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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Brian Worthington-Stuart part 2

On 6 April 1937, Brian Arthur Lewis Stuart (as he was now styling himself) married Fanny Elizabeth ("Betty") Worthington, daughter of Hugh Worthington, a retired cotton merchant, and his wife, Alice, at Lambeth, London. Fanny had been born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, on 2 August 1915. An announcement in The Times noted that he was late of The Border Regiment—which was untrue.

Following the success of his first book and his appearances on radio and in print, Brian A. Stuart (as he was credited) penned Knock-Out Kavanagh, a serial thriller in four rounds, starring Wilfred Pickles, Ursula Gilhespie, Fred Fairclough, G. H. Dayne, Donald Avison and Norman Partridge. The producer was Cecil McGivern. The serial was broadcast on 23 August to 13 September 1937 by the BBC's Northern service. Other stories appearing around the same time included "What Crocodile?" (Regional Programme, 1 April 1937) and "None So Blind" (Regional Programme, 28 August 1937)

Stuart and his wife had their first child, a daughter named Angela Windsor Patricia Stuart, in March 1938. As wartime approached, Stuart, then living at Vauxhall Bridge Road, Westminster, became an ARP Warden while his wife and daughter moved into the home of her family in Ruthin, north Wales, where a second daughter, Elizabeth S. J. Stuart, was born in 1940.

Stuart later claimed that he was with an AA battery in London before being attached to Intelligence and serving in Syria and Palestine. He obtained a commission in 1940 in The Royal Welch Fusiliers and was discharged in 1944 with the rank of captain on medical grounds due to a serious spinal injury.

Of these claims, I have been able to establish that Cadet Brian Arthur Lewis Stuart (28394) was serving with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1941.

After being discharged, Stuart penned "The Crocodile" for Mystery Playhouse (Light Programme),  broadcast on 21 August 1946, and on 18 October 1946 he gave a talk as Brian Worthington-Stuart on the BBC Home Service on the subject of "Desert Wanderers". He was regularly broadcast on the Children's Hour (Home Service), appearances including "Across the Strange Sahara" (4 eps., 16 October-6 November 1945), "A Walk in Jerusalem" (3 February 1946), "Some Dogs and a Couple of Cats" (26 February 1946), "A Walk in Damascus" (3 March 1946), "Belinda and the Bedouins" (2 eps., 19 July-26 July 1946), "A Visit to Nazareth" (1 December 1946), "A Visit to Bethlehem" (5 January 1947), "A Visit to Marrakesh" (5 February 1947) and "Timbuctoo" (12 February 1947). He also contributed a couple of stories to The World and His Wife (Light Programme): "A Day After Snipe" (13 May 1946) and "Among the Bedouins" (20 May 1946)

Brian Arthur Lewis Stuart, then living at "Penmillard", Hayes Lane, Beckenham, Kent, changed his name by deed poll to Brian Arthur Worthington-Stuart as of 30 April 1946. Following the birth of Arthur Peter H. Stuart in 1946, his next two children reflected his change of name: Rhoda Mary C. Worthington-Stuart, born in 1947, and Derek R. Worthington-Stuart, born in 1948.

Worthington-Stuart's first two novels appeared from Ward, Lock & Co. in 1948. The Affair at Sidi Brahim and Knock-out Kavanagh both appeared under the name Brian Stuart and both featured the character he had created for radio, Major Roger "Knock-out" Kavanagh. The first was reviewed as "an attractively written and lively yarn. While basically it may be said to be another story of the Foreign Legion, it is modernised by being set against a pre-1939 background of apprehension of war and the activities of the now notorious fifth column. Needless to say, all goes well for the chief character, the ex-Indian Army officer, who joins the Legion and, as a British secret agent, rounds up the gang of Hitlerites and criminals." (Daily Mail (Hull), 19 June 1948)

Soon after, Worthington-Stuart launched a second pen-name with Invitation to a Ball by Peter Meredith (1949). C.E.L. of the Western Morning Post (11 April 1949) said that the book did "not stint the condiments—a wife hard-pressed by debts and blackmailers, a husband in pursuit caught up in the Foreign Legion and war. With such garnishing the tale could not fail to thrill." In the Yorkshire Evening Post (29 April 1949), the reviewer describes the book as "a chaser indeed. Andrew gives his erring wife chance after chance, but in vain. She runs off. He pursues her over the Continent, gets caught up in the first Great War, and joins the Foreign Legion! After he has been presumed dead really striking events occur."

Meredith's next novel, Floodwater (1950) was also well-received:
Nothing is more likely to lure a black sheep back to the fold than a tasty morsel from a substantial will. In Floodwater, Peter Meredith gives the not unfamiliar theme a new twist, and works it up into an engrossing story. The setting is a successful farm in Africa, where peace and prosperity prevail until the black sheep arrives and is allowed to stay. Drama and intrigue culminate in a suitably startling climax. (Daily Mail (Hull), 12 May 1950)

