as Mark 1702 and foul play is suspected.

This turned out to be Beswick's last known serial and he seemed to disappear as a writer as Britain geared up for war. Robert Eardley Beswick was born in Manchester on 2 September 1885, the son of William Henry Beswick (1859-1925), a surveyer and civil engineer, and Ada (née Eardley, 1858-1952). His siblings were Ada Lilian Beswick (later Roberts, 1884-?), William Eardley Beswick (1886-1888) and Kenneth Eardley Beswick (1895-1980).

He was educated at Manchester School of Technology and worked as a civil and mechanical engineer and was a member of the Institute of Production Engineers. He lived in Exmouth for 18 years, where his father was employed by the Exmouth Local Board of Health, and subsequently lived in Essex. He was married to Marjorie Shaw (1892-1974) in Chelmsford in 1912 and had three daughters. The family lived in Hornchurch, Sussex, and then in the small village of White Notley, near Witham, Essex, for many years.

His writing career spanned the decade of the 1930s, his stories appearing in the Manchester Guardian, John o'London, the Sketch, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Cornhill Magazine, 20-Story Magazine, Lovat Dickson's Magazine, The Grand Magazine, Windsor Magazine, Illustrated London News and elsewhere.

Despite his success, Beswick seems to have returned to his engineering background. His brother was the founder of K. E. Beswick Ltd. and brother Robert may have worked with his sibling during and after the war. In December 1940 he filed an application for a patent for a quick action attachment for objects that need to be held tightly but temporarily; in September 1946 he applied for another patent, this time for a “Quick action nut”—a nut that could be secured or released with a small angle turn.

Nothing more was heard from Eardley Beswick as a novelist, outside of a few reprints, after 1939. It is presumed that continued to work in the engineering industry until his retirement. He subsequently moved to Exmouth, Devon, where he died on 1 January 1979, at the age of 94.


Original Design. London, Grayson & Grayson, 1933; New York, Minton, Balch & Co, 1933.
The Lorry Lady. London, Gramol Publications, 1936.
Pennine. London, William Heinemann, 1936.

Novels as Fareman Wells
Christine in Murderland. London, John Long, 1933.
Five Crooked Chairs. London & Dublin, Mellifont Publications, 1936.

Hundreds and Thousands. Tales, illustrated by Doris Boulton. London, Grayson & Grayson, 1935.

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