The black sheep of a family, who is long believed dead, turns up in a happy prosperous farmstead in Africa and takes his place in the family circle on the basis of the old argument that blood is thicker than water. In this case the argument is disproved after a welter of thrilling adventure and just the right amount of romance. Mystic mumbo-jumbo from an old witch-doctor forms an intriguing background to this powerful novel. (Western Daily Press, 26 August 1950)
Peter Meredith's next novel, Checkmate appeared later that same year:
Checkmate has nothing to do with a quiet game of chess, its keynote is crime! Peter Meredith's new thriller presents an uncomfortable situation which could happen to anyone, even more so when father and daughter suddenly meet in a room with a dead body in it, and suspect each other of murder. The solicitor father and his daughter Diana are well-drawn characters and the novel situations make the book very readable. (Daily Mail (Hull), 17 November 1950)
Meanwhile, Brian Stuart's next two books had also appeared:
Whatever other criticism they make, readers of The Silver Phantom Murder by Brian Stuart cannot complain for lack of excitement or gruesome detail. Within the first 10 pages we have a body on our hands which, before being stabbed in the back, had had his eyes burnt out with molten sealing wax. So much for detail.
    This is an up-to-the-minute thriller complete with M.I.5 and, of course, the atom. Bill Roydon, a secret service man, is the murder victim, and his old friend, Knockout Kavanagh, joins with Scotland Yard in tracking down the killer. It is a hard and long chase which brings us up against a diabolical political organisation, but it is nevertheless a successful one. (Daily Mail (Hull), 26 May 1950)
In Mysterious Monsieur Moray, the heroes, Colonel Forester and Colonel Grenier, discover a Nazi plot to start another war.

On a completely different tack, Brian Worthington-Stuart, F.R.E.S., was credited as the author of Collecting and Breeding Butterflies and Moths (1951), reviewed in the October-December 1951 issue of The Naturalist thus:
This latest addition to the Wayside and Woodland series should find its way into the hands of all lepidopterists. The author first deals systematically with the various aspects of collecting, setting and arranging specimens, and then with the more fascinating (though more arduous) problem of breeding. The hints and suggestions are obviously the result of experience and are worth careful consideration, but as the author points out collectors who have achieved success using other methods will doubtless remain faithful to them. That does not detract in any way from the value of the advice given; there must be some fundamentals on which the newcomer can build experience.
    As regards the various methods described, the reviewer has only one criticism and that is the absence of any reference to chloroform vapour as a killing agent. It is his opinion that it is one of the most reliable, safe to handle and cheap substances available and does not cause brittleness in the specimens. The novice should not be dismayed by the rather formidable list of apparatus suggested at various stages. It is possible to start in quite a modest way and the various accessories will gradually accumulate.
    The book is readable and the diagrams well chosen but occasionally one gets a rather uncomfortable impression from the author’s style that he is inclined to credit his readers with a shortage of common sense — and that is irritating! These are minor points, however, and the book should be a great help to those interested in the subject and in particular to those who have just begun to explore the possibilities of the lepidoptera.
By the time the book saw print, Brian Worthington Stuart was in jail.

The London Gazette for 17 January 1950 records that Brian Worthington Stuart, The Rectory, Blo Norton, near Diss, Norfolk, author, lately residing at 51 Albemarle Road, Beckenham, Kent, was receiving orders under the Bankruptcy Acts, 1914 and 1926. Another notice gave his name as Brian Arthur Worthington-Stuart and noted that he had also previously resided at Penmillard, Hayes Lane, Beckenham, Kent.

But the case took a curious twist and the 48-year-old author found himself at Ipswich Bankruptcy Court on Friday, 21 April 1950 where he declared his debts as £3,125 7s 9d. and his assets as 3s 3d. Stuart had made his own petition for bankruptcy on 11 January.

His income was derived from writing novels and from a disability pension of about £85 4s. a year. Asked by Mr. K. E. Fisk, the Official Receiver, "You have known for some considerable time that you could not pay your debts in full if asked?" Stuart responded "I have known since the summer of 1948." "And you went on contracting nearly all the debts in your statement of affairs?" "Yes," Stuart said.

Stuart was brought before a special Court at East Harling on 23 August to answer nine charges of issuing cheques with no means to meet them and obtaining credit while an undischarged bankrupt. Stuart angrily stated: "I consider the whole of this enquiry stinks of vindictive persecution. I gave a complete explanation during the public examination to which I have nothing to add."

Stuart had left a trail of bounced cheques beginning in July 1949, shortly before moving to Norfolk in August. In one instance, he owed Messrs. Leeson and Sons, a chemists in Bury St. Edmund's, £1 4s 7d. and had obtained £15 in notes from them by writing a cheque for £16 4s 7d. He immediately used the £15 to file his own petition for bankruptcy.

He was committed to appear at the Norfolk Assizes in October. Unable to produce a surety, he was remanded in custody. Bail was set at £50 plus one surety of a similar sum.

The trial took place on 16 October 1950 when it was revealed that Stuart's problems had grown since his bank returned a number of cheques; Stuart had opened accounts with other banks—nine in all—drawing cheques on them, although overdrawn.

In his defence, Mr. F. T. Alpe  revealed that Stuart was suffering from family troubles, his spinal injury and the drugs he had taken. "He has not spent this money on betting or drinking. It has all gone into keeping the family," observed Mr. Alpe.

"These were deliberate, wicked frauds which have involved innocent people in losses which they could ill afford," said Mr. Justice Hilbery, He sentenced Stuart to three years imprisonment on each of the eight charges of obtaining money and goods by false pretences, and to one year on each of the charges of obtaining credit while an undischarged bankrupt and one under the Debtors Act of obtaining credit by false pretences. The sentences were to run concurrent. "I cannot remember a more systematic and deliberate fraud," said the Judge during sentencing, adding that his only doubt was whether he ought not to impose a more severe punishment.

(* In part 3: Brian Worthington-Stuart's writing career continues, before suddenly coming to an end. Plus, another court case and another change of name.)

